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April 12, 2006 - Kentucky Kernel (KY Edu)

All I Am Saying Is Give Drugs A Chance

By Wes Blevins, Journalism Senior

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

With the ongoing war on terror taking up a significant portion of news budgets across the United States, another war within our own borders has gone largely ignored in the public eye. Our generation has been inundated with anti-drug campaigns for years -- from "This is your brain ... this is your brain on drugs" to "A very special 'Fresh Prince.' "

As we entered our teenage years, the majority of us were probably scared of drug use - scared of the physical effects and the social and legal consequences. But now that we've all grown up, it would be safe to assume that a large majority of us have either tried drugs or been around when others have.

I've smoked marijuana in the past. It didn't lead me down the path to "hard" drugs, as we've all heard it does. Personally, I've never had the urge to try harder drugs such as cocaine, heroin or meth. I'm also not homeless, nor have I been arrested - two other supposed consequences of drug use. I smoked willingly, I never became addicted and somehow I doubt my purchases funded terrorism.

I'm not ashamed of my marijuana use. Why should I be? Why shouldn't I, or any other willing adult, be able to come home and smoke marijuana, provided there is no driving afterward? If you're 21, you can buy a case of beer or a bottle of whiskey and drink it. Studies have shown that drinking and driving is just as dangerous as driving while high, if not more so. Plus, the long-term effects on your body aren't nearly as bad as those attributed to alcohol abuse.

But you'll probably never see a study that says marijuana really isn't that bad for you.

What you will hear is politicians talking about wasteful pork barrel spending. You might also hear the Pentagon purchased a toilet seat or a hammer for $500. But $500 is nothing compared to what the government wastes ever year on the so-called "war on drugs."

In 2003, the federal government spent an estimated $19.2 billion fighting drug use. States added an additional $20 billion to that figure.

Wouldn't it be better for everyone if the "war on drugs" simply went away? The $40 billion spent by the federal and state governments could be put elsewhere. Perhaps Kentucky would be able to give more money to UK, thereby slowing the perpetual tuition increases.

Better still for the state, if drugs were legalized, they could be sold in specialty stores and taxed, much like alcohol and tobacco. The tax money would put additional revenue into the state economy every year.

Drugs have been legal in the Netherlands for years. The Dutch addiction rate is much lower than that of the United States. Studies have shown that after drugs are legalized, there is an initial spike in usage, probably due to curiosity. But after that, drug use levels off to more manageable levels. Selling drugs in specialty stores would also reduce the risks associated with using infected needles to inject drugs.

The drug war is likely not about the scientific issues involved or the effects that drugs may or may not have on humans. What it boils down to is the stigma that society has attached to drugs through the years.

Until people accept the fact that the drug war is a massive waste of money and law enforcement hours, drugs will inevitably remain illegal, and hundreds of thousands of people will be arrested every year for possession.

Iraq has been called George W. Bush's Vietnam. But the war on drugs has been around a much longer time than the war on Iraq. If critics want to look for another Vietnam, they can find it within the borders of the United States.

The war on drugs is a war that the government does not know how to fight and ultimately can never win.

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