Treat Drugs as a Public Health Problem

Treat Drugs as a Public Health Problem
Posted by CN Staff on February 14, 2009 at 14:41:44 PT
By Robyn E. Blumner, Times Columnist 
Source: St. Petersburg Times
Florida -- We've come a long way from "I didn't inhale," former President Clinton's rather lame attempt to explain away a marijuana toke. President Obama has been candid about his use of marijuana and cocaine as a young man when he was grappling with his identity. In his autobiographical Dreams From My Father, he wrote, "I got high (to) push questions of who I was out of my mind."The revelation barely caused a ripple during the campaign.
Maybe America is maturing on the question of what to do about illicit drug use. When youthful experimentation no longer dooms a career in politics, it means that people have stopped equating former drug use with degeneracy. Most adults in our country have either have used a banned drug themselves or know someone who has — someone perfectly upstanding today. And that will help us move beyond the sensational and destructive "war on drugs" rhetoric to a place where drugs are viewed primarily as a public health problem.For four decades we have tried to imprison our way out of the drug mess. And all we have to show for it is a bulging prison population, decimated urban communities, and real drug wars in places like Mexico and Colombia, where the narcotics trade terrorizes the population and corrupts policing.That is why our smart, new president said on the campaign trail that the war on drugs "has been an utter failure" and we need a new paradigm "so that we focus on a public health approach." President Obama is tapping Seattle police Chief Gil Kerlikowske to be his new drug czar (he was also onetime chief of police for the Florida cities of Fort Pierce and Port St. Lucie). He's known as someone who supports research-driven public policy, but we'll see if that means real change.There have always been two competing sets of harms relative to the drug problem. First, there is the damage that a drug user does to himself. A crack addict generally ruins his life and probably that of his family, there's no getting around that. But the prohibitionist approach to drugs carries its own set of harms that are now priced beyond our means.The United States currently incarcerates 2.4 million people, and roughly 20 percent of state prisoners and 50 percent of federal prisoners are doing time for a drug offense. We arrested 775,000 people for marijuana possession alone last year. The estimated cost of incarcerating drug offenders is $15 billion annually.Addiction destroys lives and families but so does prison, particularly long mandatory minimum sentences for minor offenses that are a direct consequence of political demagoguing rather than sane policy. Snipped   Complete Article: St. Petersburg Times (FL)Author: Robyn E. Blumner, Times Columnist Published: Sunday, February 15, 2009 Copyright: 2009 St. Petersburg TimesContact: Justice Archives
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Comment #4 posted by kaptinemo on February 15, 2009 at 08:00:30 PT:
Pro-hi-bi-tion, Pro-hi-bi-tion! PRO-HI-BI-TION!!!
As pointed out in christ's post, the article rightly points the finger at the true source of so much of the problems that have arisen. Finally, the media is calling the spade a spade, and not an 'entrernching tool'. 'PROHIBITION' The word the prohibs fear and have striven so hard to prevent being associated with (well, they are prohibs, after all) is now being used regularly in the media. And that has put the prohibs on the defensive for the first time in decades. And, having grown 'fat, dumb and happy' from never having to effectively defend their indefensible position, they've been caught off guard at the one time they can't afford it...literally, cannot afford it, as the worsening economy will cause questions in the public's mind as to whether we should continue such an expensive failure that causes more problems than it can solve.A 'perfect storm' of conditions favoring drug law reform have arisen. A people weary of authoritarianism - and authoritarians! - have elected a President who admits past cannabis use without apology. An economy that cannot sustain the hugely wasteful practices that drug prohibition requires for it's (unnatural) maintenance. An increase in violence around the planet, much of it on our borders, that is fueled by that drug prohibition. And now, the media is finally, after long last, beginning to regain its' senses after swallowing the stupefying pap of the prohibitionists, and calling attention to the core of the problem instead of pointing in every other direction than the correct one. Well, Media, it's about time. You're late to the party, but here's a seat and grab a plate. It won't be fancy cream puffs nonsense like the prohibs fed you (with our tax dollars, no less!) but the facts we have to offer you is hearty fare all the same. 
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Comment #3 posted by christ on February 14, 2009 at 18:52:40 PT
Comment #1
The quote from the Victoria Times is the most logical anti-prohibition argument I have ever read in a newspaper.
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Comment #2 posted by John Tyler on February 14, 2009 at 18:48:26 PT
meanwhile south of the border
That is interesting, because today I saw an article about some current and former presidents of several big Latin American countries. (Mexico, Brazil, and Columbia among others) saying the US Drug War has been an utter failure and that another sensible approach needs to be tried. They did a big “blue ribbon” study on it.
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Comment #1 posted by hempity on February 14, 2009 at 17:08:04 PT
DrugSense FOCUS Alert #395 - Tuesday, 10 February 2009Three major British Colombia newspapers have called for Canada to at least consider legalizing drugs. The violence associated with the drug trade has escalated to the point where the newspapers are calling for new directions to be considered.The Province published an editorial Sunday "Legalization Needs Study". The editorial starts by plainly stating "This newspaper has traditionally opposed the legalization of drugs." While the editorial doesn't jump headfirst into support for legalization, it does acknowledge that now is time to debate the issue. Read the editorial at Monday the Victoria Times-Colonist published an editorial "Gun Epidemic Prescriptions" which ends stating:"And it is time to recognize that gangs and guns are linked inextricably to the huge profits in the drug trade. Those profits are possible because of a failed, prohibition-based drug strategy. It's time to begin legalizing and controlling distribution as part of an entirely new approach to reducing the damage done by guns.""In a republic like ours, people often think that the proper response to an unjust law is to try to use the political process to change the law, but to obey and respect the law until it is changed. But if the law is itself clearly unjust, and the lawmaking process is not designed to quickly obliterate such unjust laws, then the law deserves no respect ” break the law." - Henry David Thoreau
New Forum
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