Never-ending drug war

Posted: Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Juneau's hazardous methamphetamine labs are reminiscent of the deadly exploding liquor stills that sprung up throughout the nation during alcohol prohibition.

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Drug policies modeled after alcohol prohibition have given rise to a youth-oriented black market. Illegal drug dealers don't ID for age, but they do recruit minors immune to adult sentences. So much for protecting the children.

Throwing more money at the problem is no solution. Attempts to limit the supply of illegal drugs while demand remains constant only increase the profitability of drug trafficking. In terms of addictive drugs like meth, a spike in street prices leads desperate addicts to increase criminal activity to feed desperate habits. The drug war doesn't fight crime, it fuels crime.

There are cost-effective alternatives to never-ending drug war. Despite dramatically lower per capita spending on the drug problem, the Netherlands has successfully reduced overall drug use by replacing marijuana prohibition with adult regulation. Dutch rates of drug use are lower than U.S. rates in every category.

Separating the hard and soft drug markets and establishing age controls for marijuana has proven more effective than zero tolerance. Here in the U.S., marijuana provides the black market contacts that introduce consumers to addictive drugs like meth. This "gateway" is the direct result of a fundamentally flawed policy.

Given that marijuana is arguably safer than legal alcohol - pot has never been shown to cause an overdose death - it makes no sense to waste tax dollars on failed policies that finance organized crime and facilitate the use of hard drugs. Drug policy reform may send the wrong message to children, but I like to think the children are more important than the message.

Recent figures can be found at:

Robert Sharpe

Drug Policy Alliance

Washington, D.C.

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