Pubdate: Thu, 14 Jun 2001
Source: Abbotsford News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2001 Hacker Press Ltd.
Author: Robert Sharpe


Editor, The News

In his excellent News column on the ongoing marijuana debate, Hubert Beyer
acknowledges an ugly truth that rarely makes it into print: North 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 1900's. As noted by Beyer, an Edmonton woman writing under
the pen name Janey Canuck first warned Canadians about the dreaded
marijuana and its association with non-white immigrants.

The sensationalist yellow journalism of William Randolph Hearst led to its
criminalization in the United States. White North 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. 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 North Americans
contradicts the sensationalistic myths used to justify marijuana prohibition.

Illegal drug use is the only public health issue wherein key stakeholders
are not just ignored, but actively persecuted and incarcerated. Spineless
politicians are to blame. Fear of appearing "soft on drugs" compels
so-called leaders to ignore the science base and perpetuate a policy based
on fear and ignorance.

With the level of debate in Canada light years ahead of its neighbor to the
south, I'm optimistic that Canadians will show leadership on the issue.

Few politicians in the United States would dare admit to the true
relationship between drug laws and crime, despite the historical precedent.

Alcohol, of course, was very much associated with organized crime and
violence in the U.S. prior to the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. Along with
entrenched public institutions who use the drug war as justification for
bloated budgets, the Hell's Angels have a vested interest in maintaining
outdated marijuana laws.

Organized crime is financially dependent on the black market profits
created by marijuana prohibition. With an easily grown weed worth its
weight in gold, it should come as no surprise that Canadians are growing
marijuana for export to the U.S.

Robert Sharpe, M.P.A.

Program Officer

The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation

Washington, D.C.
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