Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Why Can't U.S. Seriously Study Drug Legalization?

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Why Can't U.S. Seriously Study Drug Legalization?

Article excerpt

Herein is a short (very short) list of subjects that cannot be openly discussed by politicians in America: A confession of nagging religious scepticisms, a conviction that the voter is sometimes a fool and, it seems, the realization that the war on drugs has been more noble than effective, lost years ago to a formidable alliance of human nature and the free enterprise system. It is the last we will discuss today.

And it was the last that Joycelyn Elders touched upon earlier this month when she suggested that the legalization of drugs be studied. Almost instantly, the red ties opened fire. Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., denounced Elders and called her remarks "radical." He called for her resignation. Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., the minority leader in the Senate but a voice for the majority on this issue, seconded Nickles' modest proposal and so did Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. The Groucho, Chico and Harpo of sound bites had a field day.

Worse, though, was the reaction from the White House. Instead of saying, "Hmmm, that's an interesting position" and maybe noting that some specialists in the drug field have long endorsed it, the White House belittled Elders.

When it comes to the legalization of drugs, Bill Clinton has already spoken for the administration. In a campaign debate with George Bush and Ross Perot, Clinton said he opposed legalization and offered the example of his brother, Roger Clinton, to explain why. "If drugs were legal, I don't think he would be alive today." Roger Clinton once had a drug problem.

But Clinton's reference to his brother was a non sequitur. What did he mean? Why would his brother have been dead? Like others with drug problems, he seemed to be getting all the drugs he needed anyway, so what would it have mattered if they were legal?

Legal or illegal, drugs are available, only illegal means higher prices, an uncertain dosage and the risk of an overdose, money flowing to pushers and kingpins, drive-by shootings and all the rest. What's so wonderful about what's happening today that Nickles, Dole and Hatch would sneer at Elders and dismiss her out of hand? After all, she was only echoing what Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, former Secretary of State George Shultz and William F. …

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