Pubdate: Wed, 31 May 2000
Source: Detroit News (MI)
Copyright: 2000, The Detroit News
Author: Robert Sharpe


In response to the the May 22 editorial “Judging the Drug Courts”: How
effective can drug courts be when they rely upon coercion? In order
for treatment to be truly effective, legislators 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 only compounds the problem.
We’re making a big mistake by criminalizing illicit substance abuse.
Imagine if every alcoholic were thrown in jail and given a permanent
criminal record. How many lives would be destroyed? How many families
torn apart and career aspirations shattered? How many tax dollars
would be wasted turning potentially productive members of society into
hardened criminals?

Substance abuse is a public health problem that requires the healing
hands of medical professionals, not punishment at the hands of law
enforcement. Increased 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, 
George Washington University Washington, D.C. 
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