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Alfred R. Lindesmith | The Nation

Alfred R. Lindesmith

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Alfred R. Lindesmith

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This article presents the author's views on drug laws in the US. The most important and basic inconsistency of present law is represented by the conflict between the federal courts' doctrine that the addict is a diseased person and a proper subject of medical care, and the regulations issued by the US Treasury Department which deny doctors the right to treat them. The physician who today acts according to the clear implications of the doctrine of the federal courts takes the risk of being prosecuted for violation of the narcotic laws. It is interesting to observe that this situation was brought about historically by administrative regulation, and not by legislative action, court decision or the pressures of public opinion.

Both the 1951 and 1956 enactments, as well as the hearings and recommendations of the Congressional subcommittees which led to their passage, reflect conceptions of justice and penology which can only be adequately described as medieval and sadistic. One of the basic injustices of the narcotic laws in general, and of the recent laws in particular, is that the penalties fall mainly upon the victims of the traffic—the addicts—rather than upon the dope racketeers against whom they are designed.

The disastrous consequences of turning over to the police what is an essentially medical problem are steadily becoming more apparent' as narcotic arrests rise each year to new records and the habit continues to spread, especially among young people. Control by prohibition has failed, but the proposed remedies for this failure consist mainly of more of the same measures which have already proved futile.