How to draw line on drug handling

It seems there are four main ways to handle drugs.

First, there’s prohibition – what we do now. It’s not working, just like alcohol prohibition didn’t work in the 1920’s. Today, it only funds criminal gangs, murderous Mexican drug cartels, terrorists and the Taliban, and it corrupts society and distorts our foreign policy.

But there are other options.

We could decriminalize drug possession. Mexico recently did this. Decriminalization generally keeps drugs illegal, but makes individual possession or use a civil infraction, like speeding, or outright legal. Dealers and kingpins would still be subject to criminal penalties.

This method has worked in Portugal since 2001 when all drugs were decriminalized. And there hasn’t been rampant drug tourism or increases in drug use. In fact, teen drug use has gone down in Portugal since 2001, according to a CATO Institute (libertarian think tank in D.C.) study by Portuguese-speaking lawyer, Glenn Greenwald.

We could also do “legalization light.” A doctor’s prescription might be required and drugs could be sold in liquor stores or registered pharmacies. Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper supports this idea. Stamper is part of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition — which is made up of former police officers, prosecutors and judges who favor changing America’s drug laws. Drug sales could be taxed and ads for drugs would be illegal under “legalization light.”

Finally, there’s full legalization. This encompasses the right to free ingestion, the right to self-medicate, and the right to use drugs recreationally, like alcohol. There would be low-to-no taxes and no prescription would be required. Ads would be allowed and retail stores could sell it. This was the law until 1914 when drugs first became illegal in America under the Harrison Act.

If we do any of the options outlined contrary to what we do now, then there’s the tricky question of where to draw the line on the marijuana-to-heroin slippery slope.

So which of the four options do you like? And if you like options two through four, where do you draw the line? Legalize or decriminalize just marijuana? Or go all the way and legalize everything? Or something in between?

Note that another former Seattle Police Chief, Gil Kerlikowske, is now Pres. Obama’s new Drug Czar and he’s vowed to stop using the phrase “war on drugs.” And U.S. Senators Jim Webb (D-VA) and Arlen Specter (D-PA) have proposed a national commission to study drug law reform. So change may be on the horizon.

Jeff E. Jared is a Kirkland resident and attorney.

In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Opinion

Robert Whale can be reached at
The growing disconnect between public servants and the press | Whale

As one small part of the often derided “legacy media,” I am… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact
Behind the scenes in the race for King County prosecutor | Roegner

Politically speaking, it was an exciting week recently when King County Prosecutor… Continue reading

Dr. Jayendrina Singha Ray’s research interests include postcolonial studies, spatial literary studies, British literature, and rhetoric and composition. Prior to teaching in the U.S., she worked as an editor with Routledge and taught English at colleges in India. She is a resident of Kirkland.
How chips define the evolving world order | Guest column

Semiconductor chips are the new oil that the world can go to war over.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact
For some state lawmakers, short session is all about re-election | Roegner

The Washington state Legislature opened on Jan. 10 against a backdrop of… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact
2022 will be a trial run for 2024 for conservatives | Roegner

Our democracy withstood an attempted coup last Jan. 6, but the planning… Continue reading

Robert Whale can be reached at
Good night, John Boy, from another generation | Whale

When I was growing up in the 1970s, like many others I… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact
People do and say the darndest things | Roegner

The rich and famous frequently say and do some of the darndest… Continue reading

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at
Electricity shortfalls and Toyota’s dose of reality | Brunell

When Toyota speaks, car buyers listen. Hopefully, our elected officials will as… Continue reading

Most Read