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Asunto:[MESHIKO] Waging War On America's Drug War
Fecha:Sabado, 23 de Junio, 2001  05:21:52 (-0700)
Autor:Ricardo Ocampo-Anahuak Networks <chicanos @...........mx>

Waging War On America's Drug War
Ian Faerstein  
June21 2001 San Francisco Chronicle

THERE IS a scene in the recent Oscar-nominated film, "Traffic," in which a
Drug Enforcement Administration agent and a convicted drug dealer discuss
his 
upcoming trial. 

The exasperated drug dealer asks the cop, "Can't you for a second imagine
none of this had happened? That my drugs had gone through. What would have
been the harm? A few people get high who are getting high anyway. Your
partner is still alive."

The cop looks at him for a second, and shrugs. It never occurred to him that
the war on drugs could be misguided. He had always assumed that fighting
drug 
traffic was simply the right thing to do.

Before seeing this film, I had always been aware of the war on drugs. The U.
S. government wastes more than $19 billion a year in this ludicrous effort
-- 
how could I not be aware?

But "Traffic" simply blew me away. Although I always had a sneaking
suspicion 
that the war on drugs was flawed, never before had I seen anything that
demonstrated, in such stark terms, all of the drug war's many problems. I
began to realize that numerous problems in the United States and beyond --
the lack of funds for Social Security and Medicare, the huge black prison
populations, the disastrous civil war in Colombia -- are all consequences of
the U.S. government's policy on drugs.

Right now, as the Bush administration prepares to spend more money on the
drug war than ever before, the message of "Traffic" must not be ignored. The
war on drugs is plagued by many problems, not the least of which is the
ridiculously high rate of incarceration. The rate of incarceration in the
United States is 690 inmates per 100,000 residents, which is the highest in
the world after Rwanda. With less than 5 percent of the world's population,
the United States now has more than 25 percent of the world's prisoners.
Placing drug users in prison is neither cost- efficient nor effective.

It is estimated that placing the estimated 4 million American drug addicts
in 
treatment programs would cost a maximum of $60 billion annually, while
putting them in jail would cost $100 billion.

Furthermore, treatment is far superior to imprisonment as a long-term
solution to drug addiction. If drug addicts were forced to enroll in 12-step
treatment programs rather than receive mandatory minimum prison sentences,
they would be far more likely to overcome their addictions. As a result, the
repeat-offender rate in this country would drop significantly. Perhaps the
most destructive aspect of the war on drugs is its negative impact on
minorities, primarily African Americans. Although African Americans
reportedly comprise only 13 percent of the nation's drug users, they make up
almost 60 percent of those in state prisons for drug felonies.

Many factors are responsible for this disparity: police officers who
practice 
racial profiling, African Americans' inability to afford good lawyers, and
racist court judges, to name a few.

One of the primary causes of this disparity is the vastly unequal penalties
for crack cocaine (popular in black inner-city neighborhoods) and powder
cocaine (popular in white suburban areas). Currently, a person caught with 5
grams of crack cocaine receives the same five-year sentence as a person
caught with 50 grams of powder cocaine, a 10-to- 1 ratio. As a result,
nearly 
one-third of African American males between the ages of 19 and 29 are either
in prison or on parole. Recently on the "Larry King Live" show on CNN, U.S.
Attorney General John Ashcroft declared: "Well, I want to escalate the war
on 
drugs. I want to renew it, relaunch it if you will."

Ashcroft's desire to "escalate the war on drugs," when the U.S. government
already spends $19 billion per year in this misguided effort, is
astonishing. 

Ashcroft's words perfectly illustrate the warped politics of drugs in
America. As Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, explained: "No one wants to
seem soft on drugs. The White House and Congress don't ever want to be seen
as not doing all they can to stop the flow of drugs -- even if it's the
wrong 
policy." 

The war on drugs is plagued by many serious problems -- the blatant
disregard 
for human rights, the high rate of incarceration among drug offenders
(especially blacks), and the lack of availability of treatment programs for
addicts. 

If one examines the drug war on a deeper level, however, one can see that
the 
war on drugs is flawed by nature. The war on drugs is an attempt by
self-righteous, conservative politicians to regulate the moral conduct of
Americans through harsh penalties, at the expense of civil liberties.
    
Judge Priest, an anti-Prohibition leader, once said, "Every government that
has attempted to legislate for the uplifting of the moral sense of itspeople
has inevitably come to grief."

Today, as President Bush and Attorney General Ashcroft attempt to escalate
the drug war that has burdened Americans for the past 30 years, Priest's
message could not be more relevant.

Ian Faerstein is a 17-year-old high school student entering his senior year
at the Branson School in Ross, California.. He is the opinions editor of the
Branson Blazer and the editor-in-chief of
Branson's alternative newspaper, the Renegade.

TO LEARN MORE PLEASE CONTACT
 <A HREF="http://www.lightparty.com/WarOnDrugs/WarOnDrugs.html";>THE WAR ON
DRUGS</A> www.lightparty.com/WarOnDrugs/WarOnDrugs.html





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