Pubdate: Sat, 20 Oct 2001
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Page: A11, Commentary, Editorials, Letters, Edition: 2
Copyright: 2001 News World Communications, Inc.
Author: Keith Stroup And Paul Armentano
Note: Keith Stroup is the executive director of the National Organization
for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) in Washington. Paul Armentano is
NORML's senior policy analyst.
Cited: NORML
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


Republican Sens. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Jon Kyl of Arizona pose
the question: What would America look like if we integrated harm-reduction
strategies into U.S. drug policy? ("Don't forfeit war on drugs," Oct. 12.)
The truth is that we already have first-hand experience with a prominent
component of harm reduction - marijuana decriminalization - and it has been
overwhelmingly positive.

Decriminalization removes the consumer - the marijuana smoker - from the
criminal justice system, while maintaining criminal penalties against those
who sell or traffic large quantities of the drug. In 1972, President
Richard Nixon's National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse recommended
that Congress adopt this policy nationally in the United States.

Since 1973, 12 state legislatures - including Nevada this year - have
enacted versions of marijuana decriminalization. In each of these states,
marijuana smokers no longer face jail time for the possession or use of
minor amounts of marijuana, a position backed by a majority of the American
public according to nationwide polls. Oregon voters recently reaffirmed
their policy by a 2-1 margin in a statewide referendum.

Contrary to allegations made by Mr. Grassley and Mr. Kyl that those who
favor drug-law reform are hiding their agenda, we at the National
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) have always been
clear about our aim: to stop the arrest of responsible adult marijuana smokers.

Enforcing marijuana prohibition costs taxpayers an estimated $10 billion
annually arresting and prosecuting more than 700,000 individuals per year,
including patients who require marijuana as a medicine. This is a
tremendous waste of national and state criminal-justice resources, which
should be focused on combating serious and violent crime, including terrorism.

In addition, prohibition inappropriately invites government into areas of
citizens' private lives, and needlessly damages the lives and careers of
hundreds of thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens each year.

NORML urges the Senate Judiciary Committee to scrutinize drug czar nominee
John Walter's past record and question the emphasis he will place upon
marijuana-law enforcement in relation to more significant drug offenses.

After more than 60 years of a failed and destructive policy, it is time to
end marijuana prohibition.


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