Drug Policy Debated

Professor of Law Alan M. Dershowitz last night said the United States should legalize heroin and marijuana, and possibly cocaine--while Secretary of Transportation James H. Burnley said existing laws are already too lax.

Speaking at Harvard Law School's Ames Courtroom, Dershowitz said he opposed using drugs and that he would wipe them out if he could. But he added, "I just don't believe there's any way to interdict them."

"Current policy produces most of the evils associated with drugs today," he said, arguing that making drugs illegal has corrupted police and judges, created crime and glamorized the drugs themselves.

As for his legalization program, Dershowitz said he would start by providing legal maintenance doses of heroin to addicts--not by prescription, as in England, but directly injected by physicians at clinics.

The second step would be to legalize marijuana and heroin. He said cocaine and crack are so dangerous that a government should only consider legalizing them after carefully observing the effects of making other drugs legal.

Third would be the criminalization of drug-driving, with attendant strict enforcement. And last, Dershowitz said he would allow random drug testing of anyone in a safety-related profession, from airline pilots to car drivers.

Burnley, a 1973 Law School graduate, said the United States has laws against rape, murder, and arson--and these problems have not been eliminated.

"There are certain kinds of conduct which we want to discourage," he said. "If you legalize it and remove the moral sanction attached to it, a fair number of people will experiment."

Burnley said that in his own field of transportation, "far and away, the worst problem we have in the railroad industry is narcotics." He cited the Amtrak train disaster outside Washington, D.C., in which the operator later tested positive for drugs. Illegal drug use was a problem in 59 recent accidents, alcohol in six, he continued.