We have had the largest marijuana bust in Utah history — more than 13 tons and counting. I want to laugh when I hear the joke going around town, "Where are they burning it? I would like to stand downwind and watch."

But parts of me want to cry also.

Not for the cops who put together an excellent investigation but for the uselessness of it all. Will there now be no pot smokers in southern Utah? Can we pat ourselves on the back and go home knowing we won the war on drugs? When will it ever end?

In 1970, when Richard Nixon went against his own commission's advice and made marijuana a Schedule 1 drug, he opened a Pandora's box that has torn our nation apart. Now almost 800,000 marijuana arrests occur every year. This means tremendous police, attorney, court, jail and prison resources to punish Americans, some 100 million of whom admit to using, or having used, marijuana.

In my years as a street cop and narcotics detective I've probably arrested, booked or filed on some 500 people for possession. I did it because it was my job and I thought I was helping society. But now, as I look back on that sea of faces, I realize that too many of them were lost, or weak, or depressed, and my efforts only helped to fill the coffers of the drug cartels by keeping the price up. They were the "collateral damage" of my efforts to get to the dealers.

That is happening now. Drug suppliers in California and Hawaii are probably elated that some major competitor in Utah has been curtailed for a year. Drug dealers don't sell drugs for fun. They do it because there is money in it. They are standing in line to take over territory. When we arrest one, others fight to fill the gap, sometimes with internal drug wars. These people can be mean — and dangerous.

When I was a youth I used to go to Mexico to get a "genuine Swiss watch," or firecrackers or those sandals with a tire tread on the bottom. Not anymore. As Tad Trueblood points out, that country is racked with drug cartels that kill police and politicians alike. And it's spreading over here.

We have two choices that I can see: We can continue the "war;" spending more money, imprisoning more Americans (over 2 million already), building more prisons and stepping all over the edges of the Fourth Amendment. Or, we can take away the criminal's motive for selling drugs in the first place — money. We can legalize marijuana and all other drugs and then regulate their use. We can reduce their use in the first place much more effectively through education and then, if they fall, help people to get their lives back together with social and medical intervention. We must not fall into the thinking that everyone wants to use drugs and are only prevented from doing so by law. In Holland where marijuana laws are extremely lax, marijuana use by young people is nearly half that of ours. In Switzerland, where heroin is free in prescribed clinics, the number of new users has fallen 82 percent.

We have a great country with good people. They just need to be taught correct principles and allowed to govern themselves.


David Doddridge, a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, is a former LAPD police detective who now lives in St. George.