Pubdate: Mon, 13 Nov 2000
Date: 11/13/2000
Source: Union, The (CA)
Author: Stephen Munkelt

I was quite disappointed to see the mean-spirited response to the
passage of Proposition 36 by our local "drug warriors." In particular,
it is hard to grasp why the District Attorney, as an elected official,
would insult 60 percent of the voters by suggesting they "didn't read
the damn law."

The voters seem to understand that the punitive approach to drug abuse
has costs beyond what the community is willing to pay. Ultimately, the
"war" is against our sons and daughters, parents, and friends who have
become involved with drugs.

Placing them in prison or jail costs us hundreds of millions per year
in taxes, and removes them from families and communities where they
could be making positive contributions if they can just stay sober.

The voters also understand that when people are released after months
or years in custody, there is no follow-up to deal with the
drug/alcohol problems: just an order not to use them, with more
custody time if they fall off the wagon.

Every study comparing treatment with incarceration says the treatment
model reduces costs dramatically, and reduces the damage to families
of users.

This is true even for the individuals who repeatedly fail in treatment
until they finally "recover."

Implementation of the new treatment plan won't be easy. There will be
challenges at each step in setting up programs and following through
with treatment.

Resistance from DAs, drug enforcement agents, drug court supervisors
and others who owe their jobs and income to "the war" will make it

However, given time and attention, Proposition 36 programs will surely
reward all of us with a more productive and positive community
environment, at less cost to the taxpayers. My thanks to every voter
who saw through the rhetoric to support change!

Stephen Munkelt,
Nevada City

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