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.