Pubdate: Sat, 02 Nov 2002
Source: Times, The (LA)
Copyright: 2002 The Times
Author: Robert Sharpe
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Treatment)
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


David Lassiter's Oct. 29 column was right on target. So-called drug-related 
crime is invariably prohibition-related. Attempts to limit the supply of 
illegal drugs while demand remains constant only increase the profitability 
of drug trafficking. In terms of addictive drugs like heroin, a spike in 
street prices leads desperate addicts to increase criminal activity to feed 
desperate habits. The drug war doesn't fight crime, it fuels crime.

With alcohol prohibition repealed, liquor bootleggers no longer gun each 
other down in drive-by shootings, nor do consumers go blind drinking 
unregulated bathtub gin. While U.S. politicians ignore the historical 
precedent, European countries are embracing harm reduction, a public health 
alternative based on the principle that both drug abuse and prohibition 
have the potential to cause harm.

Examples of harm reduction include needle exchange programs to stop the 
spread of HIV, marijuana regulation aimed at separating the hard and soft 
drug markets, and treatment alternatives that do not require incarceration 
as a prerequisite. Unfortunately, fear of appearing "soft on crime" compels 
U.S. politicians to support a failed drug war that ultimately subsidizes 
organized crime. Drug abuse is bad, but the drug war is worse.

Robert Sharpe

Program officer

Drug Policy Alliance

Washington, D.C.
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