Pubdate: Wed, 27 Feb 2002
Source: Manhattan Mercury, The (KS)
Copyright: 2002 The Manhattan Mercury
Author: Robert Sharpe
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


To the Editor:

So Manhattan High School is turning to drug-sniffing dogs to prevent 
students from making unhealthy choices. It will be interesting to see how 
parents react when their kids are introduced to America's zero-tolerance 
criminal justice system. Most teen-agers outgrow their youthful 
indiscretions, some even going so far as to become president of the United 
States. A criminal conviction and record, on the other hand, can be life 

After admitting to smoking pot (but not inhaling), President Clinton opened 
himself up to "soft on drugs" criticism. And thousands of Americans have 
paid the price in the form of shattered lives. More Americans went to 
prison or jail during the Clinton Administration than during any previous 
administration. Nearly 60 percent of those sentenced to federal prison 
under Clinton are there for drug offenses.

As an admitted former problem drinker, President George W. Bush is also 
politically vulnerable when it comes to drugs. While youthful indiscretions 
obviously did not stop Clinton or Bush from assuming leadership positions, 
a drug arrest surely would have. The health effects of marijuana are 
inconsequential compared to the long-term effects of criminal records.

The steady rise in police searches on public transit, drug-sniffing dogs in 
schools and the drug testing of bodily fluids in America has led to a 
significant loss of privacy while failing miserably at preventing drug use. 
Based on findings that criminal records do more harm than marijuana, a 
majority of European Union countries have decriminalized soft drugs like 
pot. Despite harsh penalties and perhaps because of forbidden-fruit appeal, 
lifetime use of marijuana is higher in the United States than in any 
European country.

The war on some drugs threatens the integrity of a country founded on the 
concept of limited government. The Bill of Rights is increasingly 
irrelevant, thanks to drug war exemptions. It's simply not possible to wage 
a moralistic war against consensual vices unless privacy is eliminated, 
along with the U.S. Constitution. America can either be a free country or a 
"drug-free" country, but not both.

Robert Sharpe, Program Officer

Drug Policy Alliance

Washington, D.C.
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