Pubdate: Thu, 14 Jul 2005
Source: Palm Beach Post, The (FL)
Copyright: 2005 The Palm Beach Post
Author: Stephen Heath


A letter-writer offers a welcome criticism of public drug policies in
Florida and much of the United States ("Don't jail drug abusers;
treatment is the answer," June 26). The foundation of our flawed drug
policies lies in the irrational definition of what constitutes a drug
abuser. In government-speak, any use of illegal drugs defines one as
an abuser.

Thus, well-intentioned drug treatment programs are forced to handle a
relentless flow of clients who are not addicted or having real
substance-abuse issues but, rather, simply were caught by police in
possession of small amounts of drugs. This forces those in legitimate
need to wait, often for years, for the chance to get the help they
need to be productive citizens.

To echo the writer, I know that taking otherwise law-abiding citizens
who possess illegal drugs and forcing them into the criminal justice
system gives them a problem that lasts a lifetime. That's carrying a
permanent criminal record. It's bad policy for either casual users or
even true abusers. Millions of people have demonstrated that one can
overcome an addiction with help. But millions of others likewise have
shown that it's far more difficult to overcome a conviction,
especially if it is a felony in states such as Florida.


PR director

Drug Policy Forum of Florida


PB Post Editor's note: The Drug Policy Forum of Florida, a
not-for-profit organization with about 200 members that serves as a
national clearinghouse for people seeking information on alternative
drug policies, supports reform of state drug laws. 
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MAP posted-by: SHeath(DPFFlorida)