Advocates Against War On Drugs Working On Options


Nug of the Month: Aug 2008
Retired New Jersey state police detective Jack Cole was on front lines of the war on drugs for 14 years as an undercover officer before he decided to change sides.

Cole is now executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, which is dedicated to ending the prohibition on drugs. He was among about 1,000 people registered for a three-day International Drug Policy Reform Conference that opened Thursday in Albuquerque.

The conference was staged by the Drug Policy Alliance, which wants to decriminalize drugs and promote new policies based on science and health. Cole is a speaker and attended a news conference marking the opening of the event.

Conference topics vary from medical marijuana to clean needle programs and from interventions for gangs to substance abuse treatments.

Organizers will present an award Friday to talk show host and medical marijuana patient Montell Williams, recognizing his advocacy for compassionate drug laws and access to medical marijuana.

The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration did not return a call Thursday seeking comment on the idea of decriminalizing drugs.

Drug Policy Alliance executive director Ethan Nadelmann said about a dozen states, including New Mexico, have a law allowing patients of certain diseases to use marijuana to use for pain and nausea from treatments. About the same number have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana for personal use.

Cole said decriminalization would put drug lords out of business, cut violence, stop people from going to prison for nonviolent drug crimes, cut drug overdoses by allowing people to know what they're buying and put billons of dollars now going to the drug war into health, education and other needs.

It also would allow drugs to be regulated to control their use, Cole said.

"You can't control anything when it's illegal," he said.

Cole said the nation has spent a trillion dollars on the drug war over 40 years and "all we have to show for it is 39 million arrests in this country alone for nonviolent drug offenses."

"That's a lot of money to waste, a lot of lives to waste," he said.

Regulation would change drug policy from an emphasis on crime to an emphasis on health, said Danny Kushlick, head of policy for the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, which released a blueprint Thursday recommending steps toward a decriminalized drug industry.

Government would regulate drugs "the same way it regulates any other potentially risky policy or activity," said Kushlick, of Bristol, England.

That would include controls on the product – dosage, price, preparation, child proofing – controls on suppliers and outlets and a ban on advertising. Drugs would be dispensed in various ways, from those requiring a doctor's prescription to licensed sales of certain drugs and unlicensed sales of the least harmful.

"What we want is a precautionary approach. ... What we don't want is a free for all," he said.

Kushlick said decriminalizing drugs won't get rid of the illicit drug trade entirely.

"This is not about utopia. It's about reducing the harm from prohibition," where the only winners are gangsters, he said.

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Source: WSBT TV
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Copyright: 2009 WSBT TV
Website: Advocates Against War On Drugs Working On Options
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