Pubdate: Thu, 06 Dec 2001
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Copyright: 2001 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Author: Timothy Lynch, Richard L Root, Ethan Nadelmann

Letters To The Editor


It is increasingly apparent that William Bennett is in a state of denial 
with respect to the myriad effects of a legal ban on marijuana, cocaine, 
opium and other drugs ("We Need a Drug Czar Now," editorial page, Nov. 29). 
He has only recently discovered one of the ugly side-effects of driving a 
lucrative market underground, namely, that the revenues are channeled into 
an underworld occupied by an assortment of shady criminals, corrupt 
politicians and, yes, terrorists. But instead of coming to grips with the 
blowback effect of enriching the enemies of civil society, Mr. Bennett 
wants us to wear blinders and stay the course.

His statement that the federal government "all but gave up" on the drug war 
in the 1990s is outlandish: Former Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the Pentagon and 
the Drug Enforcement Agency spent billions upon billions on interdiction 
operations, arrests, drug courts and prison construction over the past 10 
years. Every setback was used as a justification for further government 
expansion. In recent years, the feds have been censoring the scripts of TV 
shows, threatening doctors who want to talk about the medicinal use of 
marijuana, and chasing drug dealers in the jungles of Colombia. This 
gigantic social engineering project has been given a chance to work, but it 
is plainly creating more problems than it is solving.

Timothy Lynch

Director - Project on Criminal Justice

Cato Institute


Mr. Bennett, in his call for support for John Walters as the federal drug 
czar, engages us with typical drug-war-speak in his attempt to rally 
support for this man who would escalate an unwinnable war. In tying drug 
trade profits to terrorism he clearly shows us why the drug war and 
prohibitions should end. Clearly, the more successful the efforts are in 
interrupting drug flow, the higher the profits become for those involved. 
The drug war thusly serves as a protection racket for those high profits. 
It's Mr. Bennett and drug prohibition that have made simple garden products 
more valuable than gold and handed on a silver platter a means for 
terrorists to support their activities.

Richard L. Root

Westminster, Calif.

Bill Bennett and John Walters may very well be the last two men in America 
who still believe we can arrest and spend our way out of the drug problem. 
While even President Bush has said that it's time to re-examine mandatory 
minimum sentences, Messrs. Bennett and Walters still cling to the 
disturbing view that imprisoning nonviolent drug offenders for long 
sentences is a good use of taxpayer money and scarce law-enforcement resources.

After decades of the kinds of draconian policies that Messrs. Bennett and 
Walters favor, drugs are cheaper, purer and more prevalent than ever, and 
the harms associated with drug abuse are as bad as ever. It is obvious that 
the war on drugs has failed, and 75% of Americans recognize this fact. 
State legislatures from Louisiana to Indiana to New York are beginning to 
reform their drug sentencing laws and devote more resources to drug 
treatment. Voters continue to approve one drug reform ballot measure after 
another (17 since 1996). Public sentiment is rapidly shifting away from a 
criminal justice approach to drug abuse towards a smarter, cheaper, and 
more effective public health approach.

For Messrs. Bennett and Walters, however, the war on drugs has never been 
about science or public health, it's always been about waging cultural 
warfare and punishing sinners, even at the expense of civil liberties, 
fiscal conservatism and public health.

Ethan Nadelmann

Executive Director

Lindesmith Center

Drug Policy Foundation

New York
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