Here's the letter
War on drugs unsuccessful:
Jim Henderson, vice president of the Alabama Narcotics Officers Association, recently wrote a letter complaining about reduced funding for drug task forces ("Not enough money for war on drugs," The News, Wednesday). These are, he wrote, "the front line on the war on drugs, in which about 26,000 Americans die each year."
While I have great respect for Henderson and his fellow officers, I would like to offer another view. By any objective measure, the war on drugs begun decades ago has been a great failure. The present availability of controlled drugs has never been greater, as interdiction from both foreign and domestic suppliers has proved to be virtually impossible.
Many or most of the 26,000 deaths to which Henderson referred were the result of criminal activity actually caused by the war on drugs, rather than from the direct use of drugs. Indeed, I would challenge Henderson to provide evidence of even one death that was a result of the use of marijuana, the most commonly used illicit drug.
The fact is, the war on drugs has resulted in the imprisonment of thousands of nonviolent drug users (the Alabama Department of Corrections Web site gives the figure of about 7,000 currently incarcerated for drug offenses). It has diverted millions of dollars from the criminal justice system in a futile effort to interfere in the private lives of citizens and, consequently, greatly inhibited efforts to combat other crimes.
The war on drugs has further had a devastating effect on the black community because of the disproportionate number of black males who have been or are in prison for drug offenses.
William A. North
Here is the LTE I submitted today.
I read with GLEE Narcotic's Officer Jim Henderson's cry-baby piece about BYRNE Grants being drastically reduced in the 2008 Omnibus Appropriations bill. My first thought was "HALLELUJAH, Congress finally did something right!!"
In case no one has noticed the US drug war is an abject failure as far as eliminating drugs and drug use go. I can get drugs in any city and town anytime day or night and so can anyone else who is seeking them. They are cheap and plentiful.
If the number of people dying due to drugs is grounds for a war, as Officer Henderson inferred, then why is there a war on marijuana, since it doesn't kill anyone?
Here is a list of the annual causes of death in the US.
Poor Diet/Physical Inactivity 365,000
Microbial Agents 75,000
Toxic Agents 55,000
Motor Vehicle Crashes 26,347
Adverse Reactions to Prescription Drugs 32,000,
Sexual Behaviors 20,000
All Illicit Drug Use 17,000
Drugs Such As Aspirin 7,600
According to a recent story in the Birmingham News 50% of all drug arrests in Alabama are for simple marijuana possession. How many people die in drug raids carried out by SWAT teams where marijuana is the only drug involved? A 92 year-old great-grandmother, named Kathryn Johnston was murdered in 2006 by an Atlanta narcotics task force after an informant fingered her house as a place where drug sales were taking place. No drugs were found in the house so the cops planted some marijuana after they killed her in hopes of being able to cover their behinds. Narcotics task forces are also notorious for shooting people's beloved pets.
I also take issue with Officer Henderson's fear mongering about funding for drug courts, treatment and prevention being cut. The BYRNE grant money, which is the bread and butter of drug task forces, has rarely been used for treatment and prevention and never for drug courts. It could be allocated for those things, but priority for those grants is given to multi-jurisdictional drug task forces according to the ADECA website. Besides, what happens to the money police seize in asset forfeiture?
The drug war isn't working. Why keep pumping money into a program where repeated failures are used as justification for continued existence and more funding? And for what benefit to society? More destroyed families, more bodies in our inhumanely overcrowded prisons, more death and disease, easier access to drugs for our children, devastated communities and the loss of our Constitutional rights and civil liberties? Should we really be paying for that? I hope they never get their funding back. Perhaps now they'll be forced to go out and fight real crime like burglary, rape, arson, car-jacking and murder. According to the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center those clearance rates are ABYSMAL.
Respectfully Submitted for Publication,