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September 7, 2007 - Drug War Chronicle (US)

Editorial: Why We Are Fighting to End the War on Drugs

By David Borden, Executive Director

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

On the frequent occasions when I am asked why I oppose the drug laws, I face a quandary -- where do I start? There are so many important reasons:

* Half a million nonviolent drug offenders clog our prisons and jails. Mandatory minimum sentences, and inflexible sentencing guidelines, condemn numerous low-level offenders to years, even decades behind bars, often based solely on the word of compensated, confidential informants. With two million people behind bars, the US leads the world in incarceration, at a level radically beyond any time in our history before a quarter century ago.

* Prohibition creates a lucrative black market that causes violence and disorder, particularly in our inner cities, and lures young people into lives of crime. Laws criminalizing syringe possession, and the overall milieu of underground drug use and sales, encourage needle sharing and increase the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C. Thousands of Americans die from drug overdoses or poisonings by adulterants every year, most of their deaths preventable through the quality-controlled market that would exist if drugs were legal.

* Our drug war in the Andes fuels a continuing civil war in Colombia, with prohibition-generated illicit drug profits enabling its escalation. Opium growing, and attempts to stop it, both hurt Afghanistan's attempts at nation building and help our enemies.

* Patients needing medical marijuana, and the people who provide it to them, go without or live in fear of arrest and prosecution. Physicians' fears of running afoul of law enforcers causes large numbers of Americans who need opiates for chronic pain to go un- or under-treated.

* Profiling assaults the dignity of members of our minority groups, and of the poor, denying them equal justice.

* From drug testing in our schools, to SWAT teams invading our homes, privacy has been gutted.

* Ethics in our criminal justice system are virtually the exception rather than the rule, with perjury, violations of constitutional rights, corruption and general misconduct endemic and largely tolerated -- all of it driven by the drug war.

* Frustration over the failure of the drug war, together with the lack of dialogue on prohibition, distorts the policymaking process, leading to ever more intrusive governmental interventions and ever greater dilution of the core American values of freedom, privacy and fairness.

And that isn't even all of it, and it isn't a pretty picture. And so we oppose the drug laws -- so we fight for an end to prohibition, for legalization -- because of the harm and the injustice that prohibition is inflicting on so many different people in so many ways.

And because we understand that freedom is not just the right to control our bodies and what we put in them, even though that ought to be enough. Because freedom is the right for all people on this earth, not having infringed the freedom of others, to walk down the street, to go about their business, to live as they choose not confined to a prison cell just because their personal behavior was not officially approved.

And so for so many reasons that I almost don't know where to start -- to save the lives of the addicted, so patients can be treated, for privacy, for peace, for safety, to restore ethics to government, to end the injustices large and small -- for all these reasons and more, we seek to end drug prohibition.

Our views are correct, our cause is just, and we fight for it to make this a better world for all.

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