Op-Ed: Another voice – U.S., Mexico must stay focused on drug war

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 12/7/2008

President-elect Barack Obama’s new national security team has no end of challenges before it, but here’s one that’s both very close to home and very easy to overlook: the war on drugs.

The war is expensive for us — the federal and state governments spend about $50 billion a year combating drug abuse and incarcerating dealers and users — but it is becoming increasingly deadly for our neighbors. In the past year, some 4,000 Mexican citizens have died in drug-related killings, most of them in battles for control of drug shipments to the United States.

Perhaps Obama’s national security team finally will rethink three decades of drug war futility. The focus must be on reducing demand, which means treating drug users instead of locking them up for years, and making drug treatment programs available to everyone who asks.

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