Pubdate: Fri, 20 Oct 2000
Source: Collegiate Times (VA)
Copyright: 2000 Collegiate Times
Contact:  (540)231-5057
Address: 363 Squires Student Center, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0546
Author: Mark Harrison, Colville, Wash.
Cited: The November Coalition -


The author of "Drug Laws Necessary and Logical" (CT, Sept. 29), writes,
"Marijuana should not be legalized because, as assault weapons are banned
for good reason,  marijuana, likewise, is banned because it is far too

In all due respect, this logic doesn't even qualify as a stretch of the
imagination, particularly since it's prohibition that brings many assault
weapons to the streets in the first place, and it is prohibition that will
keep them there. People do not smoke marijuana and then commit violent
crimes as a result of the pacifying effects. Rather, killing, violence, turf
wars, adolescent abuse and robbery are a result of prohibition, not

Fortunately for students who read the CT, there is a history department at
the university. America's failed experiment with alcohol prohibition from
1919 to 1933 teaches valuable lessons. Fourteen years of bloody bootleg
violence did not stop drinkers from obtaining alcohol. 

Today, prohibition's violence is compounded because millions of guns are now
circulating in the United States, crime syndicates are far more
sophisticated and the annual $600 billion global black market ensures drugs
will continue to flow freely -- no matter how many police officers, federal
agents and black helicopters in Colombia are deployed. 

Prohibition didn't work in the 1920s, and it won't work in this millennium. 

Marijuana has been legal in this country longer than it has been illegal,
and people from cultures around the world have been concocting psychoactive
drugs -- from coffee to heroin -- from indigenous plants since recorded

Marijuana is a fast-growing weed that can easily be cultivated as a
houseplant or as covert complement to a vegetable garden. Drug warriors may
as well try to eradicate dandelions. 

The sooner we face the facts that some people will always use marijuana
either medically or recreationally, the sooner we can stop the violence and
death perpetuated by prohibition. The drug war "cure" is far worse than the
"disease." The sensible solution, then, is one that causes the least amount
of harm to society and can easily be accomplished by removing illegal money
from the equation. 

The author further states that it's a "dangerous and erroneous belief" to
conclude marijuana is not as harmful as tobacco and alcohol. He says the
"well-documented" dangers of marijuana include "dizziness, bloodshot eyes
and trouble judging distances and colors" -- symptoms certainly not as
dangerous as an assault rifle wound, and not unlike those of

Yet, according to the U.S. Bureau of Mortality Statistics, 400,000 lose
their lives each year from the use of tobacco, 100,000 from alcohol and
absolutely no deaths attributed to health hazards of marijuana. Zero. 

The legal drugs the author hails "go through rigorous testing (by the Food
and Drug Administration) to ensure usefulness and no harmful side effects"
do, in fact, account for 20,000 deaths annually -- a harmful side effect, to
be sure. Following the columnist's line of reasoning, one might conclude
that aspirin, responsible for 500 deaths annually, is more dangerous than

The author criticizes drug policy reform organizations, and, specifically,
the November Coalition for sympathizing with the families -- 1.5 million
estranged spouses and children -- who are also casualties of the drug war. 

The November Coalition advocates proven and effective alternatives for
dealing with non-violent drug offenders, such as treatment, prevention and
education as a first course, rather than lengthy prison terms -- often
longer than for murder and rape -- costing $9 billion annually while failing
totally to address the essence of the drug problem. 

The author rationalizes that as serial killer Ted Bundy was prosecuted for
"butchering young women," non-violent drug offenders should also be
prosecuted as criminals. 

The writer obviously believes that alcohol prohibition should be reinstated,
that people of color should ride in the back of the bus and that women
should not be allowed to smoke tobacco nor own real estate. 

Many of the crimes of yesteryear are no longer crimes today because people
- -- even women -- voted for reform. 

Should police officers be asked to put their lives on the line because
consenting adults smoke marijuana? I don't think so, the November Coalition
doesn't think so and many cops -- those who aren't drug gangsters themselves
- -- don't think so. 

The drug war is more damaging to individuals, law enforcement and society as
a whole than is marijuana use. We must remember that laws are enacted to
protect citizens, not to harm them. 

Mark Harrison, Colville, Wash.
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