Pubdate: Tue, 16 Jan 2001
Source: Waco Tribune-Herald (TX)
Copyright: 2001 Waco-Tribune Herald
Bookmark: (Losing the War on Drugs)


In six more days George W. Bush will become the 43rd president of the 
United States.

He immediately will inherit a three-decade-old drug policy plus a dangerous 
$1.3 billion anti-drug intervention in Colombia's civil war.

Bush should take advantage of the change in administrations to adopt a new 
drug policy that concentrates on prevention, rehabilitation and education. 
The "lock-'em-up-and-throw-away-the-key" policy has been an absolute 
failure since President Richard Nixon first launched the war on drugs in 1972.

Every new administration since Nixon's has feared to admit the obvious -- 
the war on drugs keeps locking up growing numbers of American citizens 
without decreasing the supply of drugs or the cost of illegal drugs.

Outgoing White House drug czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey used all his knowledge 
and expertise gained from an outstanding military career to continue the 
war on drugs. It didn't work.

As long as Americans have an appetite for illegal drugs and money to buy 
them, drugs find a way from the suppliers, such as those in Colombia, to 
U.S. drug users.

Bush should be the first president since the supply-side policy began to 
have the courage to admit that increasingly harsh drug laws and escalating 
interdiction efforts have failed to stop or slow drug use. This approach 
has filled U.S. prisons and jails at an incalculable cost of human 
potential, not to mention the billions of dollars it costs taxpayers 
annually to house citizens unproductively locked behind bars.

The effort to combat drug use with harsher laws, tougher enforcement and 
long mandated prison sentences is a proven failure. Not only does it defy 
common sense to perpetuate failure, it borders on stupidity to try to fix 
failure by doing more of the same.

It's time for politicians to have the courage to form a new drug policy 
that curbs drug use by turning off the demand for drugs.

Programs should be developed to educate young people about drugs in a way 
that makes drugs undesirable.

The new administration and Congress need to abolish mandatory sentencing 
for non-violent drug crimes. Mandatory sentencing has filled prisons to 
overflowing with drug offenders. Judges need to be given the authority to 
administer justice based on judicial judgment.

Drug policies need to focus on keeping citizens out of prison. The United 
States has 2 million citizens in prison, by far the highest proportion of 
the adult population of any nation on earth. Most of these prisoners are 
behind bars due in some form to drug use.

Bush and the 107th Congress should shift course on the effort to combat 
drug use with policies that emphasize prevention, education and rehabilitation.
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager