Since 1981, well over 150 billion of our tax dollars have gone to fight the war on illegal drugs. Annual spending has grown so fast that the next $150 billion will be spent by 1997.
But if we do not change our basic drug strategy, it is unlikely we will be any safer. Current drug policies cannot deal with the excess crime, violence and disease caused by drug prohibition.
These are just a few of the consequences of maintaining strict drug prohibition policies. This great nation can do better. With less waste. With more success dealing with hard-core users. And without fueling a war in our cities.
What should new drug policies look like? As Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders recently suggested, we must study the legalization of drugs. Support for this position comes from across the political spectrum.
Full legalization is not the only alternative. Different policies might make sense for different drugs. Many options are available, including decriminalizing users only, permitting doctors to prescribe some drugs to addicts to undercut the black market, borrowing elements of the European public health model, or shifting the allocation of anti-drug resources to focus mainly on treatment and prevention rather than drug law enforcement.
No one can claim to know precisely what is best - not legalization advocates, not prohibition's partisans. We all share concern over the problems caused by drug abuse in our society, but we must also concern ourselves with the harms caused by our policies. The question of pursuing alternatives must be fully and realistically investigated and debated.
What we cannot do is sit idly by while our nation continues to pursue misguided drug policies. Much like alcohol prohibition did, our modern prohibition:
As a candidate for president, Bill Clinton defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." Despite some recent, commendable shifts in strategy, that is what our nation is doing now in drug policy.
It's time for change.
This statement was published as an advertisement in the New York Times, February 27, 1994. It was written and placed by the Drug Policy Foundation.
The Drug Policy Foundation is a non-profit organization that promotes open debate on drug policy and provides information on alternatives. Though some of its members support drug legalization, the Foundation takes no position on that issue.
The focus of the Foundation's work - in conferences, publications and television productions - is public education. With your financial support, the Foundation can expand its public education campaign - including running more ads like this one.
We neither seek nor accept government funding. Without the generosity of concerned citizens and private foundations, our work would be impossible. If you agree that reform of drug policy is important, we need your support. Contributions to the Drug Policy Foundation are tax-deductible. Members receive our bi-monthly journal, The Drug Policy Letter.
To promote debate yourself, send copies of this advertisement to President Clinton and your other elected representatives. Get involved!
For more information or to contribute:
The Drug Policy Foundation
4455 Connecticut Ave., NW, B-500
Washington, DC 20008-2302
Voice: (202) 537-5005
Fax: (202) 537-3007
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