Pubdate: Thu, 03 May 2001
Source: Times Record (ME)
Copyright: 2001 Times Record Inc., ASC Inc
Author: Robert Sharpe
Note: Robert Sharpe, MPA, is program officer for The Lindesmith Center-Drug 
Policy Foundation, 4455 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite B-500, Washington, 
D.C. 20008-2328; phone (202)537-5005; or on the Internet at


To the editor:

Regarding Jonathan White's thoughtful article of Apr. 23 ("Hidden cost of 
drug war"), Plan Colombia could very well spread both coca production and 
civil war throughout South America. Communist guerilla movements do not 
originate in a vacuum.

United States tax dollars would be better spent addressing the underlying 
causes of civil strife rather than applying overwhelming military force to 
attack the symptoms. Forcing Colombia's FARC guerrillas to the bargaining 
table at gunpoint will not remedy Colombia's societal inequities. The 
United States is not doing the Colombian people any favors by funding civil 

Nor are Americans being protected from drugs.

Destroy the Colombian coca crop and production will boom in Peru, Bolivia 
and Ecuador. Destroy every last plant in South America and domestic 
methamphetamine production will increase to meet the demand for 
cocaine-like drugs.

The self-professed champions of the free market in the U.S. Congress are 
seemingly incapable of applying basic economic principles to drug policy. 
Rather than waste resources attempting to overcome immutable laws of supply 
and demand, policymakers should look to the lessons learned from America's 
disastrous experiment with alcohol prohibition.

Drug laws fuel crime and violence, which is then used to justify increased 
drug war spending. It's time to end this madness and start treating all 
substance abuse, legal or otherwise, as the public health problem it is.

This is not to say that all drugs should be legalized. Taxing and 
regulating marijuana would effectively undermine the black market. 
Marijuana provides the black market contacts that introduce users to drugs 
like cocaine. Closing this gateway would protect future generations from 
hard drugs.

Separating the hard and soft drug markets and establishing strict age 
controls is critical. Right now kids have an easier time buying pot than 
beer. Drug policy reform may send the wrong message to children, but I like 
to think the children are more important than the message. Opportunistic 
"tough on drugs" politicians would no doubt disagree.

Robert Sharpe
Washington, D.C.
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MAP posted-by: Beth