16 MARCH 2002, Page 40

Thugs deal the drugs

From Mr G. Hall Sir: Bruce Anderson's essay on the drug war (Another voice, 9 March) was right on target. For years I have been baffled by America's acceptance of a system which perpetuates violent crime and addiction, while favouring the economic success of the thugs who deal the drugs.

We have learnt again and again that proscription merely alters the flow of commerce. Making drugs illegal doesn't stop people using them, it just shifts the production and distribution from legitimate businessmen into the hands of less savoury types.

Anderson rightly points this out to a public which desperately needs to get this message, yet, curiously, he falls into a trap-door on the issue of crack. Has there been a greater success rate in the banning of crack than with the banning of other drugs? I hadn't heard. Should the other drugs be taxed and controlled, but cocaine left to be dealt on the streets?

In my view, the most dangerous of these substances should be the first ones to be legalised, if we are to follow the logic that children are more easily protected from apothecary heroin than from street-corner heroin — something I firmly believe.

The violence surrounding drugs comes from the black market, not the drugs, and Anderson has contributed to the people's growing awareness of that fact. Good show.

G. Hall

Reno, Nevada, USA