Pubdate: Tue, 23 Nov 2004
Source: Greensboro News & Record (NC)
Copyright: 2004 Greensboro News & Record, Inc.
Author: Robert Sharpe


How should Greensboro respond to the growing use of crack cocaine?
During the crack epidemic of the 1980s, New York chose the
zero-tolerance approach, opting to arrest and prosecute as many users
as possible. Meanwhile, Washington Mayor Marion Barry was smoking
crack, and America's capital had the highest per capita murder rate in
the country. Yet crack use declined in both cities

The decline was not due to mandatory minimum sentencing laws that have
put so many nonviolent offenders behind bars. Simply put, the younger
generation saw firsthand what crack was doing to their older siblings
and decided for themselves that crack was bad news. This is not to say
nothing can be done. Access to drug treatment is critical for the
current generation of users.

Diverting resources away from prisons and into cost-effective
treatment would save tax dollars and lives. It's worth noting that
tobacco use has declined considerably in recent years. Public
education efforts are paying off.

Apparently, mandatory minimum sentences, civil asset forfeiture,
random drug testing and racial profiling are not necessarily the most
cost-effective means of discouraging unhealthy choices.

Robert Sharpe


The writer is policy analyst, Common Sense for Drug Policy.
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