Pubdate: [Fri, 01 Mar 1996]

Source: Des Moines Register (IA)
Author: Ethan A. Nadelmann

Charles Larson gets his facts and his analysis wrong in his article
supporting the U.S. war on drugs ("America's War on Drugs Has Not Failed,"
March 3).

The Netherlands has not, as he stated, legalized drugs. Dutch laws are much
the same as U.S. laws, with the exception that the cannabis market is
decriminalized and effectively regulated by the police. The result is few
marijuana arrests, no cannabis-related crime and a lower rate of cannabis
use there than in the United States.

Larson also misstates the situation in Switzerland. Switzerland recently
expanded a nationwide experiment in prescribing heroin to drug addicts
because the initial results have proved so promising.  Both the Netherlands
and Australia seem likely to follow suit, as do a number of other
countries. This policy appears to be successful in reducing drug-related
crime, disease and death.

U.S. drug policy is nothing for Americans to boast about. Federal, state
and local governments spend tens of billions to arrest, prosecute and
incarcerate hundreds of thousands of Americans for violating
drug-prohibition laws. Yet drug use is rising, drug-related AIDS is rising
and there are few signs that our drug policies can work any better than
they have in tbe past.

Our choices are not simply between a vicious war on drugs and unrestricted
legalization. We can start by acknowledging that drugs are here to stay, by
employing public and private health measures to reduce drug abuse and by
searching honestly and objectively for ways to reduce the negative
consequences of drug prohibition.

Ethan A. Nadelmann,
The Lindesmith Center,
New York, N.Y.