Pubdate: Mon, 28 May 2001
Source: Times Union (NY)
Section: Main, Pg A6, Letters to Editor
Copyright: 2001 Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation
Author: Robert Sharpe, Program Officer, The Lindesmith Center, Washington, DC


Regarding your thoughtful May 19 editorial on the Supreme Court ruling 
against medical marijuana, Congress does indeed need to show leadership on 
the issue, which 70 percent of Americans support.

Not only should medical marijuana be made available, but marijuana 
prohibition itself should be subjected to a cost-benefit analysis. The 
health effects of marijuana are inconsequential compared to the 
life-shattering effects of the punitive criminal justice system.

Unfortunately, a review of marijuana legislation would open up a Pandora's 
box most politicians would just as soon avoid. America's marijuana laws are 
based on culture and xenophobia, not science.

The first marijuana laws were enacted in response to Mexican migration 
during the early 1900s. Essentially a disenfranchisement tool, they were 
passed during an ugly time in American history when racial profiling was 

White Americans did not even begin to smoke marijuana until a 
soon-to-be-entrenched government bureaucracy began funding "reefer madness" 
propaganda. Dire warnings that marijuana inspires homicidal rages and 
insanity have been counterproductive at best. Roughly 38 percent of 
Americans have now smoked pot.

The reefer madness myths have long been discredited, forcing the drug war 
gravy train to spend millions of tax dollars on politicized research, 
trying to find harm in a relatively harmless plant. Meanwhile, research 
that might demonstrate the medical efficacy of marijuana is blocked.

The direct experience of millions of Americans contradicts the 
sensationalistic myths used to justify marijuana prohibition. Illegal drug 
use is the only public health problem wherein key stakeholders are not only 
ignored, but actively persecuted and incarcerated. In terms of the recent 
Supreme Court ruling, those stakeholders happen to be cancer and AIDS patients.
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