Pubdate: Fri, 14 Dec 2001
Source: Foster's Daily Democrat (NH)
Copyright: 2001 Geo. J. Foster Co.
Author: Robert Sharpe, M.P.A.


Efforts in Nashua to end rave dance parties will not protect children from 

Ecstasy is the latest illegal drug to be making headlines, but it won't be 
the last until politicians acknowledge the drug war's inherent failure. 
Drug policies modeled after America's disastrous experiment with alcohol 
prohibition have given rise to a youth- oriented black market. Illegal drug 
dealers do not ID for age, but they do push trendy, profitable "club drugs" 
like ecstasy, regardless of the dangers posed.

In Europe, the Netherlands has successfully reduced overall drug use by 
replacing marijuana prohibition with regulation. Dutch rates of drug use 
are significantly lower than U.S. rates in every category. Separating the 
hard and soft drug markets and establishing enforceable age controls for 
marijuana has proven more effective than zero tolerance.

There is a big difference between condoning marijuana use and protecting 
children from drugs. Decriminalization acknowledges the social reality of 
marijuana use and frees users from the stigma of life-shattering criminal 
records. What's really needed is a regulated market with enforceable age 
controls. Right now kids have an easier time buying pot than beer.

More disturbing is the manner in which marijuana's black market status 
exposes users to sellers of hard drugs. Marijuana may be relatively 
harmless compared to legal alcohol - the plant has never been shown to 
cause an overdose death - but marijuana prohibition is deadly. As long as 
marijuana distribution remains in the hands of organized crime, consumers 
will continue to come into contact with drugs like cocaine. Taxing and 
regulating marijuana is a cost-effective alternative to the failed drug war.

Robert Sharpe, M.P.A.

Program Officer, The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation

Washington, D.C.
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