Pubdate: Wed, 24 Oct 2001
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2001 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Author: Gene Tinelli


I thank USA TODAY for publishing a front-page article on the link between
governments that protect the illegal drug trade and terrorists such as Osama
bin Laden. The article did the country a service, as most people are unaware
of the connection (''U.S. expected to target Afghanistan's opium,'' Cover
Story, News, Oct. 16).

The article discussed destroying the opium crop, as it is Afghanistan's
biggest moneymaker. However, there is a simpler way to cut the Taliban's
profits: Drop the bottom out of the opium market.

The reason there is so much money in the illegal drug trade is that the
drugs are illegal. If we removed the penalties for simple possession of
opium products, provided heroin to opiate addicts -- as the Swiss government
does -- and treated substance users with harm-reduction policies, we'd
dramatically lower the profits of the opium trade.

Who threatens the fabric of our country more -- Americans who use heroin, or
anarchists who use terror as a weapon?

As a bonus, we could use the economic and personnel resources from in
pursuing a lost drug war to protect our liberty and make us more secure.
Let's end our prohibitionist drug polices and regulate individual drugs
based on the harm to public health.

Gene Tinelli, M.D., Addiction psychiatrist 

State University of New York, Jamesville, N.Y.
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