Nation’s drug policies must be reconsidered

Editorial

We couldn’t help but notice a recent wire story headlined “Illegal drugs getting scarcer.”

The report began by noting that the availability of most illegal drugs is down and drug seizures are up. Drug warriors point to this information as proof the war on drugs is succeeding. Not everyone, however, is reaching that same conclusion.

Thomas Babor of the journal Addiction believes the United Nations drug warriors are looking at short-term trends and ignoring long-range predictions. According to the story, others note that street prices for heroin and cocaine in the United States remain at or near all-time lows, generally a market indicator of large supplies and ready availability.

One of the reasons for availability and low prices might be that drug use could be on the decline in the U.S. The University of Maryland’s annual survey of drug use by high schoolers in the past 12 months — a traditional drug-war benchmark — shows a 23 percent decline over the past five years.

That’s not much of a surprise to abuse researchers Peter Reuter and Jonathan Caulkins. They theorize that “once a drug has acquired a bad reputation, it does not seem prone to a renewed explosion or contagious spread in use.” In other words, young people seem to be getting the message that drugs are not exactly the hallmark of a healthy lifestyle. And that’s a good thing.

Maybe the feds can take this as a signal that the “war” portion of the nation’s drug policy is due for reconsideration. Prohibition didn’t work for alcohol, and it’s not working with drugs to keep users and suppliers from doing business. It’s simply making suppliers richer.

We don’t see how that is helping anyone but the dealers.

Rather than spending billions trying to shut down the pipeline that brings drugs to the users, it’s time to consider other options, even if we run the risk of being accused of being soft on drugs.