Pubdate: Fri, 21 Dec 2001
Source: Abbotsford Times (CN BC)
Copyright: 2001 The Abbotsford Times
Author: Robert Sharpe


The Editor:

Cale Cowan's excellent Dec. 11 column was right on target. Legalizing all 
drugs is indeed an extreme solution, but decriminalizing drug use would at 
least allow problem users to seek help without fear of criminal sanctions. 
Driving drug use underground discourages the type of honest discussion 
necessary to facilitate treatment. Would alcoholics seek help for their 
illness if doing so were tantamount to confessing to criminal activity?

Speaking of honest discussion, Cowan is absolutely right about marijuana 
being less harmful than tobacco or alcohol. Unlike alcohol, which kills 
thousands annually, marijuana is incapable of causing an overdose death. 
Not even aspirin can make the same claim. Likewise, pot does not share the 
addictive properties of tobacco or heroin. Like any drug, marijuana can be 
harmful if abused, but marijuana prohibition is far more dangerous than the 
plant itself.

When threatened, the entrenched interests riding the drug war gravy train 
predictably decry the "message" that drug policy reform sends to children. 
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.

Separating the hard and soft drug markets is especially critical. As long 
as marijuana distribution remains in the hands of organized crime, 
consumers will continue to come into contact with hard drugs like cocaine. 
Taxing and regulating marijuana is a cost-effective alternative to the 
failed drug war.

Drug policy reform may send the wrong message to children, but I like to 
think that the children themselves are more important than the message. 
Opportunistic politicians who depend on tough-on-drugs rhetoric to scare up 
votes would no doubt disagree.

Robert Sharpe, M.P.A.

Program Officer

The Lindesmith Center - Drug Policy Foundation

Washington, D.C. 
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