Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Are You In The Drug Business

Finally I was on may way. The address to the cemetery, burried in a pile of emails was found. Flowers were purchased in the morning as well as a new pair of short pants to be worn for the visit, one that I had postponed, or better yet avoided for a little while---32 years.

On June 8, in the early morning overcast,I drove to the Lincoln Cemetery, in Carson. An historic cemetery Lincoln is filled with the names of people of color that contributed to the history of Los Angeles County. When one enters, in plane view is a monument in tribute to Private Anderson. Private Anderson was the black male in the United States Marine Corp to win a Congressional Medal of Honor when he threw himself on a grenade saving the lives of his fellow shoulders in Vietnam.

Estella Melton was not killed in Vietnam. She was killed in Los Angeles(a Vietnam of sorts at the time of her death), by young men who robbed her to get money for drugs. Estella Melton is my Grandmother. She had a few dollars on her but they 'came up' when they found her gold necklace. It was discovered when a 'fence',a street pawn shop entrenpreneur, doubling as a drug dealer, was arrested for selling cocaine. He accepted the necklace in exchange change in exchange for drugs. Of course, the drug dealer felt he had nothing to do with my Grandmother's death.Throughout Los Angeles, liquor store owners shun away drug addicts and dealers from standing in front of their stores. "Can't stand those dealers and addicts!!", bark the store owners, whether they are in Skid Row or in middle class neighborhoods elsewhere. "They steal." They do not believe they are in the drug business. Yet they sell Chore Boy and King lighters, the tools of choice by crack users. Chore Boy is the copper screen used to keep the melted rock cocaine from evaporating too quickly in order for the smoker to inhale the vapors created from heat applied. The heat is applied by the 'King' Lighters.

Chore Boy is marketed as a dish washing tool and King lighters as any other regular cigarette lighter. However, police regard both as drug paraphernalia when discovered on someone's person. Though marketed as a household necessity, I am hard pressed to remember seeing any Chore Boy in the kitchens of anyone, even the kitchens of drug users.

Is Chore Boy in the drug business or house cleaning business? Marketing executives ask themselves in what businesses or businesses are they wnen examining marketing campaigns and product positioning. Some business analysts argue that McDonald's, though known for its burgers and french fries, is not in the fast food business but in the real estate business as they are actually managing their retail real estate holdings in operating food outlets.

As marketing executives examine their products, communities should ask themselves the same questions about the companies that sell products in their neighborhoods. What business is this company in? Do they have the communities interest at heart? I venture to say that a dominate percentage of Chore Boy sales of its product is to facilitate the easy usage of drugs, not for pot scrubbing. If so, Chore Boy is profiting from the drug trade with impunity. The company that distributes the product does not sale drugs but if drug usage and drug sales were to decrease then so would its income.

Drug users rob people and burglarize homes. The property they seize is used as a medium of exchange to buy drugs. When drugs are purchased, supplies are needed to use them. Stores sell Chore Boy. Stores sell glass pipes which are used to smoke cocaine. Are these stores in the drug business? Should they be allowed to sell goods that are used to use drugs. Millions of dollars of pipes, Chore Boy and other supplies are sold each year. Alcoholism is major problem in communities of color as it is made easy to purchase it given the high amount of liquor stores per square mile that dominate these communities.

How many Estella Meltons are injured or killed because a person, suffering from alcohol or drug addiction knows a 'fence' is waiting to receive the goods. They are quick to take them, knowing they can convert those goods into hard cash. Gold chains, power tools etc can easily be pawned at local pawn shops in exchange for cash. It does not concern them who was in the way when a drug addict burglarizes a house. The liquor stores do not care from where the money comes to purchase pipes and Chore Boy. Easy access encourages the addict to commit crimes,ruin his life and the lives of others as he knows he will be rewarded for his efforts.

Family members of victims, traumatized by their loss, struggle to find closure to such events. Closure does not come easily.

Stores that sell paraphernalia are in the drug business. They encourage addicts to continue using drugs, making it easy for them to obtain the equipment necessary to further them down the road of self destruction. They will continue to sell tools to use drugs, tools which help the dismantling of a community as long as a community allows it to happen.

Is it possible to enact legislation barring such products from being sold within the city limits? Are communities able to protect themselves and their families from self destruction? Yes. Communities need to raise their voices about legal products sold within their communities for not only illegal purposes but harmful purposes as well. If we are to combat drugs in our communities, that battle must be on every front. We must get rid of every little virus that contributes to dysfunction.

In Skid Row, former addicts, with indignation, deny they are in the drug world. The same individuals purchase hot goods, offered by active drug users desperate to find money to purchase drugs. They purchase food stamp cards at discounted prices from addicts who will go hungry but will not go without drugs. People who purchase hot merchandise or food stamp cards are contributing to the drug trade and the destruction of others, their families and their communities.

If we are to eradicate drugs from our communities, every thing must be removed that is associated with drug equation. Along with the drugs and the dealers must go the drug supplies which accompany them and, if necessary, the establishments and/or individuals who sell products which harm our communities. If the removal of Chore Boy, King lighters, and glass pipes from store shelves in our neighborhoods discourages one person from purchasing drugs because supplies to smoke them are too difficult to obtain, or discourages one person from burglarizing a house or assaulting an elderly woman to obtain money for drugs or supplies because it is too difficult to access all of the variables necessary to satisfy the drug equation, that one person has a chance. He has a chance to end his drug use. He has a chance to stay out of jail. His family has a chance to avoid shedding tears when their hearts ache from missing him while he is in jail. The person has a chance of not hurting or killing someone. An elderly person has a chance of not being harmed or killed. A grandson will have a chance to enjoy his grandmother. That grandson will not struggle for 32 years to bring closure to such a painful event in his life.