Point-Counterpoint: Philadelphia's Drug Paraphernalia Ban (Pt. 1 of 2)
Drug deaths require action
The prevalence of substance abuse has reached astronomical highs in this country, despite America's war on drugs. Last year, federal, state and local governments spent over $55 billion on drug intervention, a number that has compounded to well over a trillion dollars since the prohibition era. The United States spends $600 each minute on the war on drugs. Yes, it is a war; we just don't notice it because it is fought in our homes, college dorm rooms, high schools, and street corners. Its casualties wear business suits and school uniforms. They die not in an explosion on a battlefield or from evident trauma, but rather on the sofa, the floor of a friend's house, at a club, or in the car with little more than foam effusing from the mouth. Each month, more citizens die from drug use than did in the terrorist attacks of September 11.
In our City of Brotherly Love, the homicide rate has become a topic of mainstream interest. Many local papers keep tally of all the homicides in the city, but why not a tally of drug deaths? It's because they would outnumber homicides threefold. The drug problem has become so overwhelming that many medical examiners' and coroners' offices no longer complete post-mortem examinations on drug cases unless foul play is suspected. There is simply not enough staff to combat the problem.
To treat this plague, local governments have recently extended their legislative powers to preempt further escalation of the epidemic of drug use. Philadelphia continues in this direction with the Drug Paraphernalia Ban, passed in January.
The "Blunt Ban" prohibits the sale of individual tobacco products separate from their government packaging, rolling papers, flavored products other than chewing tobacco, and all drug paraphernalia cited in the Pennsylvania Controlled Substance Act. Jerry Rocks, a veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department and ban supporter, expressed his distain for local convenience stores providing retail items to young adults and teens clearly used for drug packaging and drug use.