Pubdate: Wed, 20 Oct 1999
Source: Amarillo Globe-News (TX)
Copyright: 1999 Amarillo Globe-News
Contact:  P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166
Fax: (806) 373-0810
Author: John G. Chase


Two items in your editorial "Drug Legalization an Unnecessary Surrender",
of September 28th caught my eye.

First, you ask "Why give drug abusers license to feed their habit and
subject themselves and their families to the misery that illicit drugs can
bring to them?".

Do you believe the "misery" is rooted in the drugs themselves or in their
illegality? Before you answer, consider the opinion of two experts, Dr.
Jack E. Henningfield of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and Dr. Neal
L. Benowitz of the University of California at San Francisco. They took the
trouble to rank six common psychoactive substances.

Their individual rankings, while not identical, put at the top heroin,
alcohol and cocaine, and put at the bottom nicotine, marijuana and
caffeine, roughly in that order. Since these ranks put (legal) alcohol with
heroin and cocaine, and (illegal) marijuana with tobacco and coffee, I
submit that it is the illegality which causes most of the misery.

Second, you seem to accept Mr. McCaffrey's assertion that the drug war is
working: "Drug czar Barry McCaffrey . . . has released a study showing that
drug use among young Americans has declined 13% since 1985; moreover,
cocaine use has dropped 70% during that time. That proves the nation's
battle against illicit drugs is working, says McCaffrey."

This assertion is not false, but it is misleading. In fact all illegal
drugs, including cocaine, dropped very sharply from 1985 to 1992, but have
risen steadily since 1992 and now(1998) stand about 80% higher than their
1992 levels, albeit still somewhat below their 1985 levels. When drug use
among young Americans rises 80% in six years, the drug war cannot be said
to be "working." 

John G. Chase
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake