Source: Standard-Times (MA)
Copyright: 1999 The Standard-Times
Pubdate: 9 Jan 1999
Author: Richard D. Elrick, Centerville


I agree with almost everything Robert Whitcomb said in his Jan. 1 editorial
commentary attacking the "drug war" as a failure.

As a father, attorney and elected official (Barnstable town councilor) it
has become obvious to me that, like alcohol prohibition before it, the
policy of criminalizing drug use, and particularly marijuana use, has
created far more harm to the user and society than the use of the
substance(s) ever could.

I would, however, question Mr. Whitcomb's opinion that mandatory or
coercive treatment should be relied upon to wean the users of their drugs.
The history of substance abuse treatment programs makes clear that those
who are most likely to maintain their sobriety are those who have made the
decision themselves that the substance abuse must end.

It is especially cruel and indefensible to be incarcerating marijuana users
when both the National Academy of Sciences and the World Health
Organization have concluded that marijuana is one of the least dangerous
drugs, legal or otherwise, and creates less of a public health danger than
either alcohol or tobacco.

It is time to honestly look at how the present drug policy, with its focus
on exaggerated rhetoric and reliance on prohibition over regulation, has
failed. Unless we are willing to objectively evaluate our options,
including various de-criminalization strategies, we will never find the
best solution to the problems of substance abuse. We must change the drug
war from a jobs program for the drug warrior bureaucracy to a model of
education and treatment -- the approaches most of the medical experts
(rather than the politicians) tell us are the only truly effective and
moral solutions.

RICHARD D. ELRICK, Centerville 
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