Pubdate: Mon, 03 Jul 2006
Source: Pretoria News, The (South Africa)
Copyright: 2006 The Pretoria News
Author: Robert Sharpe


Cracking down on illegal drugs is easier said than done. Attempts to
limit the supply of illegal drugs while demand remains constant only
increase the profitability of drug trafficking. For addictive drugs
like heroin, a spike in street prices leads desperate addicts to
increase criminal activity to feed their habits. The drug war doesn't
fight crime, it fuels crime.

Punitive drug laws have little, if any, deterrent value. Consider the
experience of the US, the former land of the free and current record
holder in citizens incarcerated. Police searches on public transit,
drug-sniffing dogs in schools and random drug testing have led to a
loss of civil liberties in the US, while failing miserably at
preventing drug use.

The drug war is in large part a war on dagga. Based on finding that
criminal records are inappropriate as health interventions, a majority
of European Union countries have decriminalised dagga. Despite dagga
prohibition and perhaps because of forbidden fruit appeal, lifetime
use of dagga is higher in the US than any European country.

The short-term health effects of dagga are inconsequential compared to
the long-term effects of criminal records. Unfortunately, dagga
represents the counterculture to misguided reactionaries intent on
legislating their version of morality. South Africa should follow the
lead of Europe and just say no to the US inquisition.

Robert Sharpe, MPA Policy Analysis, Common Sense for Drug Policy,
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake