Pubdate: Sat, 12 Oct 2013
Source: Baltimore Sun (MD)
Copyright: 2013 The Baltimore Sun Company
Author: Robert Sharpe


Retired state police captain Leigh Maddox is absolutely right about 
Gov. Martin O'Malley's misplaced emphasis on law enforcement 
("O'Malley is wrong: More arrests mean more crime," Oct. 7).

When it comes to drugs, an increase in arrests could actually 
increase crime. Attempts to limit supply while drug demand remains 
constant only increase the profitability of trafficking. For 
addictive drugs like heroin, a spike in street prices leads desperate 
addicts to increase their criminal activity to feed desperate habits. 
The drug war doesn't fight crime, it fuels it.

When alcohol prohibition was repealed, liquor bootleggers no longer 
gunned each other down in drive-by shootings, nor did consumers go 
blind drinking unregulated bathtub gin.

While U.S. politicians ignore the drug war's historical precedent, 
European countries are embracing harm reduction, a public health 
alternative based on the principle that both drug abuse and 
prohibition have the potential to cause harm.

Examples of harm reduction include needle exchange programs to stop 
the spread of HIV, marijuana regulation aimed at separating the hard 
and soft drug markets, and treatment alternatives that do not require 
incarceration as a prerequisite.

Unfortunately, fear of appearing "soft on crime" compels many U.S. 
politicians to support a failed drug war that ultimately subsidizes 
organized crime.

Robert Sharpe, Washington

The writer is a policy analyst at Common Sense for Drug Policy.
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