A COMMITMENT TO spend at least $25 million in Baltimore over the next five years to help dispel societal problems that lead to drug abuse should be hailed in every corner of the city. It may not be, though, because the money will come from a foundation set up by philanthropist George Soros, whom some fear wants to decriminalize all drug use.
Mr. Soros has in the past given large sums of money to the Drug Policy Foundation. DPF has been linked to the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws, a group that has spent more than 30 years lobbying for the repeal of statutes that make marijuana illegal.
But what Mr. Soros says he plans for Baltimore and, later, other cities, doesn't include pushing for legislation allowing controlled substances to be legally purchased by anyone who wants them. With the opening in September of a Baltimore branch office of his Open Society Institute, he would address local problems that lead to drug abuse by funding social-service programs that help addicts and by promoting economic development that produces jobs.
Mr. Soros says the Baltimore institute will focus on education, job creation and drug treatment. It would be good to see it work with existing institutions such as the public school system and the police department. Perhaps it can bring into clearer focus what Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and others who support the "medicalization" of the drug problem would like to see happen here. More drug treatment slots is only part of the equation needed.
The Open Society Institute will join Catholic Relief Services, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the International Youth Foundation, Lutheran World Relief and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service as major national nonprofits that have in recent years decided to make Baltimore their home. The city welcomes such agencies as it continues to try to turn itself into a mecca that beckons charitable groups.
The Open Society Institute can have a big impact on Baltimore's quality of life while addressing a nationwide problem. Until the country addresses the roots of drug addiction, it will strive in vain to kick its narcotics habit. The selection of Baltimore for the development of a sensible multi-pronged approach to fight drug abuse is a positive step for the city.
Pub Date: 8/05/97