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Monday, Aug. 29, 2016

War on drugs is an abandoned issue

Sunday, October 10, 2004

In the midst of the current presidential campaign, there's another war that has yet to generate any attention. And yet this war has clearly dominated presidential discussions in the past. It makes you wonder if we have abandoned this second war. It's the war on drugs. You remember.

Now don't misunderstand - I make no honest comparison with the current war in Iraq and the ongoing war on drugs. They are two separate issues. It's easy to argue that the war on terrorism is much more important to our future and the future of the world. But for just a moment, let's revisit the war on drugs.

We've tried slogans (Just Say No), we've used the three-strikes provisions of the law (which are now under attack) and we've poured money and manpower into the war on drugs. On the terrorist front, we've used slogans (Shock and Awe), have enlisted the aid of others and have poured money and manpower into the fight. It could be argued that we're not gaining much ground on either front.

I'm making an assumption here but I seriously doubt there is a family in the United States that has not been touched in some manner by the war on drugs. It may not be a major impact but for some, it's clearly the most important battle they have ever fought.

The Associated Press this weekend is publishing an article about the silence on drugs - primarily methamphetamines - that surrounds this campaign. Granted, there is discussion of the meth and crack cocaine problem in other campaigns for state House seats and Senate seats. But at the top of the ticket, we're talking health care, the economy, terrorism and Social Security. I could argue that the drug problem ranks right up in that league and yet, try to find any national discussion on the issue. You simply won't.

I'd be willing to bet that long after the war on terrorism has been won or lost, the war on drugs will remain. And while the Presidential candidates are debating the billions spent to wage the war in Iraq, no mention is made of the billions spent on the war on drugs with little if any change. In fact, if you want to compare price-tags and throw in lost productivity, the war in Iraq may be the cheap battle by comparison.

Missouri is ground zero in the war on meth. More meth labs were busted in our state last year than any in the nation. Unfortunately that's about the only place where Missouri ranks first. And if you'll recall, when the war on drugs was first launched, meth was not even a discussion. Back then it was pot and cocaine and other assorted pharmaceuticals. Now we have meth and crack cocaine and that's the tip of the iceberg. In short, if the enemy is drugs then the enemy is bringing in new weapons and we're still discussing slogans.

I, for one, thought putting drug dealers behind bars would do the trick. Wrong. They are simply replaced by new drug dealers. And the image of the drug users has transformed from a pot head to a street thug packin' a gun. While we're talking about the price of this war, throw in the cost of violence that surrounds the crack and meth culture and the cost goes even higher.

I suspect the Presidential candidates aren't talking about the war on drugs because they lack a solution. Whatever formula it will take to win this war has yet to be determined. Because of prison overcrowding, we'll soon drop the three strike provision. We'll soon - like Chicago Mayor Daley proposed this week - decriminalize marijuana. And I strongly suspect that we'll ignore the crack cocaine problem in society because it impacts a different segment than our own.

Thus, we give law enforcement a near-impossible mission and we turn our heads the other way. You won't see it in the headlines and you'll hear little discussion in the debates. But this is one war we're clearly losing.

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