It’s a Gray Area:

Our top 10 drug policy goals

October 13, 2009|By James P. Gray

Last weekend I spoke at a drug policy conference at the University of Texas at El Paso. It was put together in response to a resolution adopted last January by the El Paso City Council that urged the support of “an honest, open national debate on ending the prohibition on narcotics.”

This resolution was in turn adopted as a result of the enormous and continuing violence among warring drug cartels across the Rio Grande River from El Paso in Juárez, Mexico.

After my presentation it struck me that through all of these many years I have been speaking about this critical issue, I have never heard anyone who supports the status quo tell us what our goals actually are for our country’s drug policy.


So, with the understanding that we are all on the same side of this issue, namely we all want to reduce drug abuse and all of the harm and misery that accompanies it, I have made a list of the top 10 goals that I think we are trying to accomplish in this area, in order of importance. See if you agree. They are:

1. Reduce the exposure of drugs to and usage of drugs by children;

2. Stop or materially reduce the violence that accompanies the manufacture and distribution of drugs, especially to police officers and innocent by-standers;

3. Stop or materially reduce the corruption of public officials, individual people and companies, and especially children that accompanies the manufacture and distribution of drugs;

4. Stop or materially reduce crime both by people trying to get money to purchase drugs and by those under the influence of drugs;

5. Stop or materially reduce the flow of drugs into our country;

6. Reduce health risks to people who use drugs;

7. Maintain and reaffirm our civil liberties;

8. Reduce the number of people we must put into our jails and prisons;

9. Stop or materially reduce the flow of guns out of our country and into countries south of our border;

10. Increase respect for our laws and institutions.

You might want to replace one of these goals with another, or readjust the order, but I anticipate that most people would basically agree with those top 10 goals. Please give it some thought.

Now please give the subject some further thought, because I genuinely believe that treating the manufacture and sale of these drugs just like we treat alcohol — for adults — will actually accomplish each of those goals, and that pursuing our present policy of drug prohibition will never accomplish any of them.

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