Bringing sense, education to the drug war

Have you ever heard of someone constantly doing something the wrong way with the expectation of eventually getting different results? That philosophy seems to be practiced by the authorities in charge of the 40-year “war on drugs.”

After wasting $1 trillion on a failed zero-tolerance agenda, the powers that be have created the largest incarcerated population in the world. The U.S. has more people in prison than any other industrialized country, and the illegal drug trade is greater now than ever. Only a small percentage of illegal drug dealers are caught. The profits drug dealers make are so high, that the business of selling drugs attracts a lot of people. The U.S. spends billions trying to catch drug dealers, and then we spend billions caring for them in prison. We cannot build prisons fast enough to reduce the over-crowded prisons we already have.

Our government refuses to attack the root of the problem. It is not the people importing these drugs into the U.S., and it is not the drug dealers selling the drugs. The problem is the people buying and using the drugs. If people eventually stopped buying these drugs, everything else would stop. U.S. citizens are the problem.

The policy is, if you are caught not only using illegal drugs, but possessing them, you can go to prison. Why? Because we want to keep you from hurting or even killing yourself. So you will be placed in a prison cell where you will experience an awful life.

People who take drugs to get high are going to do it no matter what the consequences are. We saw that with alcohol during Prohibition. Authorities had the sense back then to legalize alcohol again. Alcohol causes many deaths each year, but it is accepted because it is better than putting thousands of people in jail.

People are still smoking cigarettes in spite of all the warnings about the conditions they cause that lead to premature death. Smoking causes major expenses to the medical care system. However, we understand it should not be illegal to smoke cigarettes.

More than 30,000 people die in motor vehicle accidents each year in the U.S., but driving will never become illegal. We accept the consequences of millions of people driving every day.

More than 30,000 people die from gun violence, but guns and rifles will never be outlawed. There is a steep price we all pay for the right to be free. Some of our choices can kill us.

Punishing people in the spirit of protecting them from themselves is foolish. Educating people about the evils involving drug abuse makes more sense. “Just say no” does not work very well. Free rehabilitation facilities are better and less expensive than prison; it is more humane to care for people with a drug problem. Alcoholics Anonymous has helped thousands of people. The number of cigarette smokers has dramatically declined due to education and restrictions placed on smoking.

At least we could try a different approach to the drug problem. Education and rehabilitation instead of incarceration seems to be a better alternative. If it does not work, the authorities can always go back to what has not worked in the past, but at least give the new approach 40 years.

Al Scholp is one of our regular community contributors.