Pubdate: Mon, 25 Sep 2000
Date: 09/25/2000
Source: Bakersfield Californian (CA)
Author: Robert Sharpe

It's only natural that Judge Frank Hoover feels threatened by
Proposition 36. So do thousands of other criminal-justice
professionals with vested financial interests in perpetuating the drug
war. But being experts in caging drug users does not qualify these
people as experts in medical problems, like addiction.

Their motivation is not improved public health, but money. The
Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act of 2000 could very well
derail the drug war gravy train, something long overdue. While drug
warriors may fear that coercion-based drug courts may be undermined by
the initiative, they fail to appreciate the manner in which law
enforcement's involvement in substance abuse discourages treatment.

In order for drug treatment to be truly effective -- and not
necessarily preceded by an arrest -- policymakers are going to have to
tone down the zero tolerance rhetoric of the drug war. Zero tolerance
attitudes discourage the type of honest discussion necessary to
facilitate treatment.

Driving illicit drug addiction underground is counterproductive and
only compounds the problem. Would alcoholics seek treatment if doing
so was tantamount to confessing to criminal activity? Likewise, would
putting every incorrigible alcoholic behind bars and saddling them
with criminal records be cost-effective?

Increased drug treatment options, like drug courts, are a step in the
right direction, but until peace is declared in the failed drug war
the success of treatment will be severely limited.

Robert Sharpe, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Washington,

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