Pubdate: Wed, 17 Jul 2002
Source: Herald-Dispatch, The (WV)
Copyright: 2002 The Herald-Dispatch
Author: Robert Sharpe


Increasing penalties are not the remedy to the methamphetamine problem. If 
tough penalties served to deter drug use, this country would have achieved 
the impossible goal of a "drug-free" America years ago. Thanks to the war 
on some drugs, America now has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

West Virginia's hazardous meth labs are reminiscent of the deadly exploding 
liquor stills that sprang up throughout the nation during alcohol 
prohibition. Drug policies modeled after alcohol prohibition have given 
rise to a youth-oriented black market. Illegal drug dealers don't ID for 
age, but they do recruit minors immune to adult sentences.

In Europe, the Netherlands has 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.

In the United States, marijuana provides the black market contacts that 
introduce consumers to drugs like meth. This "gateway" is the direct result 
of a fundamentally flawed policy. Drug policy reform may send the wrong 
message to children, but I like to think the children are more important 
than the message.

Robert Sharpe

Drug Policy Alliance

Washington, D.C.
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