Pubdate: Tue, 17 Aug 1999
Date: 08/17/1999
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Author: G. Alan Robison

Gen. Barry McCaffrey's article ("ABCs of drugs should be a part of
school curriculum," Outlook Aug. 11) indicated that he is slowly but
surely beginning to understand the situation with illegal drugs in
this country.

It should, nevertheless, be noted that the general talks a much better
game than he plays.  Whether the fault of the politicians who control
his budget or his own, he continues to devote over two-thirds of his
$17 billion budget to protocols we know don't work, such as crop
eradication, interdiction and long prison sentences for drug use and
sale.  Less than one third of his budget goes to the sensible programs
he wrote about.

The root cause of our country's drug problem is drug prohibition,
which has now let to the biggest black market in drugs the world has
ever seen.

We must end drug prohibition and replace it with an effective
regulatory policy that would keep dangerous and addicting drugs out of
the hands of children and make the currently illegal drugs at least as
hard for kids to get as alcohol and tobacco.

As it is now, kids can more easily get heroin and cocaine than beer,
as they have been telling us for over 17 years, since the University
of Michigan began taking an annual survey on drug use by teens.

A useful interim step that could be taken in Houston would be to get
rid of the DARE program and replace it with an educational program
based on fact.

If we're going to continue to make marijuana, cocaine and heroin
readily available to teenagers, we should at least tell them the truth
about these drugs.  As the 34 heroin-related deaths in Plano during
the past three years have made clear, it's sometimes true that what
people don't know can kill them.

G. Alan Robison, Executive director, Drug Policy Forum of Texas