Friday, December 07, 2007

The War on Drugs -- $500 billion later

Okay, so I admit I bought the new copy of Rolling Stone in the airport a couple of nights ago because I needed something to read on the plane, and the cover story on Led Zeppelin's pending reunion show and possible tour grabbed my attention. Inside, though, I found another much more serious and disturbing article documenting the last 35 years of drug policy in the United States. "How America Lost the War on Drugs," written by Ben Wallace, is a systematic, clear-eyed review of our government's effort to "contain" the flow of illegal drugs into the country and "treat" offenders and addicts. His conclusion is one that shouldn't surprise anyone who has followed this debacle over the years -- that our drug policies have been a failure. By focusing on interdiction and punishment, rather than prevention and treatment, the United States has created an environment in which illegal drugs -- marijuana, cocaine, heroin and the latest scourge, crystal meth -- are now cheaper, more potent and readily available to anyone who wants them.

Wallace's piece is not some fuzzy-headed call to legalize recreational drugs. He draws distinctions between those drugs that do not pose a public health risk (marijuana and mild hallucinogens) and those that do (cocaine, crystal meth and heroin). His piece is extremely well-done, and should leave you shaking your head over what happens when pandering and moralizing trump reason and public health as policy-making incentives in national drug policy. Especially appalling is the government's decision to target pain patients using medical marijuana and their doctors.

1 comment:

Ryan said...

Just finished reading that article myself...very interesting. This article came out today: http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2007/12/13/charlestown_unites_to_combat_heroin/?rss_id=Boston+Globe+--+Front+Page

Many of the rejected policies from the 90's mentioned in the article (community intervention, treatment houses) have worked in reducing heroin use in Charlestown.