Pubdate: Thu, 18 Jun 2009
Source: New York Times (NY)
Page: A36
Copyright: 2009 The New York Times Company
Author: Robert Weiner


To the Editor:

Drugs have not "won the war." With a comprehensive anti-drug strategy
in place, involving foreign policy, enforcement, education, treatment,
prevention and media, America's overall drug use has declined almost
by half in the past three decades -- from 14.1 percent of the
population in 1979 to 8.3 percent now who used drugs in the past
month. In addition, cocaine use, including crack -- the source of much
of the former record-high violent crime numbers -- is down 70 percent.
Want to go back?

Legalization would be a catastrophe. Nicholas D. Kristof uses the
analogy of legal alcohol. But there are an estimated 15 million
alcoholics in this country and 5 million drug addicts; do we want the
5 to become 15?

Parents, police and the American people know that taking away the
incentive of the normative power of the law would increase drug use
and related car crashes, school dropouts and work absences. That is
why the law has remained in place.

Hospital emergency rooms would be flooded, and crime would return to
the crisis levels of the 1970s and '80s, when drug use was at its
highest. Domestic violence and date rape would be substantially
higher. The majority of arrestees in 10 major American cities recently
tested positive for illegal drugs, a remarkable indicator of a link
between drugs and crime.

The new director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, R. Gil
Kerlikowske, and another recent drug czar, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, are
both correct that we must remove the phrase "war on drugs" and fight
drugs like a cancer, which can be managed and treated.

Robert Weiner


The writer was spokesman for the White House National Drug Policy
Office from 1995 to 2001.
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