YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

'We Can't Win a Drug War'

August 28, 1986

It seems that Americans generally have a difficult time handling difficult and well-entrenched social problems because they always insist on some type of quick-fix solution.

The high crime rate, millions living in poverty, unavailability of adequate health care for the poor, discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace; all of these things have taken years to reach their present state, and none are likely to be improved without a long, sustained effort.

The so-called drug crisis seems to be the current darling of the media, and although it too has been around for decades, I believe it differs from most other such "crises" in that there is a quick fix available. That is, a single action that will, in a single stroke, eliminate most of the problems associated with illicit drugs: the increasingly heavy presence of organized crime; the diversion of major portions of our border patrols and military forces into anti-smuggling operations; critically short police, prison space and courtroom time sucked up by drug-related cases; sons and daughters dying from contaminated street drugs; horrifying numbers of drug-related crimes such as murder, burglary, and robbery; and not least of all, millions of otherwise law-abiding and decent citizens taking on the status of felons in the eyes of the law.

My solution? Legislation to make drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and opiates available legally through conventional channels of distribution.

This has already been done with alcohol in this country, and with heroin in England. In both cases the voters realized that Prohibition was not only failing to dent the number of users, but was also causing additional problems extremely harmful to the society as a whole. Indeed, anyone who thinks that Prohibition in this country was a mistake can hardly take the position that our current drug laws are somehow sensible.

Of course a certain segment of society will reject this approach; instead they will continue their mindless insistance that drugs can be eliminated if only we spend two-thirds of the federal budget on police and prisons, give everyone in the country blood tests on a daily basis, and take other similar steps to turn the United States into a police state.

I think this is neither necessary, nor wise, nor in keeping with American traditions of freedom. A more straightforward remedy is available. Right now.


La Jolla

Los Angeles Times Articles