When the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government declared hallucinogenic bath salts to be an illegal substance, there was some hope that it would curb the supply and abuse of the dangerous crystals.
Apparently, as far as users are concerned, it simply increased the street price. It now costs upwards of $100 to turn your brain into oatmeal.
However, it had another effect as well.
While bath salts users could once buy the substance with impunity from convenience stores, now they have to get it from a neighborhood dealer, and both seller and buyer run the risk of jail time.
There are those who believe that, since we apparently are not winning the war on drugs, we should just give up. Presidential candidate Ron Paul, for instance, responded thus in a recent interview:
Q: "All drugs should be decriminalized. Drugs should be distributed by any adult to other adults. There should be no controls on production, supply or purchase for adults." Is that still your position?
A: "Yeah. It's sort of like alcohol. Alcohol's a deadly drug, kills more people than anything else. And today the absurdity on this war on drugs has just been horrible."
We disagree, at least in part.
Mr. Paul seems to believe that the only victims of drug abuse are the abusers themselves. Society as a whole pays a significant price for drug abuse. This community pays a significant price for drug abuse.
However, he is correct about one thing, the War on Drugs falls short of its goal because it is simply a war on drug abusers and dealers. It fails in the final important step -treatment of drug addiction and abuse, treatment that is lasting. Recidivism is failure. Without an effective followup segment to interdiction and incarceration, this war will never be won or even fought to a stalemate. Think of that final step as an exit strategy, and, as we have learned too many times, any war without an exit strategy is never really won.
If considered like other wars, the War on Drugs is the longest and costliest in our nation's history. It needs to be rethought but not abandoned. The price of failure is too high.