Most people would agree that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are causing great stress on our country, whether or not they believe those wars are necessary. But there is another war that America is fighting that is not merely difficult but actually impossible to win — the War on Drugs.

The War on Drugs is now entering its 40th year in U.S. policy, making it our nation’s longest-running war. And though extravagant efforts have been made to eliminate the supply of certain drugs, we have not seen great reduction in their availability. Drug enforcement teams may occasionally catch a large supplier but another criminal entrepreneur always fills the position.

So what can we do when efforts to eliminate drugs appear futile? First, the war’s goal must be clarified. Is our goal to simply reduce drug use to an absolute minimum, even if that leads to increases in violence and crime?

All aspects considered, the goal should be to reduce overall harm to society, taking into account the harms caused by drug abuse and by enforcement of drug laws. I say “harms caused by enforcement” because many drug-related problems in our society are not a result of drug use itself but rather of the surrounding policies — namely, prohibition. Prohibition creates the black market that funds gangs and cartels. This has led to massive amounts of violence in the U.S. and other countries. In Mexico, the drug war is escalating, and prohibition-related deaths last year numbered in the thousands.

This violence happened during the prohibition of alcohol and it’s happening again with the prohibition of other drugs. So how is this current situation different? Unfortunately, the Drug War has been going on for so long in our society that people lack the imagination of a society where drugs are legal. This was not the case when alcohol prohibition was repealed. This is one of the main reasons people currently fear the legalization of drugs. It seems as though talking about drugs is also taboo, and this certainly hinders any productive discussion on how they should be treated in society.

Fortunately, the topic of legalization, particularly with regard to marijuana, is beginning to be discussed in a much more open and honest manner. As the executive director of the University’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapter, I couldn’t be happier. The drug policy reform movement is growing extraordinarily fast, and SSDP is experiencing outstanding development and growth. We now have over 150 chapters at universities across the U.S., with a network building in Canada, as well as parts of Europe and Africa. Our chapters often work on local initiatives and campaigns as well as organize educational events.

The SSDP chapter at the University is hosting the regional conference for all Midwestern chapters this Sunday. The event is open to the public and will be a great opportunity for education as well as networking. More information on the conference and registration is available at our website, ww.umdrugpolicy.org.

I would like to point out one last thing — I often get asked if the SSDP organizes Hash Bash. The answer is, simply, no. Actually, it’s more like, “No!” (for the hundredth time). Hash Bash is mainly a cultural event, and SSDP is strictly a political organization. Our concern is drug policy, not drug use. It’s important to understand that although marijuana smokers are a part of the drug policy reform movement, we are much more than that.

I would rather see people going to the Michigan Social Justice Conference on Saturday instead, which will actually include a workshop with SSDP. Making a difference and changing the world for the better gives me the best high there is. Attend the conference on Saturday or our Midwest SSDP Conference on Sunday, and you may just experience that yourself.

Chris Chiles is an LSA junior.

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