Pubdate: Wed, 01 Dec 2004
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2004 News World Communications, Inc.
Author: Robert Sharpe


Regarding drug czar John Walters' Op-Ed column, "Afghans' drug
war"(Friday): Afghanistan profits from the opium trade because of drug
prohibition, not in spite of it. Attempts to limit the supply of drugs
while demand remains constant only increase the profitability of drug
trafficking. For addictive drugs such as heroin, a spike in street
prices leads desperate addicts to increase criminal activity to feed
desperate habits. The drug war doesn't fight crime; it fuels crime.

Heroin produced in Afghanistan is consumed primarily in Europe, a
continent already experimenting with harm-reduction alternatives to
the drug war. Switzerland's heroin-maintenance trials have been shown
to reduce drug-related disease, death and crime among chronic users.
Addicts would not be sharing needles if not for zero-tolerance laws
that restrict access to clean syringes, nor would they be committing
crimes if not for artificially inflated black-market prices.

Heroin-maintenance pilot projects are under way in Germany, Spain and
the Netherlands. If expanded, prescription heroin maintenance would
deprive organized crime of a core client base. This would render
illegal heroin trafficking unprofitable and spare future generations
addiction. Putting public health before politics may send the wrong
message to children, but I like to think the children are more
important than the message.

Robert Sharpe,

Policy analyst Common Sense for Drug Policy,

Washington D.C.
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