Pubdate: Thu, 26 Feb 1998
Source: St. Petersburg Times (FL)
Copyright: 1998 St. Petersburg Times
Author: John G. Chase, Palm Harbor


A few issues have so polarized Americans that each side has difficulty even 
listening to the other side, much less compromising with it. On these 
issues, the majority is usually found in the middle, a place where 
activists won't go because their own side will accuse them of caving in. 
What the activists can't see is that the common good would be served well 
by compromise.

The shared desire to reduce the crime and the lives ruined by the abuse of 
illegal drugs becomes polarized when we discuss how to do it best. We have 
been wedded to the current war on drugs and it has stalemated. The illegal 
drug market has learned to thrive underground. The drug supplying and money 
laundering infrastructure is in place, and anyone who wants drugs can get 
them.The war has gone on so long that we have come to accept the deaths, 
the lives ruined, the violent criines, the clogged courts and prisons, and 
the corrupting influences on society. Most of us don't experience these 
effects firsthand, but citizens who can least afford it must live in war 
zones and hope their children can live to grow up and escape to something 

None of this will change unless we try something different. Getting tough 
on drugs makes good political rhetoric, but has been tried for 20 years, 
and has helped create today's predicament. It is so bad that almost any 
change would be an improvement.

A recent issue of Foreign Affairs, a respected, nonpartisan, 
non-ideological periodical, has an article entitled "Commonsense Drug 
Policy," which focuses on reducing the harm being caused by drugs. It 
reports the results of experiments and trials run in other countries, and 
compares them to what is being done in the United States. The fact that it 
states that "most proponents of harm reduction do not favor legalization" 
suggests that the ideas in the article might provide a nucleus for 
compromise. Public awareness of these alternatives to the drug war is a 
first step toward improving this predicament we are in.