Pubdate: Tue, 17 Aug 1999
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 1999 Houston Chronicle
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

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