Oct 252007
Authors: Erik Myers

Speaking before students and community members Thursday, Tony Ryan shared his experiences with the “War on Drugs” and reasons why he now fights against the nation’s billion dollar drug war.

Ryan is a speaker with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group that proposes drug prohibition ought to be eradicated, as the nation’s “War on Drugs” has been a futile attempt to curb drug usage in the United States. And the attempt has been at the expense of thousands of lives and billions of dollars, Ryan said.

Such eradication would legalize all drugs, including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, among others.

Though he did not condone the use of drugs, Ryan said it isn’t up to the government, or anyone, constrict others’ choices.

“There’s an ever-increasing interest in punishing people with bad habits,” Ryan said. “I think you should be allowed some freedom as an adult. We’re all human, we have our faults.”

Ryan presented several steps he believed the nation should take, the first being the elimination of prohibition. Following that, Ryan said, the federal government could produce its own drugs, ensuring that drugs are produced in a cleaner environment, so as to eliminate the risks of disease involved with drug use today.

“(Drug dealing) is in control of the criminals. The addicts don’t know what they get, they might get a mixture they’re not used to,” Ryan said.

Ryan said with the government-produced drugs, centers could then be developed to distribute doses to various adults, to help ease addiction and prevent overdoses.

And, with the “War on Drugs” now at an end, billions of federal dollars would be able to fund such concepts, and money left over could be spent on rehabilitation centers and drug education programs.

One example Ryan used for such a system was Switzerland’s policy on heroin distribution.

In Switzerland, heroin is offered by the government to help relieve addiction of individuals. As a result, Ryan said, there hasn’t been an overdose in the country since 1994, and homelessness has been virtually eliminated in the country.

Emily Hankla, a senior marketing major, said she found the presentation interesting, but held concerns with Ryan’s Switzerland comparison. She called the homelessness statistic into question during the question and answer session following Ryan’s lecture, finding it hard to believe that drugs were the single cause of homelessness in the country.

“That’s a little hard for me to believe,” Hankla said. “It seemed to imply that homelessness was entirely caused by drugs, and I didn’t think that was the case at all.”

Ryan responded that other factors might have played a role in it, but felt there was a strong connection between the Swiss policy and the statistic.

Nick Hays, a junior natural resources major, said the presentation confirmed that prohibition wasn’t working, and LEAP is something of a progressive movement.

“I thought it was very informative, the statistics really stood out,” Hays said. “I think this is a really good step in the right direction, this whole program.”

Senior reporter Erik Myers can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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