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4.2. Demilitarization of the War on Drugs: Toward an Alternative Drug Strategy PDF Print E-mail
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Grey Literature - DPF: The Great Issues of Drug Policy 1990
Written by Henry Brownstein   

At present, I am an employee of the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). I am also President-elect of the Association for Humanist Sociology (AHS). My own research in the area of drugs has been conducted primarily in collaboration with Paul J. Goldstein of Narcotic and Drug Research, Inc. (NDRI). To DCJS, NDRI, to my friends and colleagues in the AHS, and especially to Paul, I owe a debt for the development of my own thoughts about drugs and their relationship to crime, violence, and society. However, ideas and opinions expressed herein are my own and do not necessarily reflect or represent the policies or positions of any other individual or organization and no official endorsement should be inferred.

Both as individuals and as a society, we experience a variety of problems related to the use, abuse, distribution, and manufacture of licit and illicit drugs. There is evidence that drugs are linked to serious health and social problems, to the extent of violence in our society, and to troubles in our educational institutions and our economy.

Each year in the United States hundreds of thousands of deaths are related the abuse of drugs, particularly alcohol and tobacco. (ONDCP 1989, 1990) In 1988 in New York State, almost 159,000 people required hospitalization for drug or alcohol abuse. (Statewide Anti-Drug Abuse Council 1989, p. 8) Further, it is estimated that nationwide "the single largest source of new HIV/AIDS virus infections" is intravenous drug use. (ONDCP 1989, p. 1) And, hundreds of thousands of children throughout the United States are born each year to drug or alcohol addicted mothers, each of them at increased risk of physical or mental impairment. (ONDCP 1989, p. 2)

In terms of the relationship between violence and drugs, it is estimated that nationwide in 1980 drug-related homicides resulted in about 70,000 years of life lost and drug-related assaults in about 50,000 days of hospitalization. (Goldstein 1987) Even more commonly than drug use, drug trafficking appears to be associated with violence. In a recent study of homicides in New York City, it was found that more than half of all homicides in some way could be linked to drugs. Most of those (74 percent) involved disputes related to drug trafficking, particularly among people participating in the crack or cocaine trade. (Brownstein et al. 1989; Goldstein et al. 1989, 1990)

Our educational institutions and their students are the victims of drugs in that, according to one national survey, half of all American teenagers report that drugs are used in their schools and 40 percent report that drugs are sold there. (ONDCP 1989, p. 49) Our economy suffers in that, according to a national report, "as many as 20 percent of all American workers use illegal drugs on the job. Compared to their co-workers, employees who use drugs are far less productive; they miss more working days; and they are more likely to injure themselves or someone else." (ONDCP 1989, p. 56) In addition, the economy suffers when billions of dollars are diverted to an illegal market. According to the report noted above, it is estimated that gross drug sales in the United States annually amount to $110 billion, "more than our total gross agricultural income." (ONDCP 1989, p. 2)

The War on Drugs

The response of our government to the problems associated with drugs has been to declare war: President Nixon in 1971, President Reagan in 1982. (Inciardi 1986; Wisotsky 1986; Weisheit 1990) In the most recent national drug control strategy, William Bennett, President Bush's director of federal drug policy, wrote, "it is the policy of the United States to disrupt, to dismantle, and ultimately destroy the illegal market for drugs." (ONDCP 1990, p. 1)

Federal, state, and local governments have turned to their criminal justice systems to fight the war on drugs. The institutions of these systems have been pushed to their limits and beyond, with police, courts, and correctional facilities overwhelmed by drug-related cases. Between 1983 and 1987 in New York State, felony drug arrests increased by 118 percent, indictments by 207 percent, convictions by 210 percent, and sentences to prison for drug convictions by 220 percent. (Ross and Cohen 1988) Nationally, "felony drug convictions now account for the single largest and fastest growing sector of the Federal prison population." (ONDCP 1989, p. 1) According to a report by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, "the current War on Drugs will overwhelm the nation's correctional systems over the next five years." (Austin and McVey 1989, p. 1)

To an increasing extent, the federal government has committed its military forces to the war. (ONDCP 1989, 1990; Rosenthal 1990; Knight-Ridder 1990) In 1981, "Congress enacted amendments to the Posse Comitatus Act. .. authorizing a greater degree of military support services to track and report on the movement of suspect aircraft and ships." (Wisotsky 1986, p. 92) For the federal fiscal year 1991, President Bush has proposed a 37 percent increase from the past year in Defense Department spending from $878 million to $1.2 billion, the largest dollar increase of any federal department involved in the war. (ONDCP 1989, 1990)

