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July 19, 2007 - Taos Daily Horse Fly (NM)

OpEd: The Policy On Drugs

By Michael Jones, LEAP

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

LEAP, or Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, is a non-profit organization dedicated to drug policy reform. The founders were former drug warriors" and many members are former actors in the criminal justice system.

The War on Drugs (WOD) isn't a war, it is a policy. "War" implies battle, struggle, defeat, victory, injury, and death. The so-called War On Drugs has all of those. Except victory. Victory simply is impossible to achieve because the very nature of human desire for pleasure would have to be eliminated. That desire is biologically hard-wired in humans, and other animals as well. Elephants and non-human primates ingest fermented fruit for the apparent purpose of experiencing pleasure. Humans, also, are "pleasure seekers" and we engage in an astoundingly broad spectrum of methods for achieving pleasure, and whether it's high risk sporting adventures or using various drugs and plants, the objective is to experience pleasure and few would be denied their quest.

Currently two of the most dangerous drugs in modern society are legally regulated ­ tobacco and alcohol. In most instances, the use of either of these drugs is considered a health issue rather than a criminal issue. The use of all other drugs, even prescription drugs under certain circumstances, is considered a crime to be addressed by the criminal justice system rather than healthcare providers.

Recently Britain's Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce [RSA] released a two-year study calling for an end to drug prohibition.

Recommendations from the RSA Commission's report on illegal drugs, “Drugs ­ Facing Facts" (partial list):

Drug use should be seen in the context of our use of alcohol and tobacco, which is often far more harmful. Drug policy should, like our policy on alcohol and tobacco, seek to regulate use and prevent harm rather than to prohibit use altogether. Illegal drugs should be regulated alongside alcohol, tobacco, prescribed medicines and other legal drugs in a single regulatory framework. The remit of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, or any similarly constituted body, should be extended to include alcohol and tobacco.

The aim of drug policy should be to reduce harm. The widest possible promotion of harm reduction measures should be an integral component of a pragmatic drugs policy. For example, drug consumption rooms should be made available where it is in the public interest to do so.

Drug treatment should be viewed primarily as a health and social issue and should be less heavily influenced by the demands of the criminal justice system.

To reinforce the view that drugs are primarily a social issue, and one to be handled at the local level through multi-agency partnerships. . .working at the local level and for overseeing local authorities.

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 is no longer fit for purpose. It should be scrapped and replaced with a new Misuse of Substances Act that: Sets drugs in the wider context of substance misuse alongside alcohol, tobacco and other psychoactive substances; Is linked to an evidence-based index (reviewed on a regular basis) that makes clear the relative risks of harm from individual substances; Seeks to focus punishment mainly on harmful behaviors stemming from drug use rather than the simple possession of drugs.

Sure, we do things differently here in "the Colonies." But surely the wisdom of an objective study and recommendations should not, and really cannot, be ignored.

Our War on Drugs is the new prohibition, with all the same results and chances of success as the last one. The WOD is doing more harm than good to our society and citizenry: we have more people in prison on drug related charges, over 2 million, than all of Europe has for all crimes; the WOD has disproportionately impacted minorities and lower socio-economic groups. Since convicted felons are either partially or completely denied the right to vote, they cannot participate in society. How then can they be expected to be rehabilitated or to reintegrate?

It is time to take the control of drugs out of the hands of criminals. Legalized regulation will (and has elsewhere) result in less crime, less disease, better treatment and prevention, will save taxpayer dollars currently misspent on enforcement and generate tax revenue.

Remember, the drug war is a policy, not a war; policies can be changed. Get involved, get educated, take action, contact your elected and appointed officials and tell them that it is time to end the War On Drugs.

Michael Jones is a veteran of USMC combat in Viet Nam and spent 20 years with the Gainesville Police Department in Florida. Three assignments in narcotics; Special Operations Unit, SWAT & Bomb Squad Cmdr., Patrol Division Cmdr., last 3-4 years Deputy Chief of Police. He and his wife moved to Taos/Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico in 1996.

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