Regarding Charles Lane’s column on the war on drugs (“Don’t buy the new conventional wisdom about the war on drugs,” Feb. 21):

Mr. Lane argues that the war on drugs has not been a failure, stating, “If the goal of the war on drugs is to limit demand for drugs, then you can’t say the authorities are losing.”

The problem with this statement is that the focus of the war on drugs has not been on demand. The focus has been on limiting supply through criminal enforcement.

President Nixon launched the campaign in the 1970s, and after more than 30 years and $3 trillion, drugs are still in high demand. Over those years, we’ve focused on preventing drugs from entering the country and imprisoning those who came into contact with the drugs that got through our borders. This was fighting supply, not demand.

The only way to lower demand is by education and treatment, something the “war” has almost completely overlooked. If you doubt this, look up what the Drug Enforcement Administration’s budget was anytime in the 1980s or 1990s, then look up what the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program’s budget was. You will find that all the money went to enforcement.

You can manipulate statistics to look like success, but overall we have not made a dent. The only thing that has been proved is that limiting supply alone doesn’t work. It is only recently that we have begun to look at demand, offering treatment instead of imprisonment.

History has proven that criminal punishment is not a deterrent. As long as people want drugs, there will always be a steady supply.

As part of this new effort, let’s re-classify marijuana. It belongs in the same category as alcohol. Our society glorifies alcohol abuse and vilifies marijuana use, based on propaganda, not truth.

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