Pubdate: Wed, 02 Mar 2011
Source: Post and Courier, The (Charleston, SC)
Copyright: 2011 Fritz Saenger Jr.
Note: Rarely prints LTEs received from outside its circulation area
Author: Fritz Saenger Jr.


After some "shouting" following Thomas Ravenel's op-ed article last 
month, the talk about illegal drugs seems to have subsided. I think 
this is unfortunate because the issue isn't going away, and I think 
it is clear to almost any observer that the current policy, costing 
us hundreds of millions, no billions, of dollars each year isn't 
working. In addition to the damage it is causing here, it is damaging 
our relationships with many countries, but most importantly, it isn't working.

We have the highest incarceration rate in the developed world, and a 
large portion of those in prison have been convicted of possession of 
illegal drugs, and/or for crimes committed to obtain money to 
purchase them. At the same time, profits for distributing these 
substances are so high that gangs fight one another over distribution 
channels and sales territories.

Much of this fighting goes on in Mexico, Colombia and other Latin 
American countries, and those countries rightly blame us for 
providing the market that feeds the strife. In addition, our efforts 
to eradicate the opium crop in Afghanistan make it hard to develop 
friendly relationships with farmers, whose only source of income is 
growing opium poppies -- and opium is the only export of significance 
for the entire country.

Despite our "war on drugs" we have one of the highest rates of drug 
usage in the world, much higher than in countries that have 
implemented legal distribution systems for those who want or need 
these drugs for one reason or another. It almost seems that the 
thrill associated with using a banned substance is one of the reasons 
that people get hooked.

After much agonizing, I, too, have come to the conclusion that we 
would be better off making these drugs legal, taxing them the way we 
tax alcohol and tobacco, and earning money for needed government 
functions rather than wasting it on legions of law enforcement people 
and the expensive incarceration of large numbers of our young 
population. If we want to reduce government spending, here is a major 

As Mr. Ravenel pointed out, our current policy is failing by any 
measure. Let's encourage open conversation about ways to change it 
for everybody's benefit.

Fritz Saenger Jr.

Cove Bay Lane

Mount Pleasant
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