Casualties of the war on drugs

WNYC's On the Media is doing some of the best journalism out there - even though their beat is ostensibly limited to the media itself. The program's strength - other than a no-bullshit approach that doesn't give the time of day to flatulent spin or shameless distortion of fact - is to use the the American media's coverage of an issue as a flawed lens through which we might get a better view, if we can correct the distortion in the glass.

This program on the so-called war on drugs starts off by debunking a list of popular media tropes. It's interesting stuff, but it was part 2 that really got my attention, starting around 14:18. It's about how drug abuse was once seen primarily as a medical issue, and that when it was recast as a criminal matter, enforcement was usually done for the benefit of some people and the detriment of others.

It wasn't until I listened to this program that I really questioned why drug use is considered a legal issue at all, and not exclusively a medical matter. Certainly, there are aspects of drug policy that are best handled by enforcement, but at the level of the individual, why does addiction lead to a jail cell more often than treatment? One of the experts interviewed in the show points out that we would not ask a doctor to run a police precinct, yet law enforcement specialists routinely determine the fate of people addicted to powerful drugs.