Pubdate: Mon, 26 Mar 2001
Source: Daily Gazette (NY)
Copyright: 2001 The Gazette Newspapers
Contact:  P.O. Box 1090, Schenectady, NY 12301-1090
Fax: (518) 395-3072
Author: Robert Sharpe
Note: The writer is program officer at The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy


Art Clayman's excellent March 18 column made the point that the war on
drugs is really a war on some drugs. Americans are taking more drugs
than ever, including blatantly recreational drugs like Viagra.

Clayman suggests that the decriminalization of softer drugs like
marijuana should be considered. The relative harmlessness of marijuana
is not the only reason to consider changing its legal status. Marijuana
prohibition is deadly.

As the most popular illicit drug, marijuana provides the black market
contacts that introduce users to hard drugs like heroin. This "gateway"
is the direct result of a fundamentally flawed policy. Given that
marijuana is arguably safer than legal alcohol, it makes no sense to
perpetuate policies that finance organized crime and facilitate the use
of hard drugs.

The United States could learn from the Dutch. 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 age controls for marijuana has proven more effective
than zero tolerance.

Unfortunately for Americans, our leaders are more prone to
counterproductive preaching than cost-effective pragmatism.

Robert Sharpe
Washington, D.C.
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