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August 19, 2005 - DrugSense Weekly (US Web)

Drug War Harms More Than It Helps

By Clifford Wallace Thornton, Jr., co-founder of Efficacy

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

As the war on drugs caused an exodus of legitimate business from inner cities, a vacuum was created. In that vacuum lay fertile ground to guarantee the proliferation of the illegal drug trade. The war on drugs has been a self-defeating policy. It is a fraud that will never end until its insanity is understood.

The drug war is supported by three major factors: greed; fear; and racism. All of these results in unequal treatment based either directly or indirectly on race, class or white privilege. The drug war opposes two basic principles of life, human nature and economics.

We have had almost nine decades of drug prohibition; over three decades of the so called War On Drugs; we have spent almost a trillion dollars, and yet we have more illegal drugs at cheaper prices on our streets than ever before.

The United States represents five percent of the world's population, but has an astounding 25 percent of world's prison population. In total, our country has almost seven million people in our criminal justice system. That is, they are either on probation, parole, jail, halfway houses or prison. Almost two thirds are young Black and Latino males. Ten percent of the African American population is in the criminal justice system.

Here in Connecticut we have a population of 3.4 million. Black and Latino men make up less than 6% of that population but account for almost 68% of the prison population. Almost 70% are in prison for drug related charges. This scenario is repeated in state after state according to the study done by "Human Rights Watch". Are race and class factors in the enforcement of our drug laws and if not how do we prove that to sceptics?

Should drugs remain illegal? Our present drug policies support the price of illegal drugs which is responsible for the billions of dollars that flow into our banking, mercantile, and political systems. This drug money helps maintain much of the value of our stock market and mutual funds, and gets politicians elected. It also gives competitive advantage to those who have access to it over those who have to pay retail for their financing.

Major players in all these venues, including much of the Fortune 500 companies - via bond and Treasury bill prices - enjoy access. That's because the so-called "drug lords" (or producers) collect only the wholesale price, which is a small part of the total. The rest of those dollars are laundered through businesses patronized by you and me. As for those who get caught violating these laws; they're just collateral damage.

When considering alternatives for the drug war, all conversation has to start with one question: Do we think that people are going to stop using illegal drugs? The overwhelming response is NO. Those that say yes are not of this planet. So the next question becomes: How are we as society going to create an atmosphere that will cause the least amount of harm to the people who use these drugs, and just as important, the least amount of harm to society? Anyone that says we should not, could not, would not, or that we would be sending the wrong message to our children by legalizing, medicalizing and decriminalizing these handful of illegal drugs simply does not have a clue. Most of the damage done is not by the drugs but by the drug policies themselves.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Therefore we can confidently state that the drug war is the most insane public policy of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Insanity is electing the same people to public offices who created and sustain this mess. Insanity is believing that the above ground economy can compete with the underground economy when through the strategy of drug prohibition and the war on drugs we have made these drugs worth seven times more than our gold standard. Insanity is thinking that the war on drugs protects our children when they have unlimited access to these illegal drugs. Insanity is having more policemen in our communities who take away so many of our young and believing the community will some how be better off.

Until we bring these drugs inside of the law and remove the, race/class, greed and fear factors from this diabolical mess called the "war on drugs", we will continue to look like a dog chasing its tail, as a dog never catches its tail, we will never come to grips with this problem using the same old tactics.

Clifford Wallace Thornton, Jr. is co-founder of Efficacy and a member of their speakers bureau. He has recently joined the newly created DrugSense Drug Policy Writers Group which connects activists with authors to facilitate increased opinion page coverage of drug policy reform.

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