Law enforcement and supply reduction strategies are favored over prevention and treatment strategies in the Republican White House plan with about 70 percent of all dollars proposed for spending on drug-related problems going to the former. (ONDCP 1989, 1990) The Democratic opposition issued an alternative plan for "fighting drug abuse" and therein proposed increased spending for treatment and education. But even that plan strongly favors enforcement and interdiction over treatment and education with about 60 percent of all dollars proposed for programs related to the former. (Senate Judiciary Committee 1990)

The False Assumptions of the War on Drugs

Inciardi wrote, "despite the massive funding for research and despite all that has been learned about drug use, some of the most fundamental myths continue to endure." (1986, p. 145) These myths are often taken as truths in the drug war strategy. In the current drug strategy proposals, they appear as underlying assumptions for policies and programs of the war effort, as in the following examples.

Current drug strategies refer to drug abuse as an epidemic. (ONDCP 1989; Senate Judiciary Committee 1990) In the Introduction to the Senate strategy, Sen. Joseph Biden refers to, "the epidemic of illegal drug use that is devastating our cities and towns, and decimating the next generation of Americans." (1990, p. 1) But as one critic noted, "The government's own figures show that addiction to illegal drugs troubles a relatively small number of Americans, and the current generation of American youth is the strongest and healthiest in the nation's history." (Lapham 1989, p. 43; see, also, Reinarman and Levine 1989)

According to the National Drug Control Strategy, crack "is, in fact, the most dangerous and quickly addictive drug known to man." (ONDCP 1989, p. 3) Yet recent reports indicate that not everyone who uses crack will become addicted, instantly or otherwise. (Bower 1989; Morley 1989; Martz 1990) Herbert Kleber, a deputy in the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), is quoted as having said that the notion that crack is instantly addictive is "a dangerous myth." (Martz 1990, p. 74) He estimates that "perhaps one cocaine user out of four or five will become a chronic abuser or addict. With crack cocaine, he says, the figure may be one in three." (Martz 1990, p. 74)

In terms of opiates, the National Strategy argues that "drug addiction is a particularly tenacious form of self-destruction, one which its victims very often cannot simply choose to correct on their own." (1989, p. 9) Recent research (e.g., Waldorf 1983; Biernacki 1986) has shown that even "chronic users of addictive substances," especially opiates, are not necessarily "destined to endure a bleak life marked by stealing and selling to support their increasingly expensive habits, treatment episodes, relapses, imprisonment, persistent health problems or death by overdose, and dependence on methadone." (Fagan 1987, p. 214; see, also, Raymond 1990) These studies have provided empirical evidence of "the social-psychological processes of recovery from opiate addiction without the help of treatment." (Waldorf 1983, p. 238)

The drug strategies emphasize the problems associated with illicit drugs and give little or no attention to those related to drugs that are legal. (ONDCP 1989, 1990) Particularly, they neglect the fact that whether or not a particular drug is legal is independent of the nature or extent of the problems or benefits related to its use. (cf, Jonas 1989) In the United States in 1985, 3,562 people are known to have died from the use of an illegal drug while between 50,000 and 150,000 died from the use of alcohol and 320,000 from the use of tobacco. (Buckley 1989a) In 27 American cities in 1988, 3,308 people died from cocaine use, 2,480 from heroin or morphine use, none from marijuana use, at least 100,000 from alcohol use, and about 390,000 from the use of tobacco. (King 1990) A study of drugs and homicide in New York City found a number of homicides involving people who were high when they killed or were killed by someone else (14 percent of all drug-related cases); the drug involved in about three of every four of these cases was alcohol. (Goldstein et al. 1989, 1990)

Finally, drug warriors talk about "fighting drugs." (ONDCP 1990, p. 7) They fail to acknowledge that drugs are simply chemical substances and that war cannot be waged against chemicals. (cf., Szasz 1986; Wisotsky 1986; Weisheit 1990) As Weisheit wrote, "The war [on drugs] is not against drugs, but against people who hold particular values and consequently take particular actions regarding drugs." (1990, p. 2) That is, the war on drugs is really a "civil war." (Weisheit 1990)

