Pubdate: Wed, 11 Dec 2002
Source: Poughkeepsie Journal (NY)
Copyright: 2002 Poughkeepsie Journal
Author: Robert Sharpe


That parents are concerned about drug use at Red Hook High School is good 
news. The importance of parental involvement in reducing adolescent drug 
use cannot be overstated.

As for Red Hook's proposed "Drug Task Force," it's important to avoid 
emphasizing zero tolerance at the expense of common sense. School-based 
zero tolerance policies pose a greater threat to today's youth than drugs. 
According to our Monitoring the Future survey, more than half of all high 
school seniors have tried an illicit drug. Denying a majority of the 
nation's youth an education is not in America's best interest.

Most teenagers outgrow their youthful indiscretions involving drugs. An 
arrest and criminal record, on the other hand, can be life-shattering.

After admitting to smoking pot (but not inhaling), former President Clinton 
opened himself up to "soft on drugs" criticism. And thousands of Americans 
have paid the price: More Americans served time during the Clinton 
administration than any other. As an admitted former drinker and alleged 
illicit drug user, President Bush is also politically vulnerable when it 
comes to drugs.

While youthful indiscretions didn't stop Clinton or Bush from assuming 
leadership positions, an arrest surely would have. The short-term health 
effects of politically incorrect drugs like marijuana are inconsequential 
compared to the long-term effects of criminal records. Drug abuse is bad, 
but the zero tolerance drug war is worse.

Robert Sharpe, Program Officer

Drug Policy Alliance, Washington, D.C.
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