Letters to the Editor

From the week of January 9, 2003

Evan Ravitz

Joints in the Joint

Drug bust: Regarding Alan Prendergast's "Locked and Loaded," in the January 2 issue:

The fact that we cannot keep drugs out of maximum-security prisons like Colorado's Limon Correctional Facility, much less schools, is indicative of the drug war's inherent failure. The entrenched interests riding the drug-war gravy train claim they are fighting crime. If only that were true. So-called drug-related crime is invariably prohibition-related.

Attempts to limit the supply of illegal drugs while demand remains constant only increase the profitability of drug trafficking. In terms of addictive drugs like 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.

With alcohol prohibition repealed, liquor bootleggers no longer gun each other down in drive-by shootings, nor do consumers go blind drinking unregulated bathtub gin. While U.S. politicians ignore the drug war's historical precedent, European countries are embracing harm reduction, a public health alternative based on the principle that both drug abuse and prohibition have the potential to cause harm.

Examples of harm reduction include needle-exchange programs to stop the spread of HIV, marijuana regulation aimed at separating the hard and soft drug markets, and treatment alternatives that do not require incarceration as a prerequisite. Unfortunately, fear of appearing "soft on crime" compels U.S. politicians to support a failed drug war that ultimately subsidizes organized crime. Drug abuse is bad, but the drug war is worse.

Robert Sharpe, program officer
Drug Policy Alliance
Washington, D.C.

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