Los Angeles Times

May 13, 1999

Letter to the Editor

Drug War

Re "Many Roots for Teen Problems," editorial, May 3: Thank you for acknowledging that "the effort to stop drug abuse through law enforcement" has been "until now frustrated." Frustrated, indeed. The American drug war has gone on, uninterrupted, for 116 years. (The first federal law against a drug, opium, was passed in 1883.) We have spent more than a trillion dollars arresting 50 million fellow citizens, and what has it gotten us? Illicit drugs are cheaper, purer, stronger and more readily available than ever.

Drug czar Barry R. McCaffrey has said drug abuse should be treated "like cancer." I agree. We do not send the police out, battle-ready, to arrest cancer patients and put them in jail--we give them proper medical treatment. Are we giving drug addicts treatment? No. The waiting list for government-sponsored residential treatment programs is months long. Meanwhile, room is always found in prisons for drug "criminals."
It's time to declare peace on drugs.

Los Angeles