Letters to the Editor

Drug war failure

June 4, 2011


To the editor:

President Obama should heed the report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy that declares the War on Drugs to be a failure.

In short, the report states what we already know from history and common sense: The war ties up police and judicial resources, clogs our prisons with nonviolent offenders and offers a law enforcement solution to a medical problem. It also shows that, since the inception of the war in 1970, billions of dollars have been spent, but production and consumption of drugs has only increased.

The White House responds that we shouldn’t make drugs more available. Of course, no one advocates that. This is the same sort of demagoguery that has made real debate impossible and has led to billions of dollars wasted, and a serious problem unresolved.

We may not have a consensus on how we should change our response to drugs, but we should agree that change is necessary. When a policy — any policy — fails consistently and demonstrably for 40 years, it is sheer madness to insist on maintaining it. But that is precisely what the Obama administration is doing.

It is a sad irony that the president who promised change would fail to deliver it in the one area where it is so obviously needed.


Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 9 months ago

Tax, tax, and more taxes! This is one situation where the citizens would glady pay huge taxes in order to do legally what they are doing anyway. Reducing the incredibly high costs of law enforcement and the massive costs of incarceration should be a matter of national concern, considering the current state of debt that the United States is in. What is this, a war on ourselves?

Well, on the other hand, perhaps we could enact huge tax increases in order to keep the current system in place. I am sure that middle America wouldn't at all mind a few thousand extra dollars in taxes per year in order to maintain the status quo, right?

Besides, this "War On Drugs" is causing a great deal of friction between the United States and Mexico. More than 36,000 people across Mexico have been killed in drug violence since 2006.

But what does it matter, what's only 36,000 dead between friends?

On March 25, 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, stated that "Our [America's] insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade", and that "the United States bears shared responsibility for the drug-fueled violence sweeping Mexico."

Richard Heckler 6 years, 9 months ago

Perhaps the DEA money was not spent on drug control?

Perhaps some of this money was spent to provide security on oil pipelines.

Yes at least decriminalize marijuana.

Legalize hemp so the USA can reap the revenues generated by the sale of hemp products by way of food,clothes,flooring,shoes etc etc etc.

Bring on Hemp and Switchgrass to generate energy. Remove Corn as a source of energy production because it increases the cost of many food products.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 9 months ago

"Perhaps the DEA money was not spent on drug control?"

I'm sure that an amazing portion of it was used to pay huge salaries to pompous government officials.

After all, the costs of the program are not broken down into categories for the public to peruse in order to maintain complete secrecy concerning this matter.

And, most of the costs of law enforcement and the costs of incarceration were not included anyway, so the true cost remains a government secret.

In fact, it's such a huge secret that I'm sure no one in in the government has any idea what the true total cost is.

And of couse, the people killed in the "War On Drugs" are not part of the cost anyway, right?

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 9 months ago

Big Brother Is Watching You.

And He Knows What Is Best For You.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 9 months ago

Naw, I sleep odd hours. That is, if I sleep at all.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 9 months ago

It's rather odd for you to talk about me working in a bank. I have first cousins that are the President and the Vice President at major banks in Kansas City and Wichita.

I should have majored in Accounting like they did!

cato_the_elder 6 years, 9 months ago

"When a policy — any policy — fails consistently and demonstrably for 40 years, it is sheer madness to insist on maintaining it."

Agreed. A more precise description of LBJ's "War on Poverty" would be hard to imagine.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 9 months ago

Or the "police action" Viet Nam maybe?

Well, that lasted only about 15 years, come to think of it. That is, if you don't count the French involvment prior to us taking over. The French had been involved for over 100 years trying to enforce their agenda, and exactly what that was is subject to considerable debate.

I wonder how long the wars in the Middle East will continue - we've been there a bit over 10 years already, so we're well on the way to the same length of time that we were involved in Viet Nam.

And, success is as elusive as ever.

jreedbrundage 6 years, 9 months ago

Absolutely right on! Short and to the point. I hope you are sending this letter to President Obama and to your senators and representatives.

Dan Eyler 6 years, 9 months ago

I agree with some of your argument. Please comment on how we battle cocaine and meth and heroin? We simply cannot allow these drugs. I agree that marijuana should not be a criminal offense and nobody should go to jail for smoking a joint. But I am certain that legalizing will be even a bigger problem for junior high and high school kids. Don't compare it to alcohol use because you and I both know the effects are not the same but in some ways equally a problem for learning when trying to study. The medical marijuana laws are a joke. Just this past weekend I was camping in Colorado. I happen to meet a group adults who asked me and my wife to come to their cabin to party. I about fell over when the woman who invited me over was the daughter of the past of LMH (retired in 1995 she said) and they had beer, booze and medical marijuana! I could care less about the drug wars going on in Mexico and the 36,000 murders. Maybe the reason the president won't stop the war on illegal drugs is because he has first hand knowledge of the effects of the damage to inner cities in Illinois but more so in Chicago. If you think legalizing this will make things better on the streets of south Chicago your simply not being honest in your argument. But as I said before, I don't think decriminalizing pot is a bad idea. But punishment for using by those under 21 should be a heavy penalty in school. I don't think a college student should be tossed out of school but I do think that if they have federal aid of any sort that money should be withheld on the first offense. I also think that if pot is legalized, those in government housing shouldn't have a free choice to use. If you use pot and getting free or reduced housing, your out. Adults are free to smoke pot but not on the taxpayer dime. There are populations in our country who simply want to party all the time and not contribute and many live in government housing. The idea of government assistance is to help change their focus and get a job and education. No drugs not even legalized marijuana will improve their prospects.

jafs 6 years, 9 months ago

"We simply cannot allow these drugs"

This is the root of the problem - too many people believe this, or some version of it, and have failed to learn from Prohibition that making things like this illegal just compounds the problems associated with them.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 9 months ago

Hey - did you hear they have a speakeasy in the basement of the new Oread Hotel?

kernal 6 years, 9 months ago

I've often wondered if the U.S. does decriminalize illegal drugs in this country, how would it work? So I looked for a model since I'm not up on this topic. Turns out Portugal decriminalized illegal drugs in 2001. Here's a report by the Cato Institute in 2009 that was also published in Scientifc American and Time magazine a few years ago; likely published elsewhere, too.


Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 9 months ago

Don't confuse government policy with facts!

wallygaggle 6 years, 9 months ago

Portugal legalized (compulsory form of rehab instead of jailtime) for limited possession and use but not for distribution and sale which are still criminal. Results were modest. The only good argument for legalization of habituating drug possession, use, distribution and sale is that it reduces the cost enough to eventually drive out organized crime and corruption of law enforcement officers and politicians. If licencing requirements are established for major existing pharmaceutical companies for manufacturing and distribution of habituating drugs, then the price of all habituating drugs will fall drastically. Quality would also probably improve making use somewhat more safe. As with alcohol and tobacco a certain percentage of the population would suffer from physical and mental disabilities as well as impovrishment due to habitual ussage but the cost of treating that segment of the population would be much less than the current cost of the war on drugs.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 9 months ago

I don't understand - why don't the possession and use of alcohol and tobacco result in prison time?

jafs 6 years, 9 months ago

All of the reasons that Prohibition was a bad idea are reasons the war on drugs is a bad idea.

And, all of the benefits from repealing Prohibition would accrue with drugs as well.

Including tax revenue, in addition to the ones you mention - removing the criminal enterprises, stopping the deaths associated with them, lower costs of enforcement/incarceration, police resources freed up to deal with violent crime, etc.

Seems like an obvious choice to me.

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