Pubdate: Wed, 2 May 2001
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 2001 Houston Chronicle
Author: Thom Marshall


We should be careful what we tell teen-agers.

Speak out against the nation's failed drug war policies and you can expect 
to hear that comment from people who fear that kids can't handle the truth 
or could misapply the facts.

One particularly angry man told me we must be careful what information we 
make available to teen-agers after I had passed along some information from 
one of the scientific community's leading pharmacologists, G. Alan Robison. 
Robison, who also is a founder of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, once 
tested marijuana for toxicity by feeding it to rats to determine what 
amount would prove fatal.

What Robison discovered was that marijuana doesn't kill rats. Booze kills 
them. Tobacco kills them. Marijuana doesn't kill them.

The angry man did not dispute the scientific finding, but he contended that 
if we tell kids such a thing, they will view it as an endorsement of doing 
drugs, take it and run with it to the nearest street-corner dealer.

I told the fellow that he and I actually agree on a very basic point. We 
both hate to see any kids using any mind-altering substances. We both 
believe in making an effort to convince kids to leave drugs alone. But when 
the discussion progresses to how that can best be accomplished, we go in 
opposite directions.

Kids know more than we think He thinks that telling kids the whole truth 
about drugs won't work. And I, like a rapidly growing number of Americans, 
am convinced that the government's practice of dispensing misinformation 
and partial truths through the years has failed miserably.

Actually, if the angry man were to check into it, he would find teen-agers 
who already have a deeper understanding of society's drug problems than do 
many adults.

Nick Peraino, for example, is a student reporter for The Oracle, the 
newspaper of Stratford High School in the Spring Branch Independent School 
District. Because of his newspaper editorial titled "Stop the Madness," 
Peraino has been named recipient of the Peter McWilliams Award to be 
presented Sunday by the Drug Policy Forum of Texas at the 2001 Cannabis 

"The drug war has been a sorry failure," Peraino wrote in the editorial. 
"We've squandered billions of dollars on a fight we are far from winning. 
The drug war has had brutal consequences on minority and inner-city 
neighborhoods and grossly overcrowded America's prisons. In fact, the 
country has become a virtual police state while citizens conform to `tough' 
drug laws."

Peraino, 18, is a senior and in the top 15 percent of his class with plans 
to go to the University of Texas. He said his knowledge and opinions of 
drug war matters developed over the past couple of years.

"I started reading about some of the victims of the drug war," he told me, 
"and about the massive incarcerations."

He also learned from the experiences of a couple of friends who were 
arrested on marijuana charges. (He said his own background includes no such 
encounter with the justice system.)

Rallying against drug laws He wrote his editorial in support of a couple of 
bills in Austin, one that would allow use for medical necessity as a 
defense in marijuana possession cases, and one that would reduce punishment 
for possession of less than 2 ounces of marijuana so that no one would face 
jail time for a first-time offense.

"Marijuana has proven medical benefits for glaucoma, anxiety, AIDS patients 
and various other ailments," Peraino wrote, "and it is substantially less 
toxic than alternative medicinal drugs."

Peter McWilliams, for whom the award is named, was an author who died in 
California last year of complications from AIDS. The government would not 
allow him to use marijuana to combat his symptoms, and the Drug Enforcement 
Administration arrested him and two friends who were conducting studies on 
marijuana's use as a medicine.

The 2001 Cannabis Odyssey, on the banks of Buffalo Bayou, is part of the 
annual Westheimer Street Festival and it is being held in conjunction with 
dozens of other rallies and marches calling for the end of marijuana 
prohibition in cities throughout the world.
- ---
MAP posted-by: GD