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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

December 16, 2008 at 12:14 PM

War on drugs

Remember alcohol prohibition?

Drug prohibition is a cure worse than the disease [“It’s time to end the war on drugs,”Neal Peirce syndicated columnist, Dec. 14]. Attempts to limit the supply of illegal drugs while demand remains constant only increase the profitability of drug trafficking. For addictive drugs like heroin, a spike in street prices leads desperate addicts to increase criminal activity to feed desperate habits. The drug war doesn’t fight crime, it fuels crime.

With alcohol prohibition repealed, liquor bootleggers no longer gun each other down in drive-by shootings, nor do consumers go blind drinking unregulated bathtub gin. While U.S. politicians ignore the drug war’s historical precedent, European countries are embracing harm reduction, a public-health alternative based on the principle that both drug abuse and prohibition have the potential to cause harm.

Examples of harm reduction include needle-exchange programs to stop the spread of HIV, marijuana regulation aimed at separating the hard and soft-drug markets, and treatment alternatives that do not require incarceration as a prerequisite. Unfortunately, fear of appearing “soft on crime” compels many U.S. politicians to support a failed drug war that ultimately subsidizes organized crime.

— Robert Sharpe, Arlington, Va.

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