Pubdate: Thu, 01 Aug 2002
Source: Mirror (CN QU)
Copyright: 2002 Communications Gratte-Ciel Ltee
Author: Robert Sharpe


Justice Minister Martin Cauchon is to be commended for making the case for 
marijuana decriminalization ["Quebec's happy stoners," July 18]. Jailing 
citizens who prefer marijuana to martinis is not a good use of tax dollars.

There is no evidence that punitive marijuana laws do anything other than 
burden otherwise law-abiding Canadians with criminal records. Consider the 
experience of the United States, the former land of the free and current 
record holder in citizens incarcerated.

Based on findings that criminal records are inappropriate as health 
interventions and ineffective as deterrents, a majority of European Union 
countries have decriminalized marijuana. Despite draconian penalties and 
perhaps because of forbidden fruit appeal, lifetime use of marijuana is 
higher in the U.S. than any European country.

The latest drug war fiasco to come out of the U.S. is "compassionate 
coercion." This expansion of zero tolerance does not distinguish between 
occasional use and chronic abuse. Jail sentences and open-ended drug 
testing will be applied exclusively to consumers of non-traditional drugs 
like marijuana. Alcoholics and nicotine addicts need not worry about 
President George W. Bush's legendary "compassion."

Marijuana prohibition is not based on health outcomes, but rather cultural 
norms. Unlike alcohol, marijuana has never been shown to cause an overdose 
death, nor does it share the addictive properties of tobacco. Simply put, 
marijuana represents the counterculture to misguided reactionaries intent 
on legislating their version of morality. Canada should follow the lead of 
Europe and Just Say No to the American Inquisition.

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

- -Robert Sharpe, M.P.A., Program Officer, Drug Policy Alliance, Washington, DC
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