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Once again there is considerable discussion worldwide about the alleged advantages of legalizing drugs, specifically, marijuana, cocaine and heroin.

The latest surge of interest stems from a recent ironic incident in Colombia, one of the world's leading producers of the above named substances. Carlos Ossa Escobar, a director of the central bank and one of the country's most respected leaders, was detained at Bogota's international airport because officers fond a tiny packet of marijuana in his briefcase.If it had not been for Ossa's prominence, a couple of ounces might have gone unnoticed, since a single cocaine seizure in the terminal there can top one ton. In the weeks since Ossa was caught, a strident debate has been escalating in Colombia over whether the country should legalize drugs.

Antonio Caballero, one of Colombia's best-known columnists, stunned his readers when he disclosed that he uses both marijuana and cocaine. He argued that an illegal possession is hypocritical in a country where use of drugs is so prevalent. In fact, a number of Colombia's politicians favor legalization.

Nevertheless, the general population of Colombia disagrees, despite the power of drug cartels in that nation. A recent Gallup poll found that 75 percent of Colombian adults do not favor making production and distribution of drugs legal, and 67 percent do not want legalized drug consumption.

In the meantime, several groups in the United States and Europe are pressing for lower penalties for drug use, and some even argue that cocaine and marijuana should be decriminalized and regulated much as alcohol is regulated. It was only a few years ago that legalization advocates were seen as fringe radicals, but that day has passed.

Many now say the "war on drugs" of the 1980s has been a major failure and that the laws against drug trafficking have made it one of the world's most profitable industries. Legalization advocates say the money spent worldwide in the drug fight could be better spent in education and prevention.

Opponents, on the other hand, say legalization would lower the price of cocaine and other drugs, increasing their use, and leading to more overdoses, more traffic accidents and more on-the-job accidents.

They argue that if cocaine were openly sold to adults, gangs would spring up to sell cocaine and crack to minors - and corruption and violence would reappear.

The opponents are right on this one. Since those on both sides of the argument admit that legalization would increase the use of drugs, at least initially , there is no way legalization can be considered a legitimate approach to the problem.

Even more important is the overwhelming evidence suggesting that the use of drugs increases criminal behavior, harms the human body and decreases the sensitivity of the human spirit.

Instead of legalizing drugs, we should be focusing a greater amount of our attention on deterring their production, transportation and sale. Anything less than this would be irresponsible and immoral.