Pubdate: Thu, 14 Sep 2000
Source: Bisbee Observer (AZ)
Copyright: 2000 by Laura Swan
Contact:  7 Bisbee Rd., Suite L, Bisbee, AZ 85603
Fax: (520) 432-4192
Author: Robert Sharpe


Ellis Heckman's excellent Sept. 7 column [in The Bisbee Observer] noted that far more Americans are killed by alcohol and tobacco than illegal drugs. The hypocrisy of America's drug policy is all the more glaring when you consider that the most popular illicit drug, marijuana, has never been shown to cause an overdose death.

This is fairly common knowledge and leads to widespread disrespect for the law. While the federal government continues to arrest and incarcerate pot smokers, including medical marijuana patients, America is on the verge of electing a former marijuana smoker as president. Vice President Al Gore is an acknowledged ex-pot smoker. George W Bush's waffling all but confirms a past history of illegal drug use. Yet both mainstream candidates implicitly support the incarceration of Americans who engage in the same youthful indiscretions they once did. This "tough on drugs" posturing puts American children at risk.

Marijuana is often demonized as a gateway drug leading to crack and heroin use. However, it is our misguided drug policy that provides the gateway. Liquor store clerks don't offer customers free samples of crack when they buy alcohol. They also ID for age, something unheard of on the black market.

Regulation is desperately needed to restrict access to drugs. Legalizing marijuana for adults would undermine the volatile black market and make it significantly harder for kids to purchase drugs. This harm reduction shift may send the "wrong message" to children, but I like to think that the children themselves are more important than the message. Then again, I'm not a hypocritical politician dependent on drug hysteria for reelection.

ROBERT SHARPE, Students for Sensible Drug Policy (, George Washington University 
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