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Drug War Opinions

If you look for them, you’ll find plenty of opinion pieces which paint the war on drugs as a failed exercise that should be abandoned. And they are right with some of the criticisms. Where these critics go wrong is when they use deficiencies in the criminal justice system as a springboard into legalization of dangerous drugs. A case in point is an offering from Cory Ferraez in the Daily Mississipian.

The first mistake the piece makes is to say the war on drugs is a failure, “an abysmal failure,” because it has failed to prevent drug abuse. This is making the perfect the enemy of the good. One could use the same logic to say we should stop enforcing traffic laws because they have failed to prevent speeding.

The question isn’t whether enforcement of drug laws prevents all abuse, or all teenagers from experimenting with drugs, or all drug violence. Has it stopped some? I’d assert that it has, and continues to save lives every day.

But the next argument is that the costs aren’t worth the benefits, or that the harm caused to addicts by incarceration is greater than just letting them have their drugs.

This isn’t an argument for legalization though. It’s an argument for judicial reform. There’s no reason we need to make drugs legal to change the way we handle addicts. And it further misses one of the benefits of keeping drugs illegal – if they weren’t the state wouldn’t have the power to intervene and force someone into treatment.

While the article continues and makes some good points, the overall feeling is that the writer has no experience with drug abuse. We are talking about substances that steal away a person’s ability to think for themselves and make rational choices. Addiction is a very powerful, very corrupting poison that eats away at the fabric of civil society. When the phrase “war on drugs” is used in a casually insulting manner to describe whatever bogeyman the author has in mind, it skips past the plain fact that addicts are people. It simply isn’t right to cast them aside like so many damaged products. They are someone’s father, or sister, or son. Drug addiction doesn’t just affect the user either, there are families and neighborhoods involved.

The answer isn’t surrender, or ignoring the problems in the hope they’ll go away.

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