Pubdate: Fri, 03 Mar 2000
Source: Texas Observer (TX)
Copyright: 2000 The Texas Observer
Contact:  307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701
Authors: Danny Terwey and Jerry Epstein
Note: Jerry Epstein is President of Drug Policy Forum of Texas


James E. Garcia ("War and Hypocrisy," January 21) has my thanks for his
honest appraisal of the failing drug prohibition.  Studies have indicated
that funds spent on education and treatment are several times more
effective at reducing drug use than funds spent on interdiction and
prisons.  But our legislators seem intent to funnel the vast majority of
allocations to the drug warriors.  As a result we have seen our police gain
the authority to destroy lives.  Authorities can now break down our doors
without so much as knocking.  They can legally "seize" (steal) private
property without ever charging anyone with a crime. They can claim that
unidentified informants have fingered suspects, and the lack of
accountability is frightening.  We citizens are trusting our cops less and
less, because the drug war is corrupting them.  Ask the people of Los
Angeles, who are seeing dozens of cases overturned after a drug-running cop
finally confessed.  At this point, the United States has approximately two
million prisoners, many jailed for nothing but drug possession.  This makes
us the most incarcerated nation in the world.  I think we should change our
anthem, for we are most certainly not the "Land of the Free."

Danny Terwey, Santa Cruz, California

Many will question James Garcia's superb article on the hypocrisy of the
drug war on the mistaken assumption that a huge pharmacological gulf exists
between legal and illegal drugs.  In fact, the drug war pursues a logic
roughly equivalent to trying to solve traffic problems by making all cars
but Fords illegal.  The French medical research institute, ISERM, in
consultation with experts from around the world, rated drugs by their
danger in 1998 at government request.  They established three groups: "most
dangerous"-heroin, alcohol, and cocaine; "next most dangerous"-tobacco,
amphetamines, and others; "least dangerous"-cannabis (marijuana), since it
has "low toxicity, little addictive power and poses only a minor threat to
social behavior," and others.

The French health minister then asked the key question: "Why does society
persecute those with some kinds of addiction, while calmly putting up with
others that are far more widespread, dangerous, and expensive?"  Nor is
this news to researchers such as Dr. John O'Donnell, chief of research for
the National Institute of Mental Health, who wrote in 1969: "...the addict
whose drugs came from a stable source was no great problem to the
community....  He became a serious problem only if he engaged in illegal
activities to obtain narcotics.  The alcoholic was more visible and his
arrests more frequent."  Or, from a slightly different perspective, the
National Association of Public Health Policy, 1999: "It is clear that most
persons who take illicit drugs are experimental or socio-recreational
users. ... The typical drug user is scarcely distinguishable from the
typical citizen. ... This government advocates a policy which treats all
illicit use as abuse.  This is a major cause for the failure of the drug
war and prohibitionist policies in general."

Truth has become the casualty of propaganda and the avoidance of open
debate with independent experts.  Thank you for the effort to introduce
reason and science into the discussion of one of the most disastrous social
policies in our nations history.

Jerry Epstein, President Drug Policy Forum of Texas, Houston
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