Pubdate: Mon, 27 Jun 2011 Source: Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA) Copyright: 2011 The Virginian-Pilot Contact: http://drugsense.org/url/zJNzcThR Website: http://hamptonroads.com/pilotonline Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/483 TO WIN DRUG WAR, TREAT, REGULATE For all the talk of government inefficiency, wasteful spending and ruinous debt, the political class continues to dismiss any effort to reform a failed, decades-old campaign: the war on drugs. That point was highlighted this month in a report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which noted billions of dollars were being funneled into a circular system that jailed thousands of low-level offenders but failed to get drugs off the street. "Apparent victories in eliminating one source or trafficking organization are negated almost instantly by the emergence of other sources and traffickers." The commission, comprising a who's who of dignitaries, heads of state and power brokers, including three from the U.S., offered biting criticism of the punitive approach. As The Associated Press reported last year, the federal government has spent $1 trillion during the past four decades on drug enforcement efforts. What is there to show for it? More drug users, more overdoses, more Americans in jail, more law enforcement officers killed or wounded in the line of duty. Commission members recommended a dramatic paradigm shift by diverting the billions that fund these futile measures into treatment, education and regulatory programs aimed at wiping out the underground market for illicit substances. And it chastised government officials in the U.S. and elsewhere for refusing to consider addressing the financial and physiological factors that perpetuate the drug trade. "Political leaders and public figures should have the courage to articulate publicly what many of them acknowledge privately; that the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that repressive strategies will not solve the drug problem and that the war on drugs has not, and cannot, be won," the commission wrote. Fortunately, at least at the state level, those conversations have begun. Sixteen states, and Washington, D.C., already have decided to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana. And as the national political debate swirls around wasteful spending and the federal budget deficit, more members of Congress are starting to weigh whether the war on drugs is contributing to that waste. This week, House Reps. Ron Paul, a Texas Republican, and Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, joined to introduce a bill that would permit states to decide whether people can grow, use or sell marijuana. The bill also would restrict federal enforcement to interstate and international smuggling. Like so many previous proposals rejected in state Capitols, this congressional effort is likely to fail. But if it does, it shouldn't happen before Congress and the public have a chance to examine its strengths and weaknesses, to determine whether it saves money and lives and reduces other ills associated with the illicit drug trade. The bar for the past 40 years has been awfully low. It's time to find a better way. - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.