The Counterproductivity of the War on Drugs

Given its grounding in false assumptions, it is not surprising that the war strategy has had limited success at best. Even in those areas where the enforcement and interdiction efforts have been strongest, the drug trade, drug abuse, and drug-related violence have not been reduced. (Schur 1962; Joint Committee on New York Drug Law 1977; Falco 1989; Weisheit 1990; Miller 1990)

Some drug war proponents have been encouraged by recent statistics showing a decline in the number of arrestees in Washington, D.C. testing positive for cocaine. (see, Kagan 1990; Ayres 1990a, 1990b) But while drug warriors have viewed these statistics as cause for celebration, local law enforcement officials have not. Local jails continue to be overcrowded with drug offenders, waiting lists for drug treatment programs continue to be lengthy, violence continues to be commonplace, drugs continue to be widely available, the price of drugs has not declined, and Washington, D.C. continues to lead the nation in its per capita murder rate with a pace well ahead of its 1989 record. (Miller 1990; Ayres 1990b)

Another source of optimism among drug warriors has been an observable change in the supply of cocaine. There have been reports that price is up and purity is down in American cities (Hackett et al. 1990) and that South American coca farmers have been forced to switch to other crops as the price of cocaine has dropped. (Christian 1990) It is too soon to know for sure why this is happening. These phenomenon may prove to be indicators of some level of success. Or they may indicate that a form of displacement (Barnett 1988) is taking place, that we are experiencing a lull while crack is being displaced as the drug of choice in the U.S. or while cocaine suppliers in South America are moving their operations from Bolivia to places like Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru. (see, Hackett et al. 1990) Whatever it is, local law enforcement officials again tend to be skeptical, viewing these changes as temporary. (Hackett et al. 1990)

Even if the war on drugs has had some limited successes, it has nevertheless resulted in certain undesirable consequences as well. Some of these surely were expected. For example, the war on drugs has overwhelmed federal, state, and local criminal justice systems. (Ross and Cohen 1988; Austin and McVey 1989; Labaton 1989; Nadelmann 1989; Belenko 1990) And it has resulted in the loss of certain protections of civil liberty, as in the case of the Congressional amendment to the Posse Comitatus Act. (Wisotsky 1986) There have also been, however, a number of unexpected consequences of the war that appear to have exacerbated the same drug-related problems that the strategy was designed to solve. (Nadelmann 1988, 1989; Ostrowski 1989)

Interdiction

Despite recent observations about the cocaine supply, experience and history have shown us that efforts to control the supply of illicit drugs into the United States have not been able to sustain the diminished availability, price, or purity of those drugs. (Inciardi 1986; Sciolino and Engelberg 1988; Thurow 1988; Kleiman 1989; Falco 1989, 1990; Goldstein 1990; Reuter 1990) Instead, these efforts appear to have resulted in more violence, more potent products, and better organized traffickers.

In the case of marijuana, Kleiman has argued that a policy that effectively reduced the supply of foreign product led not only to an expansion of the domestic supply, but also to a more potent product and more violence. (1989) In his book on marijuana, he demonstrates how and why marijuana enforcement "acts as a protective tariff" (1989, p. 73) encouraging "domestic commercial production [which] tends to be quite violence-intensive." (1989, p. 119)

Reuter has suggested that attempts to prevent cocaine from coming into the United States likewise may have had unintended consequences. (1990) Noting that no one "claims now that interdiction can control the amount of drugs physically able to reach this nation," he argues that interdiction is supposed to indirectly influence cocaine consumption by causing its price to increase. (Reuter 1990, p. 17) However, his own research has demonstrated that as interdiction efforts have been intensified, the price of cocaine has declined. (1990 p. 20) He hypothesizes that the interdiction efforts have eliminated "novice" smugglers from the business, leaving only experienced smugglers who can better control risk and can serve the entire market at a lower cost. (1990, p. 21) He writes, "Experienced smugglers can benefit from interdiction, since it catches the potential competition; their profits will rise without a corresponding increase in risk. If there is a cartel of experienced smugglers, with an interest in trying to set prices for cocaine smuggling, then its prospects may certainly be enhanced by intense interdiction, the disproportionate weight of which falls on the newcomers." (1990, p. 21)

Drug Enforcement and Drug-Related Violence

Most important to the drug war strategy is the emphasis on enforcement. Ironically, given current drug market conditions, the enforcement effort may be promoting more viblence.

Drug-related violence is largely a derivative of drug market instability. Recent research has shown that the greatest proportion of drug-related violence is the product of battles between drug traffickers over territorial and financial claims. (Goldstein 1989; Brownstein et al. 1989; Goldstein et al. 1989, 1990) Smaller numbers of people become involved in violence because of drug ingestion and very few innocent bystanders are the victims of violence. (Brownstein et al. 1989; Goldstein et al. 1989, 1990)

Crack markets have been especially prone to drug-related violence. (Goldstein et al. 1989; Spunt et al. 1989; Ryan et al. 1989; Mieczkowski 1990; Belenko 1990) Crack is relatively inexpensive, has a high addiction potential, and is easy to manufacture and distribute; the crack market is unregulated, has high volume sales, and high profit margins. (Inciardi 1987; Massing 1989; Falco 1989; Belenko 1990) This situation tends to attract young, inexperienced entrepreneurs, freelance dealers who can set up a profitable business with as little as one or two grams of cocaine. (cf., Spunt et al. 1989; Mieczkowski 1990) According to one study, "[The crack dealer] is commonly a young opportunist, not `connected' to high level dealers and who, because he is not likely a part of an established organization, is less likely to be subject to the subcultural social controls evident in heroin distribution systems." (Spunt et al. 1989, p. 15)

By removing crack dealers from an area, law enforcement efforts effectively disrupt an already unstable and violence-prone market. Inexperienced, young entrepreneurs with no links to any stabilizing organizational structure naturally begin to compete for the newly opened and highly lucrative market. Given that most drug-related violence is related to conflicts over market share, violence is likely to increase as these new dealers compete for control of territories left unserved and unprotected as a result of successful enforcement activity.

Drug Enforcement and Disharmony

The war analogy naturally divides people into "good guys" (those who are not involved with illicit drugs) and "bad guys" (those who are involved with illicit drugs). (cf., Duster 1970; Smith 1988; Lapham 1989; Weisheit 1990; Jonas 1990) In this sense, the war on drugs contributes to disharmony between groups of people in society; for example, by class or race.

It has been suggested that the war on drugs has "in effect become a war on black people." (Harris 1990, p. A-1; also, Meddis 1989; Mahoney 1990) According to one report, "law officers and judges say, while it is clear that whites sell most of the nation's cocaine and account for 80 percent of its consumers, it is blacks and other minorities who continue to fill up America's courtrooms and jails, largely because, in a political climate that demands something be done, they are the easiest to arrest." (Harris 1990, p. A-1) These conclusions are supported by anecdotal evidence collected during studies of drugs and crime in New York State. As reported by more than one police official, middle-class white drug users and traffickers tend to operate within closed, often intimate trafficking networks that are difficult to infiltrate using traditional policing methods.

Drug Enforcement and Public Health

By emphasizing enforcement and interdiction over treatment and prevention, (ONDCP 1989, 1990; Senate Judiciary Committee 1990) the federal strategy has failed to provide sufficient treatment for all who need it. (Falco 1989) In her analysis of the war on drugs, Malthea Falco, former assistant secretary of state for international narcotics affairs, argues that the "spread of AIDS by intravenous drug users" was hastened by the "lack of treatment opportunities" for drug users and abusers. (1989, p. 33)

Criminalization, Corruption and Respect for Government

It has been estimated that, "All told, 1987 expenditures on all aspects of drug enforcement, from drug eradication in foreign countries to imprisonment of drug users and dealers in the United States, probably totaled at least $8 billion." (Nadelmann 1988, p. 99) But the greater cost may be in the criminalization of large numbers of otherwise law-abiding citizens, the opportunities for corruption of public officials, and the loss of respect for government and law engendered by the war effort. (Shenon 1988; Smith 1988; Nadelmann 1988) As Nadelmann wrote, "Other costs are equally great but somewhat harder to evaluate: the government corruption that inevitably attends enforcement of the drug laws; the effects of labeling the tens of millions who use drugs illicitly as criminals, subjecting them to the risks of criminal sanction and obligating many of those same people to enter into relationships with drug dealers — who may be criminals in many more senses of the word — to purchase drugs; the cynicism that such laws generate toward other laws and the law in general; and the sense of hostility and suspicion that many otherwise law-abiding individuals feel toward law enforcement officials." (1988, p. 99-100)

Shifting the Focus: Demilitarization

Proponents of the war on drugs effectively have closed the debate on drugs in our society. Consistent with the rhetoric of war, anything other than a militaristic, enforcement-based strategy is viewed as "surrender." (Bennett 1989; Will 1989; The New York Times 1989) This is most apparent when the issue of the legalization of drugs is raised. William Bennett, director of the federal drug policy, has been quoted as saying that "legalization just doesn't make sense." (Combined Wire Services 1989) He also has been quoted as calling advocates of legalization "superficial," "disingenuous," "morally atrocious," and "stupid." (Buckley 1989b)

Open and honest discussion of topics like the legalization of drugs raises important questions and encourages debate about their answers. (e.g., Genensway 1989; Williams 1989) Such debate helps us to focus attention on the issues and concerns relevant to understanding and addressing our problems of drug use, abuse, and trafficking and leads to informed, responsible policy. (Farr 1990; Brownstein and Goldstein in press)

By repressing debate, we remain ignorant of the range of strategies available to us and the different ways in which each might be productive in helping us to deal with our drug-related problems. It locks us into accepting the assumptions and ignoring the weaknesses of a particular strategy. For example, underlying the legalization argument is the assumption that war is not an appropriate response to our problems with drugs. Advocates of legalization have suggested alternative approaches to dealing with drugs and the social and personal problems associated with their use and distribution, approaches that emphasize prevention, education, job training, housing, health care, drug treatment, and even tolerance. (e.g., Galiber 1989; Nadelmann 1989; Associated Press 1989; King 1990) Judge Robert W. Sweet, the first sitting federal judge to publicly support legalization, said, "What we. ought to do is try to get at the source of this problem, which is poverty and disillusion, and turn it around." (Morganthau 1989, p. 46)

Given that the war on drugs is having at best limited success, is based on false assumptions, and appears to be counterproductive, ending the war is not equivalent to surrender. Rather, it is responsible policymaking. Increasingly, social scientists and public policymakers are joining what has been called a "peace movement" (Trebach 1989; Reinarman and Levine 1990) advocating essentially a demilitarization of the war on drugs.

In terms of the drug-related problems faced by our society, demilitarization means an end to the war on drug users and drug traffickers. Programmatically, it means a shift of focus from the militaristic emphasis on enforcement and interdiction to a more humane emphasis on things like prevention, education, health care, treatment, jobs, and housing. (cf., Schur 1962; Inciardi 1974; Joint Committee on New York Drug Law 1977; Trebach 1982, 1989; Zwisohn 1986; Erickson et al. 1987; Smith 1988; Lapham 1989; Curtis 1989; Inciardi and McBride 1989; Reinarman and Levine 1989) The war on drugs is largely a back door approach to dealing with drug-related problems. By allocating most of its resources to removing from social participation people who have already used or trafficked in drugs, it is responsive to problems after they have already happened. A demilitarized approach moves policy to the front door, addressing the social conditions that precipitate the problems. It shifts the focus from a war on people to serving the needs of people.

Demilitarization: Toward an Alternative Strategy

Any strategy for dealing with personal and social problems associated with drug use or trafficking needs to be informed by an open debate over relevant issues and questions. Because of the narrow and longstanding focus in the United States of the war on drugs, such a debate has yet to take place. Numerous questions need to be raised and discussed before satisfactory programs and policies can be established. For example:

Do we really have a drug problem, several different drug problems, or no problem at all? If so, what is the nature of that problem?

Should we encourage or discourage drug use and trade, or simply tolerate it?

If we do decide to discourage drug use, how do we decide when use becomes abuse or misuse and what programs do we need to assure that drug use is discouraged in an effective and just manner?

If we do decide to encourage or tolerate drug use, what programs do we need to assure that people do not abuse or misuse drugs and that people who develop health or other personal problems associated with drug use can receive help?

If drugs were to be legalized, what drugs do we make legal? Do we reconsider the ones that are now legal? What about drugs currently available by prescription? For whom and under what conditions should drugs be available? What controls, if any, need to be imposed? To what extent should manufacturers and distributors of legalized drugs be allowed to advertise them?

What programs do we need to promote economic and social conditions under which drug abuse and trafficking in illicit drugs are not so desirable an option for so many people?

Until questions like these are raised and discussed in an atmosphere of tolerance for different and even unusual viewpoints, no adequate, workable policies or programs can be established. Proponents of the current strategy need to recognize and acknowledge the weaknesses of their position and be prepared to consider new ideas, just as they argue for what they believe to be its strengths. Opponents of the current strategy need to pose alternative strategies that build on their knowledge of the weaknesses of the current strategy and recognize any strengths.

While there are many questions that remain to be addressed, we do know that the current militaristic drug strategy is ineffective, ill-founded, and counterproductive. From the debate to date, raised largely by the growing number of proponents of peace, we also know that there is a need for a more humane strategy that recognizes what Wisotsky calls "the human capacity for responsible choice and self-control in the matter of drugs and consciousness." (1986, p. 197) The following are proposed as components of a context for debate about the development of a drug strategy that recognizes these capacities in human beings.

1. Establish a knowledge base and environment in which people can make informed, responsible choices about drugs

In addition to our recognition of the problems associated with drugs, we have long agreed as a society that under certain conditions certain drugs have medicinal value. There are also those among us who argue that using drugs is "a natural part of our biology" and that we "must begin by recognizing that there is a legitimate place in our society for intoxication." (Siegel 1990, p. B-8)

Before we can develop policies about what to do about drugs and their use and trade, we need to establish an empirically-based foundation of knowledge about different drugs and their appropriate uses and potential risks. Using that knowledge, we need to develop programs through our families, schools, and religious and community institutions that will educate and inform people about different drugs, when and how they can be used safely, and when and how they pose varying degrees of risk to the user and to others. That is, we need to create an environment in which people can make informed, responsible choices about drug use.

For people to be able to make choices, we need also at this early stage to commit resources to programs that provide people with opportunities — educational, occupational, residential — to live productive lives. That is, we need to begin to shift resources currently used to support the war on drugs to social programs that provide housing, schooling, and jobs to people whose lives might otherwise be lacking in hope and dignity. If people have to worry about where they are going to sleep, or whether they might have anything to eat, or how they will clothe their children, choices related to personal intoxication cannot be made in a free and responsible manner.

2. Establish a safety net for people who suffer the harm of drug abuse or misuse

The interesting thing about drug users and traffickers is that they are not badly socialized or alienated from mainstream cultural values. As Philippe Bourgois noted, "On the contrary, ambitious, energetic, inner city youths are attracted to the underground economy precisely because they believe in the rags-to-riches American dream. ... In fact, they follow the traditional model for upward mobility: aggressively setting themselves up as private entrepreneurs." (1989a, p. 65; also, 1989b) Given legitimate and realistic opportunities to be productive, most people do pursue a lawful course of action.

Still, whatever successes we might have in the first phase, there are people who will not be availed of such opportunities and there are others who will suffer consequences from abuse or misuse of drugs in spite of them. We need to develop programs and practices to support these people so that they do not harm themselves or others.

Certainly, and perhaps most important at this stage, we need to devote resources to health care programs for people who suffer health problems as a result of or related to drug use, abuse, or misuse. (cf., Jonas 1990) We also need to emphasize treatment, developing new modalities as new drugs are introduced to the market (licit or illicit) and expanding programs known to work for more traditional drug dependencies.

3. Establish a climate of tolerance

Throughout the development of any responsible, informed, workable drug strategy, there will certainly be an ongoing debate as ideas are posed, programs tried and tested, and questions raised and addressed. Tolerance for such an exchange of ideas and a willingness to try new programs is necessary.

Out of such debate, we are likely to reconsider the status of drugs that are currently legal and drugs that are currently not legal. Legalization would need to proceed with caution, since mistakes are not easily rectified. (cf., Kleiman 1989) But once we have established an empirically-based foundation of knowledge, programs that encourage equal social opportunity for all people, and programs that provide for the needs of people who suffer from problems related to drug use or abuse, we should gradually begin to introduce new drugs into the legal market as appropriate in terms of what we know and what we are prepared to deal with.

At this stage, we would need to replace criminal laws about drug use and distribution with regulations that encourage responsible and informed use, distribution, importation, and manufacture of drugs. Regulations should be based on knowledge of the conditions under which drugs are used safely and those under which drugs are a threat to the well-being of the user or others. Such regulations need also to consider that individuals are informed about drugs and able to make intelligent, responsible choices on their own.

According to Wisotsky, "If we are ever to make any progress, we must emancipate ourselves from the 'axiomatic truths,' the crippling attitudes, that keep us locked in the present impasses. We must create a new context." (1986, p.188) A new context becomes the basis for developing a new strategy. The above is written to raise questions, not to provide answers. It is offered as a context within which to discuss and debate demilitarized, humane alternative drug strategies.

Henry H. Brownstein, Ph.D., is with the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.

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Our valuable member Henry Brownstein has been with us since Monday, 20 February 2012.

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