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News (Media Awareness Project) - US CO: Column: Putting An End To War On Drugs Would Solve A
Title:US CO: Column: Putting An End To War On Drugs Would Solve A
Published On:2012-01-26
Source:Glenwood Springs Post Independent (CO)
Fetched On:2012-01-27 06:02:43
PUTTING AN END TO WAR ON DRUGS WOULD SOLVE A LOT OF PROBLEMS

What do we really want? Mary Boland "Prohibition is an attempted cure
that makes matters worse for both the addict and the rest of us."

- -- Milton Friedman

Now the right-wing Cato Institute has just added its voice to the many
from all parts of the political spectrum calling for an end to the
Drug War.

The Cato Institute is a respected think tank that owes its name to
Cato's Letters, a series of 18th Century English essays attacking
excessive government power. The institute is always on the side of
individual liberty and very limited government.

I usually do not fully agree with them. But their articles are well
researched, presented clearly and calmly and with respect for those
who think otherwise. So I check out their website fairly regularly.
And sometimes I agree with them 100 percent, as in the case of the
drug war.

In the words of Cato senior fellow Doug Bandow: "Banning drugs raises
their price, creates enormous profits for criminal entrepreneurs,
thrusts even casual users into an illegal marketplace, encourages heavy
users to commit property crimes to acquire higher-priced drugs, leaves
violence the only means for dealers to resolve disputes, forces
government to spend lavishly on enforcement, corrupts public officials
and institutions, and undermines a free society."

Bandow also points out that because drug offenses generally involve no
complaining witness, enforcement virtually requires measures that
disregard our civil liberties -- measures such as informants,
surveillance, wiretaps and raids. In the U.S. there are more than 100
SWAT-type raids every day, in which innocent people are routinely harmed.

Most disastrous, in my opinion, is the militarized enforcement
relentlessly pushed on other countries by Washington. This has
corrupted and destabilized entire nations. The worst cases are in
Latin America. Think of Colombia. And now, right on our own doorstep,
Mexico is virtually falling apart because of the violence of the
narcotraficantes.

The damage caused by the Drug War has driven a lot of our illegal
immigration from Latin America. I personally know of undocumented
families from Mexico who came here and are staying here because they
fear the violence at home and believe it has ruined any chance for the
reform and progress that would allow their children to build a life
there.

Bandow presents research indicating that legalizing drugs would save
more than $41 billion per year in government enforcement expenditure,
and could yield an even higher figure in tax revenue.

And he reviews the fact that the drug war is turning us into a prison
state, with much higher rates of incarceration than other western
industrialized nations. In 2009, 1.7 million people were arrested for
drug crimes, 80 percent for possession, almost 50 percent for
marijuana. By contrast, only 590,000 were arrested for violent crimes.

Unfortunately the privatization of prison construction and maintenance
has produced a lobby of those who profit from high incarceration rates.

Also unfortunately, it is much easier for the police to practice
enforcement among the poor than among those more able to hide their
usage and afford high-powered lawyers to beat charges. Thus arrests
and imprisonment disproportionately affect the poor, including
African-Americans.

Finally and, most importantly, it is beyond obvious by now that drug
prohibition simply doesn't work. It doesn't work any better than
alcohol prohibition did. In fact, studies show that drug usage is
highest in the countries with the strictest enforcement regimes.

On the other hand, consider the case of Portugal, which decriminalized
use of all drugs a decade ago. They did so in the belief that it would
be the most effective way of reducing addiction and its accompanying
harms because it would encourage users to seek treatment and free up
funds with which to provide treatment.

As Bandow states: "None of the parade of horrors that
decriminalization opponents typically invoke has come to pass." More
people are in treatment as users don't fear coming forward.
Drug-related HIV infections and mortality are down. And drug use in
Portugal remains low compared to the rest of Europe.

I firmly believe that drug abuse is the product of despair. Thus the
most effective measure against drug abuse is the creation of a nation
where every child can look forward to a productive and meaningful
career in a just, caring and productive society, and where those who
stumble can easily get help.
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