Pubdate: Fri, 03 Mar 2000
Date: 03/03/2000
Source: Texas Observer (TX)
Author: Jerry Epstein
Authors: Jerry Epstein
Note: Jerry Epstein is President of Drug Policy Forum of Texas

Many will question James Garcia's superb article on the hypocrisy of
the drug war on the mistaken assumption that a huge pharmacological
gulf exists between legal and illegal drugs.  In fact, the drug war
pursues a logic roughly equivalent to trying to solve traffic problems
by making all cars but Fords illegal.  The French medical research
institute, ISERM, in consultation with experts from around the world,
rated drugs by their danger in 1998 at government request.  They
established three groups: "most dangerous"-heroin, alcohol, and
cocaine; "next most dangerous"-tobacco, amphetamines, and others;
"least dangerous"-cannabis (marijuana), since it has "low toxicity,
little addictive power and poses only a minor threat to social
behavior," and others.

The French health minister then asked the key question: "Why does
society persecute those with some kinds of addiction, while calmly
putting up with others that are far more widespread, dangerous, and
expensive?"  Nor is this news to researchers such as Dr. John
O'Donnell, chief of research for the National Institute of Mental
Health, who wrote in 1969: "...the addict whose drugs came from a
stable source was no great problem to the community....  He became a
serious problem only if he engaged in illegal activities to obtain
narcotics.  The alcoholic was more visible and his arrests more
frequent."  Or, from a slightly different perspective, the National
Association of Public Health Policy, 1999: "It is clear that most
persons who take illicit drugs are experimental or socio-recreational
users. ... The typical drug user is scarcely distinguishable from the
typical citizen. ... This government advocates a policy which treats
all illicit use as abuse.  This is a major cause for the failure of
the drug war and prohibitionist policies in general."

Truth has become the casualty of propaganda and the avoidance of open
debate with independent experts.  Thank you for the effort to
introduce reason and science into the discussion of one of the most
disastrous social policies in our nations history.

Jerry Epstein, President Drug Policy Forum of Texas, Houston