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Front-Page Feature in Philadelphia Daily News Terms Drug War a 'Bust'


June 1993

America's war on drugs is a failure, according to a major feature in the Philadelphia Daily News (Shaun Mullen, "Drug War A Bust," Philadelphia Daily News, 5/5/93, p. 1). A brief subsequent story looked at the problem in miniature, reaching the same conclusions (Don Russell, "Why War On Drugs Was A Bust," Philadelphia Daily News, 5/7/93, p. 5).

The cover feature explains in detail why "America's war on drugs is seen as a $67 billion bust." It explains that the flow of drugs continues unabated, overall demand is unquenched, and that 70 percent of antidrug funding goes to law enforcement despite evidence that treatment is far more cost-effective.

In a boxed sidebar, the feature offers proposals for reform, including starting to see drugs as a public-health problem rather than a crime problem, establishing drug courts designed to place nonviolent offenders in treatment, increasing research on drug abuse causation, and legalization. The most space is devoted to the legalization option, with a discussion of how proponents span the political and ideological spectrum.

They cite the proposal of Judge James Gray of California, who "proposes that drugs be sold without prescriptions to adults at licensed neighborhood pharmacies at prices lower than they are sold illegally. The drugs, which would be wrapped generically and tested for quality, would be sold with warning labels and educational pamphlets. Taxes on them would fund drug education and treatment programs."

Pointing to the Netherlands, the feature quotes Dutch drug policy adviser Mario Lap. "We try not to make people into criminals. But what'll it take to convince the other countries about the high cost of repression? Especially America. I'd never want to raise my kids in America, with those morality crazies. They probably think we're all perverts. I think they are all perverts."