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U.S. needs more sensible drug policy
date: 03-November-2005
editorial comment editorial comment
"The right to swing my fist ends where the other manís nose begins." They had good judges then :)

Article By:
ē David Conard
ē dconard@northernstar.info

"Drugs are bad, míkay"

So says Mr. Mackey, the school counselor from the "South Park" cartoon. Thatís an oversimplification, which might be what the showís creators are saying.

Mr. Mackey should say, "Donít take these drugs, take other drugs, which may be just as dangerous."

The drug policy in America often makes absolutely no sense!

On "The New Republic," (www.tnr.com), Andrew Sullivan stated in his March 5, 2001 article, "The most frustrating part of the interminable debate about the Ďwar on drugsí is the word Ďdrugs.í"

Strictly speaking, after all, there is no war on drugs in this country; there is a war on some drugs. Sullivan continued on the history of drug policy, saying few people thought the policy made sense, banning benign marijuana while allowing dangerous alcohol.

That rings true to me. In my experience as a security officer (yep, thatís right: the hippie works for the Man), Iíd rather deal with a hundred pot-heads than one drunk. Lots of people, especially on hard alcohol, turn violent at the slightest provocation. Conversely, marijuana users are much more likely to hug you than hit you.

Anti-marijuana advocates argue it causes brain damage. Banning marijuana for that reason makes no more sense than banning cigarettes for lung cancer, alcohol for cirrhosis of the liver and Big Macs for heart disease.

If America is worried about heart disease, the Food and Drug Administration should never have released Vioxx. According to a Jan. 25 BBC article, an FDA study indicated the arthritis drug could have caused up to 140,000 U.S. deaths due to increased risk of heart attack or stroke.

The BBC quoted Jane Tadman, of the Arthritis Research Campaign, who said, "These findings in the Lancet are shocking ... This data adds further weight to calls that Vioxx should have been withdrawn from sale several years earlier than September 2004."

Vioxx hasnít been the only questionable product drug company Merck embraced. According to Sullivan, Merck patented the designer drug Ecstasy in 1914. Sullivan explains Ecstasy was legal until the 1980ís, but now is as illegal as heroin.

The horrible irony doesnít end there. According to a Feb. 9 CNN article, the FDA stated the anti-depressant Zoloft can lead to an "increased risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in short-term studies of adolescents and children."

Some people smoke pot when depressed. Others take Zoloft. Apparently, when you push pot on a street corner, itís destroying society. When you push Zoloft from a corporate office, itís a medical advancement.

In the end, what should be the legal distinction between drugs, recreational or medicinal? The answer is somewhere in the middle. I agree with Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. who said, "The right to swing my fist ends where the other manís nose begins."

Harmful side-effects to a consenting adult user arenít good enough reasons to ban anything in a free society. Instead, people should be advised honestly and completely by the provider about the risks of use of the product.

I donít think certain drugs should ever be legal. For example, Iíve heard horror stories from cops about PCP, or "Angel Dust."

America also has to come clean about the financial and societal costs of drug use versus the drug war. Timothy Lynch, the director of the Cato InstituteĎs Project on Criminal Justice, spoke about this in a Feb. 5, 2001 National Review article.

Lynch said $18 billion federally was spent on anti-drug programs in 1999. Despite this, Lynch quotes former FBI director William Webster, who said in a commission on federal law enforcement practices, "Despite a record number of seizures and a flood of legislation, the Commission is not aware of any evidence that the flow of narcotics into the United States has been reduced."

Anti-drug activists argue drug revenue supports terrorists like Al-Qaeda. True, but the reason they make so much money is because drugs are illegal. Itís basic supply-and-demand economics: With high demand and low supply, the price goes up.

America needs a more sensible drug policy. Legalization of certain, less harmful illegal drugs and proper review of all drugs, pharmaceutical or not, will make things better. Americaís prison population will be smaller, its drugs safer, and our enemies wonít have a fast source of cash.

Letís not let Mr. Mackey have the last word on this issue, folks.

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