Pubdate: Wed, 17 Apr 2002
Source: Harvard Crimson (MA Edu)
Copyright: 2002, The Harvard Crimson, Inc.
Author: Kevin A. Sabet
Note: Kevin A. Sabet is a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University where he is 
studying for a Ph.D. in drug policy issues. He is a former speech writer 
for former Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey.
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


Letter To The Editors

To the editors:

I'm not sure what the Harvard Crimson editorial staff has been smoking, but 
its recent piece in favor of marijuana legalization reflects by-gone 
science and druggie-drivel hardly worth so much space in a prestigious 
college paper (Editorial, "Decriminalize Marijuana," April 12).

Playing into the hands of billionaire pro-legalization forces like George 
Soros, the Staff wrongly gives the impression that a quarter of a million 
harmless pot smokers were arrested and locked up in jail. In fact, that 
number represents many different contexts: people who plead down from 
trafficking to possession; people with other more serious crimes which they 
have been arrested for, in addition to marijuana use; or those who are 
cited for smoking pot in a public place and are fined about $100, as with a 
parking ticket. As the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency reported, only 7,000 
people are in federal and state jails combined where marijuana possession 
was their most serious offense. Our criminal justice system is not focused 
at all on pot smokers; indeed, 12 states have decriminalized marijuana 
since 1978. That isn't to say our current policy is perfect, but it is this 
precise drug strategy that has led to a reduction, since 20 years ago, in 
regular drug users by almost half, a drop by adolescents of two- thirds and 
a cocaine rate plummeting more than 75 percent. I guess those statistics 
were too inconvenient to put in an article which sounds straight like it 
would come straight out of the mouths of Cheech and Chong.

How inconvenient too was it to simply describe the Dutch pot experience yet 
forget to report the consequences: a 200 percent rise in adolescent 
marijuana use since the commercialization and legalization of the drug in 
that country and a transformation of the Netherlands to the 
ecstasy-producing capital of the world.

Even President Jimmy Carter, whom you quote from 25 years ago, is now 
anti-marijuana. The 1972 commission report you cite is completely out of 
date since it relies on the scientific knowledge known only up to that 
date-no wonder only long-time drug legalization advocates seem to still 
mention it. It would be like touting cocaine as a safe drug now because in 
1900 there was no scientific evidence yet to show its harms. In fact, 
marijuana use has now been shown to adversely affect those regions involved 
in coordinating and regulating body movements (including contributing to 
car crashes, second only to alcohol alone); those involved in learning, 
memory and stress response; those that integrate the cognitive functions; 
and the reward center of the brain. Moreover, one marijuana cigarette is 
akin to four tobacco cigarettes in terms of the amount of tar, five tobacco 
cigarettes in terms of the amount of carbon monoxide intake and ten tobacco 
cigarettes with respect to the amount of damage to the airways. It is no 
wonder that half of teens and adolescents in substance abuse treatment are 
there for marijuana only. The current scientific consensus is that 
marijuana is not a benign drug. Solid social and scientific research 
provides the basis for maintaining our current laws-even if they are as 
soft as parking tickets-so as to not make marijuana commercially available.

Kevin A. Sabet

Oxford, England

April 14, 2002
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