Pubdate: Thu, 10 Oct 2002
Source: Missoulian (MT)
Copyright: 2002 Missoulian
Author: John Masterson
Bookmark: (Treatment)
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)


Thank you, Sen. Duane Grimes, for your astute comments on the failure of 
the drug war as reported in the Missoulian Sept. 26. ("Panel recommends 
more treatment."). It is a relief to hear from a legislator unafraid to 
tell the truth about drugs: "Law enforcement support alone will never solve 
the problem."

The fact of the matter is that drug abuse, particularly the abuse of drugs 
such as heroin and methamphetamine, would be much more effectively treated 
as a public health issue, rather than a criminal justice issue. Obviously, 
if someone is also committing violent or property crimes, their issues with 
drugs certainly don't excuse that behavior. But if their only offense is 
buying, possessing, or using illegal drugs, they should be provided with 
the opportunity to receive drug treatment rather than ruining their lives 
with a felony conviction and clogging up the courts and prisons.

With regards to marijuana, a more sensible policy than our current strategy 
would be to issue civil penalties similar to parking tickets for minor 
offenses. Since marijuana is used by far more people than any other illegal 
drug, and in almost all cases done so peacefully and without incident or 
abuse, this would free up significant criminal justice resources to deal 
with violent and property crimes, as well as treatment resources to help 
people having problems with the harder drugs.

John Masterson, Montana NORML
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