• Arne Mortensen

The war on drugs continues ... at our expense.

Our Sheriff currently is in Washington DC, as I understand it, to seek more federal money for drug enforcement. Will more money solve our drug problems?

Our drug policy has remained largely unchanged for decades; it is called the war on drugs, which focuses on prohibition. What do we have to show for that effort and at what costs? Here and here and here are some links with some data to help answer some of those questions. These are just a few of the links available.

I am puzzled why we continue using the same approach that has failed for decades. Back in 1919, everyone knew that the Federal government had no legitimate basis to outlaw alcohol, so a Constitutional amendment was required. Prohibition was disastrous and it was repealed. Today, we "accept" that the Federal government can prohibit whatever it wants, even as we know about the failures of prohibition, and the lack of legitimacy of the Federal laws.

If intentions were sufficient to solve a problem, we would not have a drug problem. But our reality is ugly, so we should be open to a new game plan, even one that might seem contrary, such as legalization of all drugs. But, we do not have to be pioneers because other nations have addressed this issue. For example, what we see from Switzerland and Portugal is that we can do better with their approach than ours.

In Cowlitz County the largest portion of the general fund is spent on law and justice, a significant portion being driven by illicit drug laws. How much do you want to pay to continue a failed approach, with no hope of success? I am a strong supporter of the therapeutic courts because they have a measurable outcome in budgetary savings and in effective compassion for those who elect (and are accepted) into the program. That being said, the war on drugs generates the candidates for these programs, and there are far too many for the courts. The courts cannot keep up, and they are the end of the line in an expensive process... it is better not to create the problem in the first place.

One final comment (for now :-) ): The proposed/discussed safe injection sites make no sense to me for several reasons, but there is one reason worth voicing now. As long as the users get their drugs on the street, the overdose issue persists, but more importantly, these users will continue to shoplift, burglarize, and rob thus victimizing the bulk of our citizens, and these are the people government should protect.

As it is with all changes of law, though, it will take careful thinking how to transition out of prohibition. The "legalization" of pot has been a good start.

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