Source: Waco TribuneHerald/Guest Column May 23, 1997
Contact: Change the approach in drug war  (Don't worry about marijuana  go after heroin)

"Drugs arouse paranoia in politicians," complains Anthony Lewis in a 
recent column in the TribuneHerald.  But why shouldn't those politicians 

They know what happened to others who dared suggest that maybe we should
restudy the question of drug control.  They know opponents will be quick 
to label them as "soft on drugs" if they appear to waver in the least on 
this issue.

We are running the war drugs like Hitler ran the Battle of Stalingrad.  
No retreat. No withdrawl.  The real military experts knew this was not 
the way the German army won battles, but for Hitler the symbolic was more 
important than the sensible. And so he sacrificed the lives of thousands 
of German soldiers in that vain struggle.

So we too go on year after year, standing firm in our struggle against 
the drug traffic, always certain that we will eventually win if we just 
pour enough money and people
into the the fight and continue to lock up more and more addicts and 

To suggest otherwise would be to show a weakness that would guarantee 
our defeat in this part of the general war against depravity  as Cal 
Thomas prefers to call it. Even when we find ourselves in a stalemate we 
can still wistfully hope  that somehow, sometime "education" will solve 
the problem.

Meanwhile whole sections of our cities are no longer safe places in 
which to raise a family.  Every year more and more children take up the 
drug habit.  Some get into the business themselves.  A number lost their 
lives in battles with rival dealers.

Loyal DEA agents are tortured and murdered by opponents, who continue to 
grow richer.  The law enforcement and judicial systems in some Latin 
American countries fall into ruin as the drug trade becomes more powerful 
than their government.

Even those of us who can afford to live outside the problem areas may 
still find our homes and automobiles burglarized and our theft insurance 
rates rising because of addicts desperate to support their drug habit.

Since drug addicts are responsible for a disproportionate share of the 
most serious aspects of the drug problem such as theft, enticement of 
others to take up the habit, the spread of HIV, and drugresistant 
tuberculosis, would it not be sensible to look at all the ways by which 
their harmful activities might be reduced and concentrate on some 
programs which might prove more effective than those we've already tried 
even though it may appear that we are retreating from our traditional 
insistence upon unconditional surrender and total victory.  Needle 
exchange programs have been a very small step in this direction.

If we were just willing to let heroin and cocaine addicts remain 
addicts, at least until they themselves decided that they really wanted 
to kick the habit, how much less would be their activity in recruiting 
new users?

Whether we allow them to purchase drugs for their own use legally and at 
a low cost (probably from a government outlet) or supply them in a 
controlled fashion in hospicelike settings, the cost to society would 
have to be less than what we are already paying for police to round up 
only a fraction of them and keep them in prison, not to mention the 
losses in lives and property.

How best to do this is what we should be studying first.  Marijuana 
issues are much less urgent.    James Morse of McGregor is a physician 
employed at Fort Hood, retired from the faculty of the Texas A&M College 
of Medicine.