More casualties in the war on drugs

Friday July 13, 2012

Every day we hear of atrocities committed in Mexico related to the illegal drug trade.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans are locked up behind bars for nothing more than possessing an illegal drug.

College students have lost federal aid because they toked on a joint.

Substance abusers can’t get the help they need to kick their habits because more than a trillion dollars has been spent on prohibition since Pres. Nixon declared the war on drugs.

Now add a few more causalities to the list: Those who have been seriously injured or killed by synthetic marijuana, which can cause elevated body temperature and blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, seizures, suicidal ideation, paranoia, hallucinations, psychotic episodes, organ failure and death.

Synthetic marijuana is available on the web and in stores around the country where it’s sold as ... OK, don’t laugh ... incense, spice or potpourri.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System reported 2,906 calls related to synthetic marijuana products in 2010.

In 2011, that number increased to 6,959 and in the first four months of this year, 2,289 calls have already been received.

What’s been the government’s response to this growing epidemic? Make a law banning synthetic marijuana and other synthetic drugs. And dozens of states and local governments have already tried to outlaw fake marijuana.

Unfortunately, the bans haven’t accomplished much.

"Anybody with a working knowledge of chemistry, or that can follow a simple set of directions, can obtain and mix these substances and create these compounds," James Burns, a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, told NPR.

To get around the laws, the nefarious geniuses designing synthetic drugs just tweak the molecular signature of the compounds they are creating.

Let’s face it. The war on drugs has been an expensive, abject failure.

As Danny Kushlick of the Guardian said "The war on drugs has brought only casualties. The illegal trade is booming and drugs are cheaper and more available than ever. There are other ways to deal with this."

Though his policy indicates otherwise, during a recent meeting of the Organization of American States, Obama said "I think it is entirely legitimate to have a conversation about whether the laws in place are ones that are doing more harm than good in certain places."

Obama has also said that talking about legalization should be part of that conversation, but his actions speak louder than words. Witness the crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries around the country.

We have maintained in previous editorials that the majority of the problems associated with illegal drugs is not due to the drug itself, but to the fact that they are illegal. Yes, there are many substances that are harmful to health, but the damages caused by illegal drugs can’t compare to those caused by alcohol, tobacco and prescription drugs used for other-than-prescribed uses.

We standby our belief that all drugs should be legalized, strictly controlled, taxed and limited to those 21 and older.

We also believe that the money spent on the war on drugs and incarcerating people for non-violent drug offenses would be better spent on treatment for these who seek it.

The war on drugs has been waged for the past 50 years. It’s had its chance. It’s time to try something different.


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