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Drug Policy Billboard Posted by Chicago Lawyer Stirs Debate


November-December 1997

On September 12, The Drug Corner unveiled a four by eight foot sign on a street corner in Worth, Illinois, reading, "Schools -- Not Jails, End the Drug War." The nonprofit Drug Corner was started by attorney James Gierach, who has been actively opposing the war on drugs approach to drug problems for eight years (Rex Robinson, "`Drug war' sign first in nation, Gierach says," The Star (Oak Lawn, IL), September 14, 1997, p. A1; M.L. Elrick, "`Drug war' fight an addiction," Daily Southtown, September 14, 1997, p. A14).

"We ignore the economic realities of the black markets," said Gierach. "We tell kids `don't do drugs,' and yet we put a pot of gold next to what we're telling them not to take."

Gierach, 52, devotes about 30 to 40 hours a week to drug policy reform, devoting a large amount of his time to writing letters to politicians, editorial boards, CEOs and school board members. Gierach ran unsuccessfully in 1994 for Illinois governor. Gierach also ran for Cook County States Attorney on a drug policy reform platform. He was asked recently to draft the National Drug Control Policy Plank for the National Reform Party, formerly United We Stand, started by Ross Perot [Gierach is a member of the National Drug Strategy Network. He is a very frequent contributor of op-eds and letters to the editor in Chicago newspapers. I have always been impressed by the quality and volume of commentary that he generates. -- RCT]

Worth, IL Mayor Jim Bilder criticized Geirach's effort and proposed erecting a competing sign at the same site declaring support for law enforcement's anti-drug efforts. Gierach responded by challenging Bilder to put the issue before local voters in an advisory referendum. Bilder rejected Gierach's idea (Bill Hronek, "`End Drug War' sign stirs debate; Gierach says ask voters," The Reporter (Worth), September 25, 1997, p. B1). Worth is a Cook County suburb southwest of Chicago.

In early November, Geirach's $350 sign was stolen. "I expected resistance from the drug gangs and drug dealers," Geirach said. "But resistance from the media and political leaders has proved the greater hurdle." Geirach plans to erect a new sign in Chicago's Austin neighborhood, stating, "Stop Gangs. End the Drug War" (Bill Hronek, "`End drug war' sign stolen in Worth," The Reporter, November 13, 1997, p. A10).

The Drug Corner - 9759 Southwest Highway, Oak Lawn, Illinois 60453, Tel: (708) 424-1600, Fax: (708) 424-1781.