Pubdate: Thu, 31 Jan 2002
Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Copyright: 2002 The Seattle Times Company
Authors: Jodi Riemer Arnold, Nathan Matthew Morse, and Richard Ries,
Note: Overall Headline by Newshawk


Hooray for King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng and his efforts on
treating (and preventing), rather than punishing, those individuals
who have had a bad run-in with drugs ("Maleng seeks more treatment,
less jail time for drug offenders," Times, Jan. 22). What the
Republicans are forgetting, or refusing to understand, is that when a
person is confronted with an option to partake in drugs, it is a
choice they are making. This choice, regardless of the consequences,
is spearheaded from the fact that each individual or drug (ab)user has
a decision to make.

Maleng is right on the money by taking a proactive stance with the
issue. The solution to the drug problem needs to be approached
differently. The conservative and current policy of locking people up
behind bars does nothing more than harbor future drug abuse. It is a
simple, yet expensive solution that has proven itself wrong or

What if we reached out to the potential users and abusers in a similar
fashion to sexual education at the grade-school level? Sex and drugs
are difficult subjects for many parents to discuss. One of many
proactive solutions is to, first, encourage parents to confront the
subject by addressing it with their kids at home; and second, schools
and community centers need to offer the kids resources to educate
themselves. Avoiding the subject does nothing more than create
curiosity and the desire to experiment, as well as rebel against
society and the message to "just say no."

We cannot afford to continue our current efforts with the "war" on
drugs. Do the Republicans realize that the "war" we are fighting
affects everyone: taxpayers, schools, and communities? Again, this
approach only harbors crime, violence and drug abuse.

Lastly, I think programs, such as UW's Marijuana Check-Up, need to be
more readily available. UW should be praised for offering such a
resource that encourages education and support. We need more programs
like this for all ages and various types of drugs.

"Tradition is the enemy of progress" and it is time to make a change
with our current policies in place.



I cannot believe there are those out there who wonder why our judicial
and prison systems are overtaxed and underfunded. The reason is
because the jailed population consists predominantly of those
convicted of minor drug offenses.

Not only is this situation a pathetic waste of our tax money, but it
has serious human consequences as well. Think of the promising young
lives of college students who have been imprisoned because they just
wanted to experiment. Think of all the rapists who were let go because
the courts were too busy processing drug users. Should the president
have been jailed for his cocaine use, despite the fact that he went on
to become a productive member of society, and despite his hypocritical
current stance on the topic?

The bottom line is that a person using or abusing drugs designated
illegal is no more harmful to society than a person doing the same
with prescription drugs, except that in the former case the user is
thrown in jail. Can anyone not see the backwardness of this situation?


I applaud The Times editorial, "Getting smarter about some drug
offenders" (Jan. 25). A key issue not mentioned is that currently,
King County is slated to cut 10 to 20 percent of its addictions- and
mental-health-treatment budget this year. And next year, more
significant cuts are planned due to both a predicted budget shortfall
and something called the JLARC study, in which the state has
reallocated funds out of more populous counties to more rural counties.

King County is also planning to close (for budgetary reasons) what is
by far its largest residentially based addiction treatment facility,
Cedar Hills. While many drug court referrals can be treated as out-
patients, residentially based addictions treatment is a necessary
starting point for those with few housing, family or financial
supports, who otherwise are likely to relapse almost

So in essence, while many agree that treatment vs. lengthy prison time
for non-violent drug offenders makes sense, ensuring that monies
follow them to provide treatment is essential. Otherwise, ineffective
or no treatment will be available, the public will be at risk, and
places like Harborview Medical Center will be left, literally, picking
up the pieces.

Medical director, Harborview Medical Center
Addictions Programs, and director, Division of Addictions, University
of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle 
- ---
MAP posted-by: manny lovitto