Pubdate: Fri, 15 Dec 2000
Date: 12/15/2000
Source: New Haven Register (CT)
Author: Robert Sharpe

Kudos to Jelani Lawson for his excellent Forum article on the need to
reassess the drug "war." Emphasizing public health approaches is
indeed "smart on crime." Current drug policies, modeled after our
disastrous experiment with Prohibition, are proven failures.

When supply of illegal drugs is successfully limited by interdiction
while demand remains constant, drug trafficking becomes more
profitable. The obscene profits to be made guarantee replacement dealers.

In the short term, drug prices are higher, which means desperate
addicts increase criminal activity to feed desperate habits.

Those who get caught are placed in prisons that serve to transmit
violent habits and values rather than reduce them. The drug war
effectively fuels crime, while failing miserably at preventing use.
With organized crime comes corruption, and the United States is not
immune.  The ongoing Los Angeles Police Department Rampart scandal is
but one example. This insidious corruption stretches from coast to
coast and reaches the highest levels.

Entire countries in Latin America have been destabilized because of
the corrupting influence of organized-crime groups that profit from
the illegal drug trade.

Drug laws fuel organized crime and corruption, which is then used to
justify increased drug-war spending.  It's time to end this madness
and start treating all substance abuse - legal or otherwise - as the
public health problem that it is.

Robert Sharpe,
Washington, D.C.

Editor's note: Robert Sharpe is a program officer for The Lindesmith
Center-Drug Policy Foundation.