Pubdate: Sun, 12 May 2002
Source: Plain Dealer, The (OH)
Copyright: 2002 The Plain Dealer
Author: David R. Burwasser, Joseph Zoretic, John M. Hartman, Robert Sharpe


The same old marijuana misrepresentations are served up by the new drug 
czar, John P. Walters, in The Plain Dealer's May 3 Forum section. To skim a 
few: Most medicinal marijuana wisdom is anecdotal, because for decades the 
federal government forbade research on its potential benefits while 
encouraging research on its supposed detriments.

There is not a single marijuana cancer patient to back up the claim that 
marijuana contains "hundreds of carcinogens." That statement is based 
solely on a contested theory of why tobacco smoke is carcinogenic.

The "link" between marijuana use and traffic accidents can be addressed 
like the same link involving alcohol: Focus on elimination of driving under 
the influence instead of trying to ban the substance.

The higher potency of today's marijuana means less is consumed for the same 
"high." The motive for breeding that potency is concealment of the same 
street value more compactly - i.e. wholly due to its contraband status.

And so forth . . .

Millions of Americans are ready for a rational, scientific conversation 
about marijuana. Only the government continues to sling the same old baloney.

David R. Burwasser


The Office of National Drug Control Policy is back on track, doing what it 
does best: Distorting the facts and trying to confuse the public about 
marijuana is its game, and drug czar John Walters is a seasoned professional.

In his Forum article, "Don't assume that marijuana is harmless," he points 
out that drug use among our nation's teens is at record levels, with 49 
percent of high school seniors having smoked marijuana. While this number 
may be accurate, his solution is to keep marijuana illegal so the price 
will remain high. So are we to believe that the artificially high price for 
pot is what is keeping the other 51 percent of high school seniors from 
smoking it? Does he consider this success?

Maybe the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, should be named the next 
drug czar, since he obviously is more experienced than Walters. I'm fairly 
certain he would be able to figure out why half of our children have smoked 
pot. He would most likely draw from his own experience and the experience 
of millions of Americans and come to the conclusion that kids smoke 
marijuana because they enjoy it, just like he did.

While I don't condone the use of marijuana by children, I understand the 
reasons why kids want to get high. It has nothing to do with price. 
Prohibition obviously hasn't had the effect of keeping pot so expensive 
that it is out of reach for high school students. It definitely hasn't 
decreased supply, and thanks to the fact that prohibition leaves the 
distribution to criminals, you can buy pot at practically every high school 
in the nation; drug dealers don't care about the age of their customers.

Maybe someday Walters can do an honest review of our nation's history with 
drug use and regulate it instead of trying to alarm