It must be frustrating to be Kurt Schmoke. The man was born and raised in Baltimore, led his high school football teams to state championships and got sucked up by Yale, from which he graduated to a Rhodes scholarship, then to Harvard Law and then Mayor of Baltimore. All that glitzy resume stuff and still nobody listens to him.
Today, the New York Times editors have run an editorial suggesting that maybe we ought to do something different in the war on drugs.
Mr. Schmoke must have read this and said, "You think?"
It took "The Wire" to actually lay out in detail why the current approach to criminalization of drug sales is worse than useless. In that fictional paragon, the implications of Mayor Schmoke's idea of legalization are spelled out, as a rogue police major, Howard Colvin, walls off a part of the city where drug sales and use is legal. The impact on the rest of the city is immediate and dramatic, as neighborhoods ravaged by violence surrounding the trade emerge as if from a bombing siege.
But the reality in the zone, called "Hamsterdam" by the druggies, is unpleasant. Deaths from overdoses ensue, and the sidewalks and streets are filled with drugged out, staggering addicts. What has been happening under ground, out of sight, is now visible to genteel eyes. The rodents have emerged into the sunlight.
Of course, it's the politicians and police who run for cover. Doing the right thing is unbearable. As T.S. Eliot remarked: "Humankind cannot bear too much reality."
Humankind could not bear watching "The Wire." Can you imagine what humankind would do when confronted with the reality of drug legalization?
People whose disease caused them to hide underground would now emerge for upright citizens to gaze upon.
Heroin dispensed at the corner drug store along with clean needles. Cocaine, too. There will, presumably, always be some drugs which are just too combustible to be made available, but take those two out of the mix and stop jailing people for marijuana and the economy and the culture of the inner city would change radically.
There will still be crime, but at least we would have wrested a public health problem from the underground and lanced one abscess.