Pubdate: Mon, 03 Sep 2001
Source: Springfield News-Leader (MO)
Copyright: 2001 The Springfield News-Leader
Author: Robert Sharpe


Current Policy Fails Miserably

Farris Robertson's Aug. 29 column was right on target. A cost-benefit 
analysis of the drug war is long overdue.

Instead of wasting billions incarcerating nonviolent drug offenders while 
simultaneously waging a futile supply-side war abroad, we should be funding 
cost-effective treatment. A White House proposal to expand the Clinton 
administration's $1.3 billion Plan Colombia into a broader Andean 
initiative is a prime example of big government throwing good money after bad.

The additional funds will not negate the immutable laws of supply and 
demand that drive illegal drug production. A crackdown in one region leads 
to increased cultivation elsewhere. Creating a global welfare state in 
which every developing country is paid not to grow illicit crops is a 
rather expensive proposition. The various armed factions in Colombia that 
are tearing the country apart are financially dependent on profits 
generated by the never-ending drug war.

While U.S. politicians continue to use the drug war's collateral damage to 
justify its intensification at home and abroad, European countries are 
embracing harm reduction. Harm reduction is based on the principle that 
both drug use and drug prohibition have the potential to cause harm.

Given the historical precedent in America's disastrous experiment with 
alcohol prohibition, harm reduction should be readily understood by Congress.

Ironically, fear of appearing "soft on crime" compels many politicians to 
support a punitive drug policy that ultimately fuels organized crime and 
violence, while failing miserably at preventing use.

Robert Sharpe
Program Officer, The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation, Washington, D.C.
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