Pubdate: Mon, 13 Aug 2001
Source: St. Petersburg Times (FL)
Copyright: 2001 St. Petersburg Times
Author: Stephen Heath, Clearwater


Re: Drug series was skewed, letter, Aug. 7.

Kudos to the Times for its excellent presentation regarding America's drug 
war. The letter writer expressed the opinion that Susan Taylor Martin's 
presentation was "skewed." In actuality, Martin and her staff nicely 
covered U.S. drug warring both within and outside our borders, as well as 
the undue influence our federal government wields against other countries 
who do not share our punitive approaches to dealing with the very real 
problems of drug abuse.

The letter writer complains about the use of statistics from 1991-1999 and 
suggests that we refer to data from previous decades.

Such an opinion is understandable since the last 12 years of intense drug 
warring have produced dismal results in terms of reducing drug use by 
minors, though it has done wonders for grossly inflating our jail 
population and also militarizing police forces across the country. In 
addition, there has been a huge increase in the number of businesses that 
do coerced drug testing of their current and prospective employees, a 
practice that puts money into the letter writer's pocket as the director of 
Drug Free America.

She asserts that "to hold the Netherlands up as a success story is 
disgraceful." This is puzzling, since the current drug policies of the 
Netherlands are not only less punitive than ours, but also have far greater 
success in reducing drug-related deaths, disease and the crimes associated 
with addicts obtaining illegal drugs.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Household 
Survey of Drug Abuse and the University of Amsterdam provide combined 
information showing the Dutch prevalent use of marijuana for ages 12 and up 
is less than half of that in the United States. Additionally, the lifetime 
prevalance use of heroin for the same group is one-third the rate of the 
United States and homicide rates nationally are one-fourth of ours. All of 
this has occurred with a per capita spending on drug law enforcement that 
is three times less that of the United States.

Finally, the letter writer suggests that "we are not losing the war." Since 
her defined success is a "drug free" America, then it seems rather unlikely 
we will ever win, though we will clearly provide lifetime employment for 
her and other prohibitionists.

Thanks again to the Times for printing various viewpoints on what is 
considered by some to be a taboo subject.

Stephen Heath
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart