Pubdate: Wed, 24 Apr 2002
Source: Recorder, The (NY)
Copyright: 2002 The Recorder
Author: Robert Sharpe
Note: The writer is a program officer for the Drug Policy Alliance.


To the editor,

Sheryl McCarthy did an excellent job highlighting the absurdity of the 
Higher Education Act's denial of student loans to youth convicted of drug 
offenses in her column (The Recorder, April 22). Instead of empowering 
at-risk students with a college degree, HEA limits career opportunities and 
increases the likelihood that those affected will resort to crime. Speaking 
of crime, convicted rapists and murders are still eligible for federal loans.

Most teen-agers 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), 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 past administration.

As an admitted former drinker and alleged illicit drug user, President 
George W. Bush is also politically vulnerable. While youthful indiscretions 
didn't stop Clinton or Bush from assuming leadership positions, an arrest 
surely would have.

The short-term health effects of marijuana are inconsequential compared to 
the long-term effects of criminal records.

Like any drug, marijuana can be harmful if abused, but arrests are hardly 
appropriate health interventions for non-traditional drugs. Unlike alcohol, 
marijuana has never been shown to cause an overdose death, nor does it 
share the addictive properties of tobacco. Unfortunately, marijuana 
represents the counterculture to misguided reactionaries intent on imposing 
their version of morality. This country cannot afford to continue 
subsidizing the prejudices of culture warriors.

Robert Sharpe,

Washington, D.C.

The writer is a program officer for the Drug Policy Alliance.
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