Pubdate: Sat, 30 Nov 2002
Source: Greensboro News & Record (NC)
Copyright: 2002 Greensboro News & Record, Inc.
Author: Robert Sharpe


The police corruption described in your Nov. 25 article on a Davidson 
County drug ring is not an isolated incident. The institutional corruption 
engendered by the drug war stretches from coast to coast and reaches the 
highest levels. The high-profile Los Angeles Police Department Rampart 
scandal involved anti-drug officers selling drugs and framing gang members. 
A former commander of U.S. anti-drug operations in Colombia was found 
guilty of laundering the profits of his wife's heroin smuggling operation.

Entire countries have been destabilized due to the corrupting influence of 
the illegal drug trade. Like alcohol prohibition in the 1920s, the drug war 
is causing tremendous societal harm, while failing miserably at preventing 
use. While U.S. politicians ignore the drug war's historical precedent, 
European countries are embracing harm reduction, a public health 
alternative based on the principle that both drug abuse and drug 
prohibition have the potential to cause harm.

Examples of harm reduction include needle exchange programs to stop the 
spread of HIV, marijuana regulation aimed at separating the hard and soft 
drug markets, and treatment alternatives that do not require incarceration. 
Unfortunately, fear of appearing "soft on crime" compels many U.S. 
politicians to support a failed drug war that ultimately subsidizes 
organized crime. Drug abuse is bad, but the drug war is worse.

Robert Sharpe


The writer is program officer, Drug Policy Alliance.
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