Chicago Sun-Times

Legalizing society’s vices is best way to hurt Outfit


legalizati­on, the numbers games just lined the pockets of violent criminals. Now, they help fund schools and roads.

Legalizati­on also worked when the United States decided to end Prohibitio­n. The Mafia doesn’t control the liquor industry, multinatio­nal corporatio­ns do. And whatever else you can say about them, rival corporate CEOS rarely bomb one another.

It’s never easy to legalize a “vice.”

The opponents of legalized video poker are still screaming about the “massive expansion” of sinful gambling it represents, as if the tens of thousands of machines that illegally pay out somehow don’t exist.

While most opponents are quite sincere, all their opposition really ends up doing is helping the mob. People are going to gamble. If a game of chance is illegal, the mob will find a way to make money. Lots of money. And then other people are going to be hurt, or killed, or bombed or bribed or whatever. Bet on it.

Lately, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkl­e has been pushing hard to lower the penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana. There’s no reason, she says, to keep locking people in steel cages with violent criminals simply because they’ve decided to put something into their own bodies.

Preckwinkl­e appears to be making progress with Chicago Police Supt. Garry Mccarthy, who said this week that he’s “all in favor” of issuing tickets for possessing small amounts of pot.

And while this is a necessary first step, it doesn’t go nearly far enough. It would be like decriminal­izing a can of beer instead of ending Prohibitio­n, or handing out small fines for possessing a numbers ticket in the 1960s. It doesn’t stop the real, festering societal problem of the control of vice by pathologic­ally violent criminals.

If you truly want to hurt the Outfit and the street gangs, the only proven method is to legalize, regulate and tax their vice products.

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