Pubdate: Sun, 24 Mar 2002
Source: Chicago Sun-Times (IL)
Copyright: 2002 The Sun-Times Co.
Author: Robert Sharpe
Bookmark: (Treatment)
Bookmark: (Drug Courts)
Bookmark: (Incarceration)
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


Regarding "Wrong issue alarms Ashcroft" [Letters, Feb. 20]: Louis 
Silverstein is absolutely right about culture wars heating up.

In addition to spending tax dollars covering a classical Spirit of Justice 
statue that offends Attorney General John Ashcroft, the Bush administration 
is now pushing "compassionate coercion" for users of certain drugs. Coerced 
treatment does not distinguish between occasional use and chronic abuse.

Given that only users of politically incorrect drugs are threatened with 
jail, the nation's millions of marijuana smokers are the most likely target 
of Bush's "compassion." Like any drug, marijuana can be harmful if abused, 
but arrests and forced treatment are hardly appropriate health interventions.

Diet is the No. 1 determinant of health outcomes. Do we really want the 
government monitoring everything that goes into our bodies? And if it is 
the proper role of government to punish citizens for unhealthy choices, why 
target marijuana? Unlike alcohol, marijuana has never been shown to cause 
an overdose death, nor does it share the addictive properties of tobacco.

Unfortunately, marijuana continues to represent the counterculture of the 
1960s to reactionaries intent on legislating their version of morality. The 
United States now has the highest incarceration rate in the world, in large 
part because of the war on some drugs. This country cannot afford to 
continue subsidizing the prejudices of culture warriors to the tune of $50 
billion annually.

Robert Sharpe, program officer, Drug Policy Alliance, Washington, D.C.
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