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Laws don’t distinguish between drug use, abuse

Regarding The News’ thoughtful July 28 editorial, for non-violent offenders with substance abuse problems, treatment is a cost-effective alternative to incarceration. Unfortunately, diversion programs are being misused for political purposes. Record numbers of citizens arrested for marijuana possession have been forced into treatment by the criminal justice system.

The resulting distortion of treatment statistics is used by shameless drug warriors to claim that marijuana is “addictive.”

Zero-tolerance drug laws do not distinguish between use and abuse. Just as adults who drink an occasional glass of red wine with dinner don’t need mandatory substance abuse treatment, the vast majority of marijuana consumers don’t either. The coercion of Americans who prefer marijuana to martinis into treatment says a lot about government priorities, but absolutely nothing about marijuana.

Treatment may be cheaper than incarceration for taxpayers. It’s cheaper still for government to mind its own business and leave adults who aren’t harming others alone. The drug war is ending and not everyone is happy about it. There is an effort under way to create a kinder, gentler drug war by marrying the for-profit prison industry to a growing for-profit treatment industry. This is an ominous development.

Robert Sharpe, M.P.A.

Policy Analyst

Common Sense for Drug Policy