Pubdate: Sun, 17 May 2009
Source: Salina Journal, The (KS)
Copyright: 2009 The Salina Journal
Author: Tom Bell, Editor & Publisher


New Drug Czar Brings Fresh Common Sense To Wasteful 'War On Drugs'

Angry Americans pounced on the "Bridge to Nowhere" as  an example of 
wasteful congressional pork-barrel  spending. The now-dead $398 
million project would have  connected Ketchikan, Alaska, population 
8,000, with  Gravina Island, population 50, and home to the  Ketchikan airport.

Most are silent, however, when it comes to Washington's  "war on 
drugs" that costs Americans more than a 100  times that much in 
public dollars. This $44 billion per  year expense is just as 
wasteful, but there is little  political resolve to end the farce.

Actually, this so-called war costs society far more  than can be 
counted with a calculator, particularly in  the fight to curtail marijuana use.

As we've reported earlier in this space, nearly 25  percent of the 
world's reported prisoners are held in  this country, even though we 
have only 5 percent of  world population. One in 31 U.S. adults is in 
prison,  jail or on supervised release, while nearly 50 percent  of 
all 2007 drug arrests were for marijuana offenses.

But there's a light of common sense on the horizon,  seen in efforts 
led by Gil Kerlikowske, President  Obama's pick to run the White 
House Office of National  Drug Control Policy.

For starters, the Wall Street Journal reports that  Kerlikowske wants 
to dispense with the term "war on  drugs."

"Regardless of how you try to explain to people it's a  'war on 
drugs' or a 'war on a product,' people see a  war as a war on them," 
he said. "We're not at war with  people in this country."

Kerlikowske says he is not for legalizing drugs, but he  favors 
treatment programs to reduce demand instead of  burdening law 
enforcement, prisons and judicial systems  with nonviolent crimes.

He also wants to ban the Justice Department from  raiding 
state-sanctioned facilities that dispense  medical marijuana. That's 
downright refreshing. In  California, these raids featured federal 
agents yanking  marijuana cigarettes from the lips of senior citizens 
and arresting wheelchair-bound cancer victims.

The war on drugs is an utter failure under any  definition. The 
nation's new drug czar favors a  different approach. That's good. It 
can't be any more  wasteful than this national bridge to nowhere 
we've been funding for more than 20 years.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom