Pubdate: Mon, 19 Feb 2001
Source: Amarillo Globe-News (TX)
Copyright: 2001 Amarillo Globe-News
Contact:  P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166
Fax: (806) 373-0810
Author: Debra Cochrain


Recently on "Larry King Live," our new Attorney General John Ashcroft said, 
"Well, I want to escalate the war on drugs. I want to renew it, relaunch it 
if you will."

More than 10 years ago, federal officials boldly claimed they would create 
a "drug-free world" by 1995. Congress has spent billions on police, 
prosecutors, drug courts and prisons.

Despite millions of arrests and countless seizures, illegal drugs are as 
readily available today as ever before.

Like alcohol prohibition, drug prohibition has created more problems than 
it has solved. In 1972 when President Nixon launched the war on drugs, the 
federal budget for the drug war was about $101 million. This year it will 
be more than $19.2 billion.

What have we received for our investment? Nothing positive.

In what used to be the land of the free, we now incarcerate more people 
than any other country on the planet. With less than 5 percent of the 
world's population, the United States now has more than 25 percent of the 
world's prisoners.

Thanks to the drug war, many of our individual rights guaranteed by the 
U.S. Constitution have been effectively nullified. One in 35 in this land 
of the free are incarcerated, on probation or parole.

Thanks to the drug war, more than 700,000 Americans were arrested last year 
for possession of marijuana. Marijuana is a natural herb that has never 
been documented to kill a single person. It is a great medicine for cancer 
and AIDS. It is more humane than the painkillers now prescribed.

Yet the drug war is what our new attorney general wants to intensify.

The drug war is not working, and we need to do something different. The 
drug war has destroyed the lives of many, corrupted law enforcement and 
distorted foreign policy.

I do not maintain that addiction will go away, but it is time to deal with 
it as a social and health concern, not a legal matter.


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