Pubdate: Mon, 30 Apr 2001
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2001 News World Communications, Inc.
Author: Robert Sharpe, Program officer, The Lindesmith Center-Drug 
Policy Foundation


The deaths of two members of an American missionary family in Peru
should serve as a wake-up call about the state of the drug war ("Peru
downs planes with help of U.S.  in drug program," April 24).
Autocratic former president Alberto Fujimoripracticed a scorched-earth
campaign against Peru's Shining Path guerrilla movement, which is
financed by black-market coca profits.  Allegations of corruption,
rampant human rights violations and civilian deaths are remarkably
similar to the current situation in Colombia.  How many innocent
Peruvians have been sacrificed at the altar of America's drug war?

As Peruvian coca production has gone down, Colombian coca production
and domestic methamphetamine production both have gone up, along with
the U.S. incarceration rate, now the highest in the world.  When will
the champions of the free market in the U.S.  Congress acknowledge
that immutable laws of supply and demand render the drug war a costly
exercise in futility?  This is not to say that all drugs should be
legalized. Taxing and regulating marijuana would effectively undermine
the black market.

Marijuana provides the black-market contacts that introduce users to
drugs such as cocaine.  Our current policy is a gateway policy.
Separating the hard- and soft-drug markets and establishing strict age
controls are critical.

Right now, youngsters have an easier time buying pot than beer.  Drug
policy reform may send the wrong message to children, but I like to
think the children are more important than the message.  Opportunistic
"tough on drugs" politicians no doubt would disagree.

Program officer
The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation
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