The Chicago Tribune | 12/12/2009 12:00:00 AM
U.S. May Take New Look at `War on Drugs'
Dec 11--If you had asked me 10 years ago whether the United States will ever change its interdiction-focused counternarcotics policies -- and perhaps even decriminalize marijuana consumption at home -- I would have told you, ``never.'' Today, I say, ``perhaps.'', 110896
The bill now goes to the Senate, where supporters say it has a good chance to pass, given its bipartisan support in the House. The 10-member panel, modeled after the 9/11 Commission that made recommendations to Congress and the White House after the 2001 terrorist attacks, would have to issue its report in 12 months.
REASON FOR CHANGE
What's interesting about the planned independent drug policy commission is that the idea didn't come from a pro-legalization advocate, nor any leftist or libertarian crusader. The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), opposes decriminalization of drugs for non-medical use, and is as mainstream as members of Congress come.
But Engel's frustration over the results of the U.S. war on drugs is symptomatic of Washington's growing skepticism about U.S. anti-drug policies these days.
Since 1980, the United States has spent nearly $14 billion trying to stop drug-smuggling from Latin America, the bill says. While U.S. drug consumption has declined significantly as a percentage of the population, there are still 25.7 million users of marijuana, 5.3 million users of cocaine and 453,000 users of heroin. Meanwhile, U.S. law enforcement and prison systems are overwhelmed by prosecutions on drug-consumption charges.
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