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Don't downplay the dangers of addiction

Prohibition's pillars starting to crumble | Nov. 4, Cynthia Tucker column

Don't downplay addiction's dangers

In response to Cynthia Tucker's misguided attempt to push drug legalization, I would like to comment on some of her most egregious philosophies. Drug addiction is not prejudiced, and many influential community leaders, whether black or white, aren't throwing up their hands saying, "Legalize drugs so my people don't go to jail." These leaders understand that in fact, people are not being put in prison for simple possession. They understand that drug addiction tears down a community, and they promote prevention and treatment in order to keep that from happening.

Drug courts are an invaluable resource to leverage those arrested for drug possession into treatment, not incarceration. Those who are serving time in prison on possession charges have pleaded down from a much larger offense.

As for Richard Nixon and his "War on Drugs," this term hasn't been widely used in the antidrug field for some time, nor was it used in the past administration. The media and the pro-drug lobby continue to keep this phrase alive. It was coined during the 1970s to mobilize national support against what at the time was a growing problem that too few Americans recognized as serious. And while a great deal of progress has been made (drug use rates today are about half what they were at their peak in 1980), drug use and addiction still extract a staggering cost from our nation every year — much more than any supposed drug war.

As a drug policy and prevention expert with more than 25 years in the field, I can assure Cynthia Tucker that drug cartels are not going to give up their multimillion-dollar business because marijuana is legalized. That theory is shrouded with naivete. Al Capone's reign stopped when he went to prison, not when Prohibition was lifted.

Calvina Fay, executive director, Drug Free America Foundation Inc., St. Petersburg

Prohibition's pillars starting to crumble Nov. 4, Cynthia Tucker column

Drugs cause human tragedy, not the law

While I do have to agree with some points of this piece, I have to challenge, strongly, the idea that incarceration is the cause of the tragic results that Cynthia Tucker would ask me and others to believe.

It is the drugs that disrupt the lives of these men. It is the drugs that rip these men from their families. It is the drugs that render these men unemployable. It is the drugs that render these men unmarriageable.

Simply put: If you are a drug user, a "high" is your priority. It disrupts your life, takes you away from your family, keeps you from passing a drug test to gain employment, if you even want to be employed, and consequently, makes you undesirable as a prospective spouse. All of this occurs well before the first arrest.

To blame incarceration for doing what the drug user has already done to himself is not acceptable. Not today, not tomorrow.

Andy Alley, Tampa

Prohibition's pillars starting to crumble Nov. 4, Cynthia Tucker column

Correct the mistake

Marijuana prohibition was unjust since the beginning. With legalization, states could not only right a historical wrong, but also pad their budgets with extra tax revenue from the legal sale of pot.

Harry Anslinger was the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, a precursor to the modern DEA. In 1929, Anslinger made the case for banning marijuana using statements such as, "Reefer makes darkies think they're as good as white men." His push for prohibition was successful.

In 1972, the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse was created and reported to Congress. The report not only recommended decriminalizing pot but questioned the constitutionality of the ban. Nixon ignored the report and pushed ahead with the "War on Drugs."

It's time to correct the mistakes of the past.

John Kincaid, Seminole

For tax fairness | Nov. 2, editorial

Putting homeowners at risk

I could not believe what I was reading in this editorial. Without Save Our Homes there would be many more foreclosures than are currently happening. I have been in my Clearwater home since I moved here in 1981. I retired after 30-plus years with the same company in 1987. I have a fixed company pension and Social Security for my income. I planned my retirement and home purchase on that income. My children have been schooled and grown in the same neighborhood where we currently reside and plan to continue to live. Many of my neighbors are in the same situation.

I agree with the letter writer on Nov. 4 who said, "SOH does exactly what it was intended to do."

How can you say, "The courts, if they side with the plaintiffs, could ultimately toss out the state's property tax system and order the Legislature to start over and create a new one. That would be the fairest approach for all Florida property owners."

Nothing could be further from the truth. If that happened there would be many long-term residents unable to remain in their current homes on the fixed income they have.

Walter A. Johnson, Clearwater

For tax fairness | Nov. 2, editorial

Consider social factors

Evaluating the "fairness" of Save Our Homes needs a broader perspective. It represents more than the amount of tax dollars paid to government. It also represents a means to maintain economic diversity and social equity within our neighborhoods.

If we only consider "equalizing" the tax distribution, more middle- and lower-income property owners will experience their homes becoming unaffordable, and economic and social diversity within our neighborhoods will diminish. It won't be a fair distribution.

Critics are not factoring in the huge disparity of wealth in our nation. No family should find themselves losing their home simply because others have the capacity to pay more for it. SOH acknowledges homesteading, and we all benefit from capping taxes near the value we initially paid for our homestead.

The plaintiffs in the recent lawsuit are correct in arguing that portability of SOH is a corruption. It was greed that worked against the legitimate purpose of helping homesteaders save the affordability of their homes. Those only considering dollars and cents polluted SOH by selling a notion that it should become a profitmaking tool. In times when it was so important to be thankful to have a home, too many were arguing they were "trapped" in theirs. Portability is incongruous with wanting to be able to afford to stay in your home in the face of spiraling costs.

Michael Burke, Crystal Beach

For tax fairness | Nov. 2, editorial

Tax should be on value

Property tax should be assessed on the actual value of the property, not some formula to hold it artificially low or high depending on how long the owner has lived there.

It was the failure of local government to adjust the tax rate down, and the greed of one county property appraiser who championed its cause, that allowed SOH to pass.

If you wave a dollar under the nose of the people they will grab it. The thought process goes out the window.

So if you are tired of paying your neighbors' fair share, write to Ken Wilkinson, Lee County property appraiser, and let him know that he is not the hero he thinks he is.

Thomas Travis, Dunedin

Don't downplay the dangers of addiction 11/05/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 5, 2009 7:00pm]
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