Pubdate: Wed, 30 May 2001
Source: Riverfront Times (MO)
Copyright: 2001 New Times, Inc.


Ray Hartmann  "The Media Go to Pot" [RFT, May 16] chastises the media for 
not reporting the complete story behind the recent Supreme Court decision 
on medical marijuana. In asking if marijuana can treat the side-effects of 
bad journalism, Hartmann touches upon the root cause of America's marijuana 
laws. If health outcomes determined drug laws instead of cultural norms, 
marijuana would be legal.

Alcohol poisoning kills thousands annually. Tobacco is one of the most 
addictive substances known to man. Marijuana is not physically addictive 
and has never been shown to cause an overdose death.

The first marijuana laws were a racist reaction to Mexican laborers' taking 
jobs from whites during the early 1900s, passed in large part due to 
newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst's yellow journalism. White 
Americans did not even begin to smoke marijuana until a soon-to-be 
entrenched government bureaucracy began funding reefer-madness propaganda. 
These days, marijuana is confused with '60s counterculture by those who 
would like to turn the clock back to the '50s.

This intergenerational culture war does far more harm than marijuana. 
Illegal marijuana provides the black-market contacts that introduce users 
to hard drugs like meth. This "gateway" is the direct result of a 
fundamentally flawed policy. 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 have proven more effective than zero tolerance. 
Drug-policy reform may send the wrong message to children, but I like to 
think the children themselves are more important than the message. 
Opportunistic "tough on drugs" politicians would no doubt disagree.

Robert Sharpe
Program Officer
Lindesmith Center
Drug Policy Foundation
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