Drug Warriors on Steroids

 Wendy Kaminer

        One lesson of baseball’s latest doping scandal sure to be overlooked is the utter ineffectiveness of prohibition in curbing drug abuse.  Indeed, compelling evidence that “widespread” use of steroids and other performance enhancers has been undeterred by their illegality has persuaded Congress to pass more laws against them. Congress conducts the war on drugs like the Bush Administration conducting the war in Iraq; it simply and stubbornly stays the course that has led us to disaster.
        In the wake of the decades old war, the Drug Policy Alliance finds that “heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and other illicit drugs are cheaper, purer and easier to get than ever before.  Nearly half a million people are behind bars on drug charges - more than all of western Europe (with a bigger population) incarcerates for all offenses….Roughly 1.5 million people are arrested each year for drug law violations - 40% of them just for marijuana possession. People suffering from cancer, AIDS and other debilitating illnesses are regularly denied access to their medicine or even arrested and prosecuted for using medical marijuana. … The war on drugs has become a war on families, a war on public health and a war on our constitutional rights."
        Privately, many members of Congress will acknowledge the gross failures and injustices of Prohibition.  Publicly, they support and perpetuate it, out of fear of being labeled soft on crime if they oppose it.  So, not surprisingly there’s bi-partisan salivating over the chance to express outrage at the prevalence of illegal drugs in major league baseball:  The House is planning show hearings next month; in the Senate, New York Democrat Charles Schumer and Iowa Republican Charles Grassley have proposed legislation cracking down on mere possession as well as distribution of human growth hormone.   Baseball season is a few months off, but the games begin.

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