Pubdate: Sun, 26 Aug 2001
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 2001 Houston Chronicle
Author: Ken Salzman


The Chronicle's Aug. 20 Page One article, "Federal drug charges double in 
15-year span," quoted Attorney General John Ashcroft's assertion that this 
indicated that the federal drug laws are helping to catch the serious 
criminals and keeping them behind bars longer.

Yet, just like all the publicity given to large drug busts, this merely 
demonstrates a certain level of activity by the feds in prosecuting. In the 
real world, the success of an enterprise is measured by results.

The first noticeable result of our war on drugs is that drugs are cheaper 
and more readily available now than ever before. The U.S. prisons have been 
filled to the point where we now imprison 25 percent of the world's prison 
population -- at an annual rate of $25,000 per prisoner.

Also, drug prohibition is funding a huge and sophisticated tax-free and 
unregulated industry worldwide.

Instead of moralizing, we should take a reasoned look at our "drug problem" 
in relation to other societal problems. There are 140 times as many people 
who die from tobacco addiction every year as from drug addiction, 34 times 
as many who die from alcohol-related causes and 20 times as many who die 
from legally-prescribed drugs.

The predominant substance abused in connection with violent crimes is 
alcohol. And deaths caused by efforts to enforce drug prohibition far 
outstrip the deaths from drug addiction.

We should not squander our limited resources on the futile effort to 
legislate people's appetites, but treat drug addiction just like any other 
addiction -- as a health problem.

Ken Salzman
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