Like prohibition, the drug war has failed

Five officers were shot in Greenland. The much-beloved chief – just eight days from retirement – was killed. Hearts across New Hampshire suffer from this horrible tragedy.How many more families of police officers will suddenly find themselves in mourning?Michael Maloney is the 23rd person to die in U.S. drug law enforcement operations in 2012. Forty years, 40 million arrests. The drug war is not working. There is zero effect on the demand for drugs.When will we say “Enough!” to the counterproductive, gut-wrenching drug war? We need a new approach.It’s been so massive that, until it strikes our own towns, perhaps we can’t really see it. Now we can’t ignore it. The drug war is a giant web of failed policies so huge and is today such a part of America it’s hard to envision an alternative. But we must.Greenland is a great community in my old Senate district. Chief Maloney was a deeply dedicated public servant. His job was to protect the people of Greenland from harm, to keep the peace. Perhaps from this awful tragedy we’ll learn that focusing police on the drug war is distinctly different from focusing them on public safety.Many people were gunned down in the last failed prohibition. It’s understandable that many Americans wanted to ban alcohol: domestic violence, wasting of lives, etc. That prohibition also failed, causing massive, needless harm.That war failed to control booze. Where there is a demand, and money to be made, there will be a supply. Those principles are constant.The pure law enforcement approach doesn’t work. One arrest means another dealer steps up in an endless stream of entrepreneurs willing to take the risks for the enormous potential profits created by prohibition. Eliminating those profits would destroy the drug cartels with one swift blow and wipe out their awful power.The message to kids? Drug and alcohol abuse is a sickness that can be treated; addicts are to be pitied. From prescription drugs to heroin, drugs can waste lives. But most of the dangers to society are from prohibition. Out of control addicts do stupid, desperate things to get their illegal fix. Let’s get them under control instead.Look at tobacco. It too causes great harm. Would it make sense to turn those addicts into criminals by making it illegal? No, we do what we can to effectively reduce harm. And it’s working.Law Enforcement Against Prohibition are guys who have been on the front lines of the war on drugs. They have seen and felt the horrors. From their website: “We believe that by eliminating prohibition of all drugs for adults and establishing appropriate regulation and standards for distribution and use, law enforcement could focus more on crimes of violence making our communities much safer. By placing drug abuse in the hands of medical professionals instead of the criminal justice system, we will reduce rates of addiction and overdose deaths.”Isn’t that what we want?This new local disaster requires us to begin a dialogue to bring an end to this national tragedy. We need something that works.As we honor the bravery and dedication of our newly fallen officers, it’s time to take them out of the bull’s eye and replace the horror and blood of this failed prohibition with treatment and control that may actually reduce demand and yield the results we deserve.State senator from 1990 to 2004, Burt Cohen hosts a radio show, “The Burt Cohen Show,” which can be heard on WSCA-FM and at

Categories: Opinion