Pubdate: Thu, 26 Feb 1998
Source: St. Petersburg Times (FL)
Copyright: 1998 St. Petersburg Times
Author: Ghada Nadia Chmeissani, Tampa


There are certain activities that most people believe are immoral and
detrimental  to society. Drug use is one of them.

Our current drug policy encourages putting first-time drug offenders
behind bars, as well as increasing law enforcement ill the hopes of
combatting the drug problem. As thinking citizens, and before we agree
with the drug policy, we should ask ourselves the following questions:

Is putting drug offenders behind bars a good approach in fighting the
drug problem? And is it necessary to increase law enforcement in order
to fight illegal drugs?

On a national level, overcrowded courts and overpopulated prisons are
the most pressing problems caused by the failed drug policy. A large
number of prisoners are drug offenders convicted of non-violent
crimes. How many times have we heard that a violent offender is not
serving a full term because of prison overpopulation? Not only are we
Putting the wrong people behind bars when we lock up drug offenders,
but we are spending an exorbitant amount of money in the process.

It makes more sense to spend this money on preventing drugs from
becoming a problem in the first place.

The bottom line is this: Most of the crime associated with drug abuse
and trafficking is not caused by users who are under the influence and
lose control, nor by poverty-stricken communities. It is rather
motivated by profit-seeking drug dealers. If drug dealers are the
problem, then why not stop them head on?

We can start by imposing a less punitive approach to drug use and
possession. This can be followed by helping drug abusers and placing
them in rehabilitation facilities, not Prisons. Finally, we can
provide monetary and educational boosts to needy communities, rather
than policing, which is usually associated with fear and mistrust of
"the system." These measures will not only justify spending
taxpayers'money, but will also ensure that our citizens won't have to
resort to drug trafficking to earn a living.

There's a fundamental gap in our legal system when the laws created to
combat a perceived immoral behavior are inflicting greater harm on
society than the behavior itself.