Pubdate: Wed, 30 May 2001
Source: The News Guard (OR)
Copyright: 2001 The News Guard
Author: Robert Sharpe, M.P.A.
Bookmark: (cannabis clippings)


The writer of the May 23rd letter titled "Hard to Believe" lamented the 
damage caused by drugs and shared a personal story of a boy who got on 
drugs in high school. When it comes to protecting children the drug war 
fails miserably. Unlike legitimate businesses that sell alcohol, illegal 
drug dealers do not ID for age, but they do push addictive drugs like 
heroin when given the chance.

As the most popular illicit drug, marijuana provides the black market 
contacts that introduce users to harder drugs. This "gateway" is the direct 
result of a fundamentally flawed policy. Sensible regulation is desperately 
needed to undermine the thriving black market.

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 age controls for marijuana has 
proven more effective than zero tolerance.

If health outcomes determined U.S. drug laws instead of cultural norms 
marijuana would be legal. Whereas alcohol poisoning kills thousands 
annually, marijuana has never been shown to cause an overdose death. Given 
that marijuana is relatively harmless, it makes no sense to waste tax 
dollars on flawed policies that finance organized crime and facilitate the 
use of addictive drugs.

Closing the gateway to hard drugs and establishing strict age controls is 
critical. Politicians need to stop worrying about the message drug policy 
reform sends to children and start thinking about the children themselves. 
Taxing and regulating marijuana is a cost-effective alternative to spending 
tens of billions annually on a failed drug war.

Robert Sharpe, M.P.A.

The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation
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