Pubdate: Tue, 01 May 2001
Source: Newsday (NY)
Copyright: 2001 Newsday Inc.
Author: Robert Sharpe
Note: The writer is program officer with the
Lindesmith Center Drug Policy Foundation.  Washington, D.C.


At a time when the Bush administration should be rethinking the entire
drug war, the White House is lauding the Peru program. The deaths of
two members of an American missionary family in Peru should serve as a
wake-up call ["Plane Carrying U.S. Missionaries Downed," April 21 ].

How many innocent Peruvians have been sacrificed at the altar of
America's drug war? As Peruvian coca production has gone down,
Colombian coca production and domestic methamphetamine production have
both gone up, along with the U.S. incarceration rate, now the highest
in the world.

When will the champions of the free market in the U.S. Congress
acknowledge that immutable laws of supply and demand render the drug
war a costly exercise in futility?

This is not to say that all drugs should be legalized. Taxing and
regulating marijuana would separate the hard and soft drug markets and
eliminate the "gateway" to drugs like cocaine. Establishing strict age
controls is critical. Right now, kids have an easier time buying pot
than beer. Politicians need to stop worrying about the message drug
policy reform sends to children and start thinking about the children
themselves. Opportunistic "tough-on-drugs" politicians, many of them
guilty of "youthful indiscretions," would no doubt disagree.

Robert Sharpe
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