Pubdate: Sat, 22 Feb 2003
Source: Laurel Leader-Call (MS)
Copyright: 2003 Laurel Leader-Call
Author: Robert Sharpe
Bookmark: (Asset Forfeiture)


A Feb. 18th article on the Laurel Police Department's use of seized assets 
gave the false impression that the drug war is self-funding. That's not the 
case. The drug war's burden on taxpayers grows each year as ever more drug 
offenders are imprisoned. America now has the highest incarceration rate in 
the world, yet drug use continues unabated as new dealers step in to reap 
inflated illicit market profits. There is far more at stake than tax dollars.

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With alcohol prohibition repealed, liquor bootleggers no longer gun each 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 drug war's 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, M.P.A.,

Program Officer, Drug Policy Alliance,,

925 15th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005 
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