Pubdate: Sat, 26 Feb 2011
Source: Post and Courier, The (Charleston, SC)
Copyright: 2011 Evening Post Publishing Co.
Author: Mary Horres
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


The League of Women Voters of the Charleston Area thanks The Post and 
Courier and Thomas Ravenel for bringing public attention to the 
important issue of widespread illegal drug use. We think the public 
needs a fact-based understanding about drug use and related 
government policy, including an unbiased consideration about whether 
the criminalization of drug use has made the problem better or worse.

Recently our Charleston Area League members decided to educate 
ourselves on these matters. Before the League of Women Voters adopts 
a position on an issue, we are required to investigate all sides of 
the issue with an open mind. Therefore, in 2010 we did a year-long 
study on illegal drugs in South Carolina.

We started with a public program featuring Charleston and North 
Charleston police chiefs Mullen and Zumalt, who spoke in favor of 
drug prohibition; a retired former police chief who argued for drug 
legalization; and a former drug addict who had spent time in prison. 
Over the next months we researched many aspects of drug issues, 
including the extent and cost of public drug use, the unequal funding 
and effectiveness of drug courts, drug use in state prisons, racial 
effects of drug arrests, availability of treatment and much more.

Our final study report, called "Mapping the Elephant: Illegal Drugs 
in South Carolina," is on-line at our League's web site at

Based on our study and discussions, our Charleston League concluded 
that the current policy of expecting criminalization to stop people 
from using and selling drugs has not and will not work. Billions of 
dollars have been spent, and prisons have been filled many times 
over, but the percentages of the U.S. population addicted to drugs in 
1914 and in 2004 are the same -- 1.3 percent. During those 90 years, 
the street cost of nearly all drugs dropped, and drug purity 
increased. And, experience has proved that a drug user can get over 
an addiction, but a person with a prison record can never get over a 
drug conviction.

We know there is no perfect solution to the drug problem. Some 
people, regardless of the dangers of drugs and legal penalties, will 
always be foolish enough to use drugs. Based on our study, the 
Charleston League (but not the state or national leagues, which have 
no positions at this time) reached consensus on a number of positions 
related to specific areas of drug policy, and these can be found in 
the study report.

Our central overriding conclusion was that illegal drug use should be 
considered a public health issue, and drug addiction should be 
addressed by substance abuse treatment programs instead of incarceration.

We invite you to read our study on-line and make up your own mind 
based on the facts about this critical but neglected public issue, 
and then advocate for or against policies as you feel appropriate.



League of Women Voters of the Charleston Area

Pignatelli Crescent

Mount Pleasant
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom