Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ex-Officer: War on Drugs 'Far Worse' Than a Failure

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ex-Officer: War on Drugs 'Far Worse' Than a Failure

Article excerpt

The war on drugs, Jack Cole said, has been "far worse" than a failure.

Speaking to about 75 students Thursday afternoon at Slippery Rock University, Mr. Cole, a retired New Jersey State Police narcotics detective and a co-founder of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, called it "a self-perpetuating and constantly expanding policy disaster."

Mr. Cole, who will be speaking in Pittsburgh at noon today at the Rotary Club of Pittsburgh's Northside, 701 N. Point Drive, said 43 years of drug prohibition, millions of arrests and an estimated $1 trillion spent on law enforcement and incarceration have failed to put a dent in drug supplies or their purity, price and rate of use or the explosion in associated crime.

"Once we start treating drug abuse as a health problem instead of a crime problem, we won't have to arrest and sacrifice on the altar of the drug war 1.7 million people a year who we arrest for nonviolent drug offenses, which is what we do today," said Mr. Cole, whose international nonprofit, composed partly of former police officers, prosecutors and judges, supports drug legalization.

He added that the nation's drug policy has also helped to make the United States the world's leader in per capita incarceration, a phenomenon disproportionately affecting blacks.

"The war on drugs has also been the most devastating single destructive social policy since slavery," Mr. Cole said.

His visit to Western Pennsylvania comes as the region has grappled with a rash of overdose deaths linked to fentanyl-laced heroin and the General Assembly considers a bill that would legalize cannabis for medical use and another that would legalize the "consumption of marijuana for adults over the age of 21, without regard to the purpose of that consumption."

Mr. Cole said overdose deaths, including the nearly two dozen in Western Pennsylvania tied to the laced batches of heroin, could be prevented by setting up Switzerland-style programs that provide the drug to addicts at supervised centers. With 20 states and the District of Columbia allowing medical marijuana programs and two states legalizing recreational use, drug policy in the U. …

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