COMMENTARY:

Where is the Outrage over Maryland's Absurd Drug Policies?

by J. Russell Tyldesley

The logical first step towards solving our drug problems is for the State to take over the recreational drug business and impose a user fee (not a tax) to support programs to treat drug addiction and promote abstinence.
Oct. 23, 2003-It is sad that the Governor's office's response to the results of a study commissioned by the Legislative Black Caucus, a study showing that blacks are disproportionately imprisoned for drug related offenses, is to agree, and propose a modest sum ($750,000) to fund more drug courts.

Where is the outrage? Are we too bored with this by now? Do we just continue to fight the "war" on drugs with the same failed battle plan?

I suppose if we had given the Governor legalized gambling in the form of slots, it would raise enough revenue ( not taxes ) to buy more drug treatment, after treating the gambling addiction it will engender. Society has already sanctioned many "user fees" (not taxes) for all sorts of worthy purposes.

A fee on cigarettes sales helps reimburse Medicaid for hospital costs associated with patients suffering from lung cancer, heart disease, and emphysema. It also purportedly funds programs to encourage young people not to smoke and start a lifelong addiction. Gasoline taxes fund road building so that we can build more roads, putting more cars and people on those roads, who will buy more gasoline. Extra fees (not taxes) on hotel stays helps build convention centers and more hotels so we can bring more people here to spend money and pay sales taxes (which are real taxes) raising more revenues for assorted purposes.

It therefore follows that the logical first step towards solving our drug problems (but probably not the race problem) is for the State to take over the recreational drug business (they could license private firms like they license liquor stores) and assure high quality ( through oversight like the FDA) and reasonable prices (taking the risk out of the distribution system) by imposing a user fee (not a tax) which could be recycled back into programs to treat drug addiction and promote abstinence. It's a perfect loop to be added to the whole loopy fabric of society's web of concern and indifference.


J. Russell Tyldesley, an insurance executive, writes from Catonsville, Md.


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This story was published on October 23, 2003.