Pubdate: Mon, 06 Jun 2011
Source: Daily Iowan, The (IA Edu)
Copyright: 2011 The Daily Iowan
Author: Marni Steadham, 2011 University of Iowa alumna and founder of 
Iowa Students for a Sensible Drug Policy.


The war on drugs has failed. It's time to legalize marijuana,
decriminalize other drugs, and implement science-based policies
instead of fear-mongering.

These are not the words of drug-reform advocates, but those of the
Global Commission on Drug Policy, a 19-member panel made up of
high-profile international experts. The panel's June 2 report declared
the war on drugs a failure in no uncertain terms.

If the drug war was supposed to accomplish anything, it was to
decrease the consumption of drugs and limit access to them. Quite the
opposite has happened.

The commission found that for three categories of drugs -- opiates,
cocaine, and cannabis -- consumption increased by 34.5 percent, 27
percent, and 8.5 percent, respectively, between 1998 and 2008. A 2010
survey conducted by Monitoring the Future noted an increase in
marijuana consumption among high-school-age students. This directly
contradicts the notion that making drugs illegal will make youth less
likely to consume them. Despite one's position on the criminalization
of drug consumption, there is no denying that the drug war's attempts
to limit access and consumption have clearly failed.

One need not condone illegal drug use to see that the unintended
consequences of the drug war far outweigh the failed attempts at
reducing drug use.

To focus on some results of domestic U.S. policy: The war on drugs has
led to paramilitary-style SWAT raids on private residences and medical
cannabis dispensaries; mass incarceration with overwhelming racial
disparities, despite the relatively similar rates of drug use among
black and white demographics; the denial of federal financial aid to
college students with drug convictions, despite violent offenders
remaining eligible; and more money spent on interdiction in the United
States than on K-12 education.

Then we have the deaths and addiction. Let's get one thing clear:
Incarceration is not a cure for addiction. SWAT raids and black-market
violence results not only in the deaths of the bad guys but also the
deaths of innocent bystanders and nonviolent consumers. Since Mexican
President Felipe Calderon took office, black-market cartel violence
has claimed more than 34,000 lives. Our policies are not merely
ruining the lives of nonviolent offenders and shaming families, they
directly cause the deaths of countless innocent civilians.

There are better options, and we see them reflected in harm-reduction
efforts and alternative-treatment programs. One such program the
commission considered was syringe exchange. These have been successful
in that "countries that implemented harm-reduction and public-health
strategies early have experienced consistently low rates of HIV
transmission among people who inject drugs." Similarly, we have our
own harm-reduction policy in place at the University of Iowa in the
form of the newly implemented medical-amnesty policy. These are not
"tough on drugs" policies; these are policies that save lives.

Everyone should read the commission's report in full. For those
unfamiliar with the far-reaching consequences of the global war on
drugs, it is an eye-opening experience. The recommendations the report
makes can help negate the harmful effects that come not only from
dangerous drug consumption but also from the unintended consequences
of the war on drugs. These are not issues that can wait; the war on
drugs has failed, and we must change now.
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.