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Photo of Matt M. McClenahen
Photo of Matt M. McClenahen

Drug War is a Game of Whac-A-Mole

On Behalf of | Apr 3, 2013 | Drug War

A recent drug bust in Huntingdon County illustrates the Whack-A-Mole nature of the War on Drugs. On March 28, 2013, the Pennsylvania State Police arrested three people at Huntingdon Motor Inn, recovering 751 stamp bags of heroin, four ounces of cocaine and more than $6,700 in cash from the suspects’ rooms, following the execution of a search warrant.

Here is where the Whac-A-Mole analogy comes into play. Back on March 7, 2013, the Attorney General’s Office and local law enforcement teamed up to arrest 29 people who are alleged to have been distributing large amounts of heroin in Huntingdon County over a three year period. According to grand jury testimony, the alleged ring-leader of the organization, Curtis Kohler, began bringing heroin into Huntingdon County several year ago. This created scores of addicts in Huntingdon County, who previously had had little or no local access to the drug. Many of those working for Kohler were addicts themselves, who were paid in heroin, according to grand jury testimony summarized in the charging documents.

After Kohler’s organization was put out of business, it is not surprising that others would immediately move into the area to fill the void. When Kohler stopped supplying heroin to Huntingdon County, the many addicts he created were not suddenly cured of their addictions. They are still around and they still become gravely ill when they experience withdrawal. The most basic tenant of economics is that if there is a demand, someone will provide the supply, provided incentives are high enough. The $6,700 in cash clearly illustrates just how high the incentives can be.

The reason that we keep fighting the unwinnable War on Drugs, is that no one has come up with a better solution, at least when it comes to hard drugs like heroin and cocaine. When it comes to marijuana, the simple solution is legalization, as marijuana prohibition causes far more problems than any problems caused by the plant itself. Heroin and cocaine are in a totally different realm. Heroin is both physically and psychologically addictive, while cocaine can create a psychological addiction so overwhelming, that it can devastate a user both financially and health-wise. Thus, legalizing these drugs does not seem like a viable option.

The only way to win the Drug War is to completely eliminate demand for hard drugs, as governments cannot expect to win a fight against the laws of economics. I do not foresee that happening any time soon. In the mean time, expect the game of Whac-A-Mole to continue.

Matt McClenahen is a criminal defense attorney in State College, PA.

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