The roots of the fiasco
From shoddy premises to final 'failure,' a look at the War on Drugs
Published: January 5, 2011
While I'm sick of hammering at the same old wall — not only for the past few months in this column but almost my entire adult life — somebody's got to say something to try to break this issue open and end the War on Drugs at last. There's progress on several important fronts, and the incessant hammering on the wall is beginning to be heard over the babble of law enforcement, legislators and the sensational media.
But we're fighting a fearsome opponent whose dimensions are revealed in news bites like these gleaned from an AP story by Barry Hatton and Martha Mendoza: "Arrests for marijuana possession in California totaled 61,000 last year — roughly triple the number in 1990" and "The U.S. is spending $74 billion this year on criminal and court proceedings for drug offenders, compared with $3.6 billion for treatment."
Hatton and Mendoza point out that "the first drug court in the U.S. opened 21 years ago. By 1999, there were 472; by 2005, 1,250. This year, new drug courts opened every week around the U.S., as states faced budget crises exacerbated by the high rate of incarceration on drug offenses. There are now drug courts in every state, more than 2,400 serving 120,000 people."
Now, they say, "even [U.S. drug czar] Kerlikowske has called for an end to the 'War on Drugs' rhetoric. 'Calling it a war really limits your resources,' he said. 'Looking at this as both a public safety problem and a public health problem seems to make a lot more sense.'"
No shit, Sherlock. How about ending the rhetoric and the War on Drugs itself — starting today? Happy New Year, everybody.
—Amsterdam, Dec. 29-31, 2010
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