Pubdate: Thu, 17 Apr 2003
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2003 News World Communications, Inc.
Author: Robert Sharpe
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)
Bookmark: (ONDCP Media Campaign)


Thank you for running Heritage Foundation adjunct scholar William H. 
Peterson's column "The war on drugs" (Op-Ed, Tuesday). I had been told that 
some thinkers at the Heritage Foundation were reconsidering their take on 
drug policy, but this is the first evidence I have seen of it.

Now that an adjunct scholar at the Heritage Foundation has joined the 
libertarian Cato Institute in applying basic economic principles to drug 
policy, perhaps it's time for the self-professed champions of the free 
market in Congress to do the same. Drug prohibition funds organized crime 
at home and terrorism abroad. The drug czar's sensationalist drug-terror ad 
campaign would have the public believe that's good reason to maintain the 
status quo.

Afghanistan profits from heroin trafficking because of drug prohibition, 
not in spite of it. Here in the United States, the drug war's distortion of 
immutable laws of supply and demand make an easily grown weed such as 
marijuana literally worth its weight in gold. The various armed factions 
waging civil war in Colombia are financially dependent on America's drug war.

With alcohol prohibition repealed, liquor bootleggers no longer gun down 
one another in drive-by shootings, nor do consumers go blind drinking 
bathtub gin. 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 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 
as a prerequisite. Unfortunately, fear of appearing "soft on crime" compels 
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, Program officer, Drug Policy Alliance, Washington
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