"As an economist, I look at benefits and costs. Very simply, the cost of enforcing the drug laws far outweighs the benefits."
John Tommasi joined the Salem (NH) Police Department in 1979, and he was already a sergeant by 1983. By 1987, he had been assigned to the New Hampshire Drug Task Force. Part of his time there included two years in which he worked undercover for the state's attorney general in order to apprehend individuals involved in the trafficking of illegal drugs. From this vantage point, he saw immediately that the "War on Drugs" can't be "won." As he notes, "The DEA admits that they interdict only 15-20% of drugs coming into the country" -- an over-estimation, John believes. "In the early '90s, a Coast Guard commandant disagreed [with the DEA figure], saying that we're lucky if it's 3-5%. He was promptly relieved of his command." Even if the DEA were more successful, John sees prohibition as misprioritized and hypocritical. "It's clear to me that alcohol has a more detrimental effect on people, a worse effect on the body and psyche than most soft drugs," he reports. "As a cop, I've gotten into a lot of fights with nasty drunks, but I've never had to fight anyone after they smoked a doobie." John also believes that addiction should be treated as a sickness, not a crime.
John holds a BA in Psychology, an MA in Business Administration and an MA in Economics from the University of New Hampshire. "One of my Master's theses was on the cost of enforcing drug laws in New Hampshire," he relates. "I specifically looked at monies that would be saved if just marijuana were legalized. It's a staggering amount." Since 1981, John has been a college and university professor. He is currently a part-time professor at the University of New Hampshire, Whittemore School of Business (Durham, NH) and a full-time professor at Bentley College - which affords him another perspective from which he is qualified to analyze prohibition. "From an economic standpoint, the quality of drugs has increased and the price has decreased. This indicates the supply curve has shifted to the right, i.e., more sellers in the market." Among the variety of courses he has both developed and taught are two directly apropos of the "War on Drugs": Introduction to Criminal Justice and Functions of Police in Society.