Another scathingly brilliant idea from Jimmy Carter

Hey kids! Let's call off the drug war!

IN an extraordinary new initiative announced earlier this month, the Global Commission on Drug Policy has made some courageous and profoundly important recommendations in a report on how to bring more effective control over the illicit drug trade. The commission includes the former presidents or prime ministers of five countries, a former secretary general of the United Nations, human rights leaders, and business and government leaders, including Richard Branson, George P. Shultz and Paul A. Volcker.

The report describes the total failure of the present global antidrug effort, and in particular America's "war on drugs," which was declared 40 years ago today. It notes that the global consumption of opiates has increased 34.5 percent, cocaine 27 percent and cannabis 8.5 percent from 1998 to 2008. Its primary recommendations are to substitute treatment for imprisonment for people who use drugs but do no harm to others, and to concentrate more coordinated international effort on combating violent criminal organizations rather than nonviolent, low-level offenders.

These recommendations are compatible with United States drug policy from three decades ago. In a message to Congress in 1977, I said the country should decriminalize the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, with a full program of treatment for addicts. I also cautioned against filling our prisons with young people who were no threat to society, and summarized by saying: "Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself."

Carter actually gets some it right. Even the sainted Buckley wanted to end the war on users by decriminalizing pot. Opiates are a different story, however, and decriminalizing them will only make the problem of addiction worse.

Those problems includes the social impact of drugs on the workplace, the family, and neighborhoods. Treatment is a great idea but current occupancy levels of in-patient facilities precludes the notion that addicts will be able to kick the habit if they are assigned treatment. There is a 6 month waiting list - or longer - at most facilities so by the time a user is in treatment, the immediate desire to quit is long gone.

Besides, current stats show that more than 9 out of 10 coke addicts are using again after two years even after going through treatment. Similar stats are found for heroin, crystal meth, and speed. A large part of the problem is that court-ordered treatment - jail or the hospital - is the absolute worst way to get an addict off the junk. A hardcore user has to hit rock bottom before they are ready to kick the habit and will mostly go through the motions during treatment in order to fulfill the court's sentence.

Setting up treatment centers in prisons is a better idea but very expensive. Some states have experimented with "Drug Courts" that, at the very least, remove some of the burden on our criminal courts while directing many users into in and out patient treatment.

As for the cartels, they will be there whether we decriminalize the drugs or not. Better to fight them and their funding of terrorists and other criminal enterprises than giving up on the War on Drugs.

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