Pubdate: Fri, 19 Jul 2002
Source: Times Record (ME)
Copyright: 2002 Times Record Inc., ASC Inc


To the editor:

I enjoyed reading Dave Treadwell's column (July 12, "Ten lashes with a wet 
noodle!") on the bizarre priorities of this country's criminal justice 
system: a slap on the wrist for corporate executives who steal millions; 
zero tolerance for marijuana smokers. Based on findings that criminal 
records are inappropriate as health interventions and ineffective as 
deterrents, a majority of European Union countries have decriminalized pot.

Despite marijuana prohibition and perhaps because of forbidden-fruit 
appeal, lifetime use of marijuana is higher in the United States than any 
European country. America is one of the few Western countries that uses its 
criminal justice system to punish citizens who prefer marijuana to 
martinis. Unlike alcohol, marijuana has never been shown to cause an 
overdose death, nor does it share the addictive properties of tobacco. The 
short-term health effects of marijuana are inconsequential compared to the 
long-term effects of criminal records.

Unfortunately, marijuana represents the counterculture to misguided 
reactionaries intent on forcibly imposing their version of morality. This 
country cannot afford to continue subsidizing the prejudices of culture 

The failed drug war threatens the integrity of a country founded on the 
concept of limited government. The United States now has the highest 
incarceration rate in the world, in large part due to the war on some 
drugs. At an average cost of $25,071 per inmate annually, maintaining the 
world's largest prison system can hardly be considered fiscally 
conservative. It's not possible to wage a moralistic war against consensual 
vices unless privacy is completely eliminated, along with the Constitution. 
America can either be a free country or a "drug-free" country, but not both.

The results of a comparative study of European and U.S. rates of drug use 
can be found at: www.monitoringthe

Robert Sharpe

Drug Policy Alliance
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