Pubdate: Mon, 7 Sep 1998
Source: Chronicle, The  (Australia)
Contact: FAX:  61 2 6239 1345
Author: Mark J. Trentalange


Julie Mason's Aug. 27 Page One article, "Study questions DARE program,"
highlighted exactly what is wrong with our current approach to the drug
problem. While it is patently obvious that the war on drugs is a complete
and expensive failure, our elected officials continue to promote empty but
"politically safe" programs over more effective strategies.

The truth is that DARE (while popular with politicians, police and some
parents) fails to produce results. Studies of other cities have shown this;
we now have proof that it is true even in our town.

We've had 30 years of law enforcement, advertising and interdiction with
absolutely no effect on drug use. We currently spend $17 billion per year
for the war on drugs alone.

What we are getting are glamorous advertising campaigns, insane efforts here
and abroad to defoliate farmland and forest, naive hopes that the Taliban
will cooperate with us and hare-brained proposals to put our nation's border
under the control of yet another layer of bureaucracy.

We see "exceptions" to our constitutional rights with forfeiture of property
without a trial and armed home invasions by the police, such as the recent
one here in Houston. Our antidrug hysteria has created a problem much worse
than the original and contributed to the erosion of respect for law

Yet self-supporting or less costly programs such as needle exchange or the
decriminalization of marijuana - advocated by every federal and impartial
investigation - are overridden for the sake of appearances. Since these
programs don't promise an elusive zero tolerance, the work of serious
investigations is set aside for the opinions of politicians.

We rely, instead, on propaganda programs of half-truths, when what we need
is a complete rethinking of tactics. Our own mayor, Lee Brown, as a former
drug czar, should know the war on drugs is a waste of money, yet he clings
to these bankrupt ideas.

We need to courageously face these problems directly, instead of worrying
about some implied message being sent. The "message" we are sending now is
totally insane.

I applaud the Houston City Councilmen Ray Driscoll and Carroll Robinson for
their reasoned attempts to use our tax dollars more wisely. Let's dare to
investigate the unthinkable.

Mark J. Trentalange , Houston

- ---
Checked-by: Rolf Ernst