WHY END THE WAR ON DRUGS?

by Julian Heicklen

Appeared in the Centre Daily Times, State College, PA

June 26, 2000

In his letter of June 20, 2000, Robert Dively asks that those of us who want to legalize street drugs tell everyone why we think this way. In 1972, President Richard Nixon declared the War on Drugs. What are the results? The prison population is ten times as large today as in 1972.

Today, with 4.6% of the world's population, the United States houses 25% of the world's inmates.

The rate of homicide in 1998 was nearly identical to that in 1967. Reported robbery has increased from 148.4 per 100,000 in 1969 to 165.2 per 100,000 in 1998, according to the FBI Crime Report.

Deaths from illicit drugs have risen from 7,101 in 1979 to 15,973 in 1997. Marijuana was "fairly easy" or "very easy" to get for 90.4% of high school seniors in 1998, the highest point in history. Heroin was "fairly easy" or "very easy" to get for 35.6% of seniors, compared to 24.2% in 1975, and 18.9% in 1979. Availability of heroin to high school students has increased by 1/3 since the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 was passed, when it was 22.0%.

Ecstasy availability has almost doubled since 1989 from 21.7%, to 38.2% in 1998. LSD availability is greater than at any point in the 1970s or 80s, and at 48.8%, is easily available by half our high school seniors. PCP availability is near record highs, at 30.7%.

More kids in 8th grade report that they are using illegal drugs according to the Monitoring the Future Survey. Use in the past 30 days of marijuana among 8th graders tripled from 1991 to 1997, from 3.2% to 10.2%. Cocaine use almost tripled from 0.5% in 1991 to 1.4% in 1998. Use of LSD by 8th graders almost tripled from 0.6% in 1991 to 1.5% in 1997.

A pure gram of cocaine was $44 in 1998, down from $191 in 1981. Heroin prices have fallen from $1200 per gram to $318 per gram over the same period. Purity of cocaine, even for the smallest quantities, has increased on average from 40% in 1981 to 71% in 1998. Heroin street purity has increased from 4.7% in 1981 to 24.5% in 1998. This high purity is sending more people to hospital emergency rooms­the 1998 number of drug-related ER admissions was the greatest recorded.

The crudely estimated number of persons needing drug abuse treatment has grown from 8.9 million in 1991 to 9.3 million in 1996. The number of hard core addicts needing treatment has grown from 4.7 million in 1992 to 5.3 million in 1996.

It is disgusting that the government pushes drugs on kids, but denies them to sick people, by making the drugs illegal and fostering a black market. I agree with Mr. Dively that "To educate a fool is wise, to stress being a fool is just plain dumb." In this case, it is also immoral.