Media Awareness Project



DrugSense FOCUS Alert #258 Tue, 17 Dec 2002

Below we are requesting you write Letters to the Editor to Canadian newspapers to help present the actual views of the public outside on the question of decriminalizing cannabis. Dr. Joycelyn Elders in the following OPED best described the situation:

Pubdate: Sat, 14 Dec 2002
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2002, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Dr. Joycelyn Elders
Note: Dr. Joycelyn Elders was U.S. surgeon-general from 1993 to 1994. She
currently is distinguished professor of public health at the University of
Arkansas School of Medicine in Little Rock.


On Dec. 12, the House of Commons special committee on the non-medical use of drugs released a report calling for the decriminalization of marijuana, and Justice Minister Martin Cauchon has said he plans to put forth a decriminalization bill early in 2003.

It is a safe bet that the U.S. government reaction will be hostile, just as it always seems to be when people talk about reconsidering marijuana laws.

Canadians should understand that on drug policy, the U.S. government is increasingly out of step with Americans. Canadians should use their own good sense, make their own judgments, and disregard U.S. bullying, as most of our drug laws were made on a racist foundation instead of science.

In September, when the Canadian Senate special committee on illegal drugs issued a report that recommended replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of regulation, the official U.S. reaction was swift and blunt. John Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (commonly termed the Drug Czar) was quoted on both sides of the border expressing his dismay. He even hinted at a border crackdown that could strangle trade between our nations.

U.S. drug-policy leaders should spend more time talking with knowledgeable Canadians such as Senate committee chairman Pierre Claude Nolin to learn why they have reached such dramatically different conclusions from the U.S. drug warriors. If they did, they might learn that much of their rhetoric about marijuana being a "gateway drug" is simply wrong. After decades of looking, scientists still have no evidence that marijuana causes people to use harder drugs. If there is any true "gateway drug," it's tobacco.

And tobacco, through its direct physical effects, kills many thousands of people every year. So does alcohol. And it is easy to fatally overdose on alcohol, just as you can fatally overdose on prescription drugs, or even over-the-counter drugs, such as aspirin or acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol).

I don't believe that anyone has ever died from a marijuana overdose.

This is not to say that marijuana is harmless. It's not, and there are good reasons not to use it -- especially for young people.

But from a public-health perspective, there is a solid case to be made that arresting marijuana users, giving them criminal records and disrupting careers and families does more harm to more people than the drug itself does.

Why do U.S. officials such as Mr. Walters so adamantly resist even having this discussion? The answer lies in the numbers. We have a massive antidrug bureaucracy that is largely fuelled by our war on marijuana: Nearly half of all drug arrests in the United States are for marijuana-related charges, and 89 per cent of those are for simple possession. Take away those arrests and massive antidrug budgets are much harder to justify.

But if our officials start making threats again, Canadians should remember that those officials don't represent the views of the American public. A Nov. 4 Time magazine poll found that 72 per cent of Americans don't believe marijuana users should go to jail. Eighty per cent believe seriously ill people should be able to use marijuana for medical purposes, despite our government's rigid opposition to that humane and sensible idea.

If Canada needs guidance, it can look toward Europe, where many governments have moved toward enlightened policies, and others are conducting serious, thoughtful examinations of their marijuana laws. If we are lucky, Canada will set an example that the United States will eventually follow.

The above OPED contains facts you can add to your own to help drive home your point in letters to as many Canadian newspapers as possible to let Canadians know that the views of our Drug Czar are not the views of either science or the public in the United States.


Thanks for your effort and support.

It's not what others do it's what YOU do


Please post a copy of your letter or report your action to the sent letter list () if you are subscribed, or by E-mailing a copy directly to if you are not subscribed. Your letter will then be forwarded to the list so others can learn from your efforts and be motivated to follow suit.

This is _Very_ Important as it is one very effective way of gauging our impact and effectiveness.

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Since the House of Commons special committee report recommendations on cannabis were announced MAP has archived over 100 news items related to the announcement. Most of these items are worthy targets for your Letter to the Editor efforts. To review these potential targets please click this link:

This will provide a list of the headlines, with the most recent printed first. A few of the items will be Letters to the Editor, and a few not related to the announcement. But the majority are.

To obtain more details to help you select potential targets without before reading the actual article go to the bottom of the page where you will find the Power Search Drugnews webform. Simply use the Details dropdown to change the details to High and click the search button. The resulting pages (be sure to notice that you will be able to move through ten pages, of which the first six or seven will contain good targets) should help you select your targets. Then just go to the actual article to obtain the newspaper's Contact: line for sending off your letter.

IF you choose to write to more than one newspaper, and we hope you will, please consider modifying your letter at least a little for each one. And email each letter to each newspaper by itself. This will increase your chances of publication.

Please remember that even if your letters are not selected for publication, they still have an impact on the newspaper's editors as they note reader interest which results in increased coverage of our issues.


(Please note: If you choose to use this letter as a model please modify it at least somewhat so that the paper does not receive numerous copies of the same letter and so that the original author receives credit for his/her work.)

To the editor of ??? Newspaper in Canada:

Noting the criticism by the United States Drug Czar towards Canada's proposed reforms in marijuana policies, I find it interesting that any Canadian leaders are giving John Walters' opinion serious attention.

Over the past 20 years as the U.S. federal government has escalated the War on Drugs, I notice they didn't check first to see what Ottawa thought.

When we decided to increase drug arrests in our country to the point where we became the planet's largest jailer, no one in Washington sought out Canadian viewpoints. When John Walters formed a plan to deluge our media with his propaganda about pot smokers funding terrorists, I'm sure he didn't care one hoot what Canadians thought.

Why then are some of your leaders worried about whether or not Canada chooses to follow in lockstep the draconian drug policies endorsed by the United States? You are on the correct, common-sense track - a track already in place in several European countries as well as several U.S. and Australian states. Don't be knocked astray by U.S. government fueled hysteria about decriminalizing or even legalizing responsible adult marijuana use.

Respectfully submitted,

Stephen Heath

(Always include your address and phone number for newspaper verification. Most papers will not print your letter otherwise.)

ADDITIONAL INFO to help you in your letter writing efforts, Please See:

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Prepared by: Stephen Heath, Focus Alert Specialist, Florida Cannabis

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