It alters perceptions and skews the ability to tell right from wrong. Ultimately, it results in a dysfunctional society. But it's not a drug. It's the War on Drugs.

Certainly there's little appetite in Congress for a major de-escalation of the Drug War. The Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Delaware) actually attacked Bush's drug war, from the right. In a strident report released late last year and titled, "The President's Drug Strategy: Has It Worked?" the Biden committee argues: no, but only because President Bush hasn't spent enough money on law enforcement, hasn't been tough enough on those addicted to drugs, hasn't given enough power and money to the military to shift its mission to fighting illegal drugs. In 194 pages, the report never once uses the words "racism," "AIDS," "poverty," "tobacco," or "civil liberties." As much as Republicans, Democrats like their drug-war rhetoric served hot.

"There is no drug exception to the Constitution," Justices Thurgood Marshall and William Brennan wrote in 1989. But both, of course, are gone from the court.

Dan Baum is a freelance writer living in Missoula, Montana; he's currently at work on a book about the hidden agendas of the War on Drugs. This article, in slightly different form, also appeared in the March issue of the American Bar Association Journal.

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