Pubdate: Fri, 26 Dec 2003
Source: Courier-Journal, The (KY)
Copyright: 2003 The Courier-Journal


Denis Fleming's Dec. 5 Forum article on incoming Attorney General Greg 
Stumbo's plans for fighting drugs was anything but reassuring. Obviously, 
Stumbo and Fleming (the deputy attorney general-designate) are not well 
read in the criminal justice literature, or they are more concerned with 
their political images than with the health and welfare of Kentuckians. 
Their plan calls for expanding the tried and true failures of the past with 
a blind eye to what research shows us actually works.

For years, academic researchers of the right and left have noted that U.S. 
drug policies actually elevate drug usage, diminish health, increase murder 
rates and waste tax dollars. Where the rest of the civilized Western world 
treats drug addiction as a medical problem and addresses the problem 
compassionately with scientific solutions, Stumbo and Fleming want to 
continue to treat drug addicts as vermin wasting valuable police time and 
public money rounding up the sick.

Countries like the Netherlands that decriminalized soft drug use like 
marijuana found their adolescent consumption rates dropped and are now well 
below U.S. adolescent consumption rates. And rather than pumping money into 
the criminal underground economy, the money goes to legal businesses and is 
taxed. Conservative Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman estimates 
that the U.S. incurs an extra 10,000 murders each year as dealers fight for 
market share. Crimes like theft and robbery remain high, in part because 
illegal drugs cost more than legal ones.

Fleming notes that in the past 10 years, Kentucky has experienced 
significant growth in the prosecution and imprisonment of Kentucky drug 
addicts. Nationwide, we have increased our prison populations by 400 
percent since former President Reagan stepped up the drug war in 1980, 
making the U.S. the planet's No. 1 country in terms of putting its citizens 
in prison.

I don't mean to question Stumbo or Fleming's motives. Drug addiction is a 
national and Kentucky problem. And at first blush, it would seem reasonable 
that increased surveillance and punishment would reduce the incidence of 
unwanted behavior - in this case, drug use. However, like many things in 
life, it does not work that way. The evidence is clear that what Stumbo is 
proposing will not reduce Kentucky drug use. By driving the behavior 
underground, diseases like hepatitis and AIDS will be more difficult to 
contain. Theft, robbery and murder rates will remain high. Prisons will 
remain crowded with drug addicts while police lack time and money to 
protect senior citizens, go after child and spouse abusers, enforce 
environmental laws and protect us from white-collar crimes.

Stumbo's plan will not make Kentuckians safer or healthier. Let's be 
honest. Tobacco smokers will kill and maim far more innocent bystanders 
with their second-hand smoke than deaths from all illegal drugs combined. 
The deaths and health costs from first-hand smoking will dwarf the harm 
from our pot heads. While there is some irony in this, for an increasingly 
educated public, Stumbo's plan is no longer funny.

Kentucky needs leaders who are ready to make a difference and think outside 
the box. Maybe Stumbo could actually read the academic literature on 
reducing drug use and abuse. Then follow up on what is in the best interest 
of the public rather than his reelection.


Louisville 40205
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart