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News Opinion Readers Respond

The drug war doesn't fight crime, it fuels it

Retired state police captain Leigh Maddox is absolutely right about Gov. Martin O'Malley's misplaced emphasis on law enforcement ("O'Malley is wrong: More arrests mean more crime," Oct. 7).

When it comes to drugs, an increase in arrests could actually increase crime. Attempts to limit supply while drug demand remains constant only increase the profitability of trafficking. For addictive drugs like heroin, a spike in street prices leads desperate addicts to increase their criminal activity to feed desperate habits. The drug war doesn't fight crime, it fuels it.

When alcohol prohibition was repealed, liquor bootleggers no longer gunned each other down in drive-by shootings, nor did consumers go blind drinking unregulated bathtub gin.

While U.S. politicians ignore the drug war's historical precedent, European countries are embracing harm reduction, a public health alternative based on the principle that both drug abuse and prohibition have the potential to cause harm.

Examples of harm reduction include needle exchange programs to stop the spread of HIV, marijuana regulation aimed at separating the hard and soft drug markets, and treatment alternatives that do not require incarceration as a prerequisite.

Unfortunately, fear of appearing "soft on crime" compels many U.S. politicians to support a failed drug war that ultimately subsidizes organized crime.

Robert Sharpe, Washington

The writer is a policy analyst at Common Sense for Drug Policy.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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