In his June 29 op-ed "Don't Legalize Those Drugs," drug czar Barry McCaffrey claims that addictive drugs were criminalized because they are harmful, not the other way around. This argument hardly holds up against the large body of scientific research showing that neither are all addictive drugs illegal nor are all illegal drugs per se addictive. Indeed, there is no sound scientific basis for considering alcohol, nicotine and numerous psychiatric medicines to be less harmful, addictive or violence-inducing than "illicit" drugs.

It must be added that the evidence shows that prohibitionist drug policies are unsuitable instruments for curbing drug use or destructive behavior and in fact aggravate health problems of drug users. Contrary to McCaffrey's claims, the long history of drug prohibition shows that criminalization itself tends to provoke more health and crime problems than it can possibly solve.

-- Aleksandar Perovic

Barry McCaffrey's plea to maintain his little bureaucratic fiefdom lumps together heroin, cocaine, LSD, methamphetamine and marijuana as "psychoactive drugs" and then speaks of their "harms" as if all of those drugs are equally harmful. While use of "hard" drugs can lead to devastating consequences, listing marijuana among those drugs is absurd. By any conceivable objective measure, marijuana is less harmful than alcohol: It is not physically addictive, it carries zero risk of overdose, it impairs users less than alcohol, and it doesn't tend to bring out the violent side of users. The greatest testament to marijuana's harmlessness is the huge number of people (more than 70 million in the United States alone) who have used it with no ill effects.

-- Shane Ham

Barry McCaffrey is making a big assumption when he says that "drug legalization" is "condoning drugs." He fails to recognize the possibilities that can be explored for "managing drugs" that would replace the failed "drug prohibition" he claims is the only way to handle addictive drugs.

As to the "question of risk" to society, wouldn't society benefit if we stopped the violence produced by illegal-drug lords who now benefit greatly from "uncontrolled prohibited" drugs?

-- Arthur Livermore

To paraphrase Barry McCaffrey, "We are not involved in a drug war, and if we are, we are winning!" I'm sure this is a comfort to American parents, whose children have purer and cheaper drugs available to them than at any time in the history of this country. The general would like to portray anyone who disagrees with his interdiction-incarceration approach to the nation's drug problem as an evil legalizer who wants to put crack vending machines in preschools.

The time for demagoguery on this issue has passed. We need a demand-side, treatment-oriented solution to America's drug problem.

-- Tony Goins