Pubdate: Fri, 30 May 2003
Source: Pilot,The (NC)
Copyright: 2003 The Pilot LLC
Author: Mett Ausley Jr., M.D.


Contrary to June Vetter's misrepresentation, "harm minimization" isn't 
predicated upon permissiveness or "mantras" ("More Help Is Needed in Moore 
County's War on Drugs," The Pilot, May 28), rather the forthright 
recognition that humans will persist in using drugs despite taboos and 

This compels efficient policy that strives to minimize human suffering and 
costs. The realism of this approach compares favorably with that of 
official doctrine, which holds that the nirvana of a drug-free society can 
be attained through absolute prohibition, zealous enforcement and merciless 
punishment. Drugs' stubborn persistence after decades of escalating efforts 
offers compelling evidence that this theory is unsound, and taxpayers 
footing the bill for this expensive undertaking deserve accountability.

Also, one wonders if unswerving devotion to the status quo might be 
influenced by the massive wealth and political power the drug war has 
conferred upon the criminal justice sector, and if the prospect of reduced 
funding and clout might explain resistance to change. After holding sway 
for a half century, the entrenched interests may have grown a bit 
possessive about their turf and smug in their sense of entitlement.

Vetter impeaches her own objectivity with gratuitous hints that reformers 
are merely legalizers in disguise, and her summary conclusion that the 
local dearth of addiction-treatment providers necessitates more taxpayer 
funding, offered without considering the obvious alternative of 
reallocating existing resources now skewed toward enforcement.

While it may be premature to scrap the existing apparatus before testing 
new approaches, a tough reassessment of current policy with particular 
focus on the corrupting influence of vested interest is long overdue.

Mett Ausley Jr., M.D.

Lake Waccamaw
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