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The Heartland And The War On Drugs.

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US NE: Evidence Piles Up On Failure Of Drug War

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URL: http://www.mapinc.or...1/n465/a05.html

Newshawk: Kirk

Votes: 0

Pubdate: Fri, 15 Jul 2011

Source: Lincoln Journal Star (NE)

Copyright: 2011 Lincoln Journal Star

Contact:male2('oped','journalstar.com'); oped@journalstar.com

Website: http://www.journalstar.com/

Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/561






Last month marked the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon launching the "war on drugs."


Nobody celebrated or reminisced about milestones achieved, victories won or battles fought. Rather, a rising chorus pleaded for an end to the war.


"The global war on drugs has failed," the Global Commission on Drug Policy said last month in a scathing report. The commission comprises such political heavyweights as current and former leaders of five countries, the former United Nations secretary-general and the former chairman of the Federal Reserve. The report urged "fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies" and treating drug addiction as a health issue, rather than a criminal one.


Furthermore, two U.S. government reports condemned the waste of tax dollars on the drug war, according to a Los Angeles Times article. The reports said billions had been misused in no-bid contracts with no oversight of whether the money was well spent.


"The U.S. can't justify its drug war spending," according to reports, which criticized the hiring of U.S. contractors -- paid more than $3 billion in taxpayer money -- during the past five years.


Also last month, poet Javier Sicilia -- who lost his son in the violence plaguing Mexico that has killed nearly 35,000 people -- led a protest through Mexico and into El Paso, Texas. The goal, Sicilia said, was to bring attention to the violence in Mexico and remind Americans of their role in the drug war. He called for an end to the Merida Initiative, a program that's slated to cost taxpayers more than $400 million to train and support South and Central American governments combating drug trafficking.


The Global Commission on Drug Policy advised countries to consider decriminalization and legalization to thwart violence and curb demand.


Opponents argue increased availability leads to higher use. But, as Texas Rep. Ron Paul pointed out during a Republican debate in South Carolina, "How many people here would use heroin if it were legal?" He added, to laughter and applause, "Oh, yeah, I need the government to take care of me."


The Obama administration disagrees and has vowed to trudge along like a battered boxer against the ropes, stalwart in its futility. "Obama administration officials strongly deny that U.S. efforts have failed to reduce drug production or smuggling in Latin America," according to the L.A. Times article.


Yet, according to the global commission's report, the drug war has failed to significantly curb the supply or demand of drugs.


So far, the drug war has led to an exorbitant rise in the number of prisons, prison sentences and prisoners. One in 31 adults in the United States is in jail or prison, on probation or parole, which costs more than $68 billion annually for incarceration alone, according to the commission.


Perhaps the most egregious example of the failure of the drug war is that drugs are in prisons. According to Win Barber, Nebraska Penitentiary public information officer, the combined use of an in-house drug-sniffing dog, daily random searches and random urine analyses have failed to eradicate illegal drug use in prison. ( In spite of these measures, 1.77 percent of inmates tested positive last month for drug use. )


If the government can't abolish drug use on the inside, how can it possibly stop it on the outside? Prisons should be used only to house murderers, corporate shysters and violent and sexual offenders.


The Office of National Drug Control Policy says keeping prices artificially high helps keep drugs away from children. In reality, high prices only boost the black market.


According to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the drug war has cost taxpayers more than $1 trillion. Arrests for drug trafficking on Interstate 80 happen almost weekly. Last month, Lincoln resident Nghia Nguyen was sentenced to 10 years in prison for growing marijuana.


While it's unlikely Nebraska will be the first state to decriminalize cocaine or heroin, a petition to have a measure on the ballot to legalize and tax marijuana is circulating. This is a step closer to the policies recommended by the Global Commission on Drug Policy.


Rather than continuing to squander money on a failed policy, it's time we demanded reason from our elected officials. Or we can allow them to continue, as Socrates said, to "inflict many more imprisonments, confiscations, deaths, frightening us like children with hobgoblin terrors."


Warren Hale is a news junkie studying journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart

Edited by greenbuddha
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