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The articles on the history of the crack epidemic in Washington, D.C. (“The Crack Issue,” 9/8), were powerful pieces of journalism and a very useful public service. Because it was the Washington City Paper, I had half-expected to read something calling for drug legalization and blaming the crack epidemic on the “plantation mentality” of this or that Southern white male in Congress.

The most powerful article, I believe, was Stephanie Mencimer’s account (“Suffer the Little Children”). What was confusing, though, is that she began by stating that the early predictions of the destruction crack would bring upon children born to addicted mothers were mere hysteria. But then she cited a case where the devastation to so many lives is every bit as bad as predicted—and the costs to society staggering.

Although this is just one anecdotal case, it also embodies just how widespread and appalling the consequences to individuals and to society of the crack epidemic have been. It also indicates, to my way of thinking, how profoundly wrong-headed the argument of the drug-legalization proponents is.

The problem with the crack epidemic isn’t that the drug is illegal and therefore somehow unavailable. It is the exact reverse: It is because the drug has been so widespread and so easily available that it has been able to cause so much social mayhem. Making it legal would simply turn the government into the pusher on the corner instead of the drug dealer. So there were would be less violence associated with getting crack—it still would do nothing to make the drug somehow “safer” or less addictive. People would still be desperate to get money to buy it.

In a broader sense, how would society be better off if the government were to keep its citizens drug-addicted, destroying body and soul? No, mass incarceration is not the answer, but neither is turning society into a big, “legal” crack- and whorehouse. To argue otherwise is to fall victim to a well-intentioned but dangerous utopian libertarianism—or maybe just to be lost in a cloud of crack smoke oneself.

College Park, Md.