Pubdate: Tue, 03 Apr 2001
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2001 The Washington Post Company
Author: Doug McVay


A March 23 letter about drug policy stated: "Exacerbating this problem are 
those who use and promote drug use as a personal right. Regardless of how 
they couch their rhetoric, these 'drug policy experts' want to be allowed 
to use whatever drugs they want, whenever they want, disregarding the cost 
that drug use imposes on the rest of society."

I understand the emotions in this debate. My father died of alcohol-induced 
cirrhosis of the liver, and I've lost friends and classmates to other 
drugs. That is why I want the system to change.

According to the federal Community Epidemiology Working Group, hard drugs 
including heroin and cocaine are more plentiful, cheaper and purer than 
ever in this country. Drug use inside prisons is so rampant that there are 
efforts to require a clean drug test before prisoners can be released at 
the end of their sentences.

People who want illegal drugs can get them more easily now than when 
President Reagan took office in 1981, and children report that they can get 
illicit drugs more easily than beer.

Yet there are more drug arrests annually now than ever before, and there 
are more people in prisons and jails for drug offenses.

Some people argue that the threat of prison is needed to force addicts into 
drug treatment because illicit drug users tend to not go in for drug 
treatment voluntarily. This analysis ignores an obvious point: Entering 
treatment for addiction to an illicit drug means admitting one is a 
criminal. Few people would be willing to take that step, because these laws 
are serious and the penalties are severe.

Issues of drug abuse and drug policy are serious because they touch lives 
so deeply; the debate is often mired in emotional rhetoric and ad hominem 
attacks on reformers. We need to promote rational discussion, because 
that's the only way this issue will ever be successfully addressed.

Doug McVay, Projects Coordinator, Common Sense for Drug Policy, Washington
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D