Drug War Simply Isn't Working

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by roach, Mar 14, 2001.

  1. US MA: Editorial: Drug War Simply Isn't Working
    URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n446/a08.html
    Newshawk: http://www.masscann.org
    Pubdate: Tue, 13 Mar 2001
    Source: Eagle-Tribune, The (MA)
    Copyright: 2001 The Eagle-Tribune
    Contact: letters@eagletribune.com
    Address: P.O. Box 100 Lawrence, MA 01842
    Fax: (978) 687-6045
    Feedback: http://www.eagletribune.com/submit/letter.htm
    Website: http://www.eagletribune.com/


    Our View

    We need a balanced approach to drug crime that includes both incarceration and treatment.

    Massachusetts state Sen. James P. Jajuga, D-Methuen, thinks we need to takea new look at the way we handle those convicted of drug crimes. The senator, a former state police lieutenant and leader of the Essex County Drug Task Force, has long been an advocate of the lock-them-up-and-throw-away-the-key approach.

    Now, he says, he wonders if mandatory minimum jail sentences are working. He asks if we should not consider doing more with drug treatment than with incarceration.

    We don't know what is prompting Sen. Jajuga's shift in position.

    But he is absolutely correct.

    It is clear that the hard-line "War on Drugs" is not working. More people are in jail for drug offenses than for other types of crime. Drug offenders are serving longer sentences than those convicted of rape and murder. Nationally, billions are spent trying to stop the flow of drugs across our border. We are supporting the training of armed forces in places like Colombia in an attempt to stop production of cocaine.

    Despite all this effort, illegal drugs are cheaper and more potent than ever. The reason they are cheap is simple economics -- there are plenty to go around. In spite of all our efforts, drugs are plentiful on our streets.

    Sen. Jajuga is right to note that something is not working here. Legislators in Massachusetts, in New Hampshire and in every state ought to look at their drug policies with an eye toward improvement.

    The trick is to find a proper balance.

    Some offenders need to go to prison for long terms -- those who are selling drugs, committing other serious crimes to support their habits or involving children in the drug trade need severe punishment.

    For others, treatment is clearly a better choice than prison. We need to support sufficient funding to expand the range of drug treatment available.

    We opposed a ballot initiative in Massachusetts last November that would have directed more money toward drug treatment because it was bad law. The initiative would have allowed those caught with salable quantities of drugs to opt for treatment rather than prison. It was a "get-out-of-jail-free card" for drug dealers.

    Finding the right balance will require thoughtful deliberation on the part of legislators and the public.

    By questioning existing policy, Sen. Jajuga has taken a first step in that direction.

    MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens

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