How has the "War on Drugs" failed?

4 letters in one edition

Copyright 1996 The Detroit News, Inc.

July 18, 1996, Thursday

Detroit News:

The News editorial ("Drug High," June 28) was a breath of fresh air experienced as far away as France! There seems finally to be a significant trend underway for reporters and editors to begin asking the right questions and report the truth concerning the ugly, wasteful and counterproductive War on Drugs.

If sensible changes to drug policy are to be realized, it is certainly the influence of the media that will bring this about. The politicians will only jump aboard when there is no alternative. At the moment, as the editorial implies, the "Washington addiction" to the War on Drugs is far too convenient and profitable an issue for public figures seeking votes or promotions. To expect truth from politicians such as these is like expecting water to be dry.

Peter Webster

Le Cannet, France

The News rightly questions the Clinton administration's failure to use the bully pulpit to talk down illegal drug use. Nevertheless, the Clinton administration quietly worked to reduce the War on Drugs hysteria, spend more resources on treatment and less on interdiction while trying not to appear "soft on drugs."

A new hysteria is loose in the land and is clearly the child of election-time excess. Clinton has stolen the match from the Republicans on every other issue and now is attempting to appear tough on drugs. That much is obvious to everyone.

What is not obvious is the fact that the increase in teen drug use is rather small and does not constitute a crisis. The increased popularity of marijuana does not pose nearly the threat to our young people as does revving up of the War on Drugs, zero tolerance and "Just say no."

Should the use of marijuana be reduced to a mere peccadillo (with a small fine) for the under-18 set and decriminalized for 18 and up, we would find that there is no drug crisis that can't be handled with humane and wise policies that are far less draconian than the current punishments that are destroying a generation of young men.

Gerald M. Sutliff

Walnut Creek, Calif.

The facts stated in the editorial of June 28 about the failure of anti-drug efforts to halt drug use are representative of the failure of our drug policy.

The News is correct that the vaunted enforcement measures are a major failure. We have been attempting to deal with the drug problem by burying our heads in the sand, by dealing with the problem in the same old way. It's time to end the drug war -- "getting tough" doesn't work. We need a different

approach to the drug problem, so we can see solutions with real results. Adjusting the anti-drug budget to include a higher ratio of funding for prevention and treatment would be a great start toward an effective drug policy.

Brandon Christensen

Media Awareness Project

Duluth, Minn.

I am wondering what it would take to spark an honest debate on the American drug policy. There are judges, doctors, professors and Nobel laureates who would love to provide the American public with what it truly deserves: a balanced debate on an issue that affects us all.

For instance, alcohol is a drug, used primarily to escape reality. Alcohol is a dangerous drug for a handful of reasons: It has a fatal level of consumption. As the consumption increases, the user's awareness and operational skills decrease. It is highly addictive and causes more fatalities than all other drugs combined. Prolonged use causes permanent damage to the brain and internal organs.

Yet, despite the dangers surrounding the drug alcohol, we no longer see alcohol dealers engaging in turf wars or recruiting children to peddle their products and kill the competition or those who cannot pay their debts. We no longer see law enforcement agencies becoming corrupt over the illegal alcohol market. We no longer see politicians pandering to the anti-alcohol movement. We no longer see under-aged kids patronizing alcohol dope dens (speak easys). We don't see our government spending billions of dollars annually to rid the world of alcohol.

Also, organized crime lost its entire share of the alcohol market to honest Americans who now earn tax dollars for our government and provide honest jobs for the American work force. Alcohol addicts lost the stigma of criminality and gained access to legitimate treatment programs.

I personally feel that it is time for America to learn from its last failed Prohibition. Obviously, a lot of Americans are not satisfied with the drug alcohol and prefer to use other drugs instead, but only alcohol users are allowed to enjoy the luxury of legality. Let's end these racist and discriminatory laws and at least take murder, corruption and government waste out of the drug problem.

Glenn Youngquest II


Children learn from example. Current examples: Michael Irvin, NFL super star, now known by all as a drug user. Same for musicians from Smashing Pumpkins to Kurt Cobain to River Phoenix, and the list goes on and on and on and on. Even President Clinton himself (although he claimed he did not inhale) participated in the activity.

Children are taught by example that drugs are cool, drugs make you succeed, drugs make you rich and, if nothing else, drugs make you popular and get you on the news. So why not (take drugs) ?

Education, not prohibition, is the way to overcome drugs. Prohibition only emphasizes drug usage more. Truthful education, not biased propaganda, will give people the knowledge needed to make the choice about all drugs for themselves, a choice they have to live with.

Choice? Prohibition did not work for alcohol, and it is not working for drugs.

All drugs (alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, etc.) should be treated the same. Profits should be to legitimate business owners and taxes paid to our government. Citizens would be protected from the evils that prohibition causes. Hasn't history taught us anything?

Cheri Tullos

Richardson, Texas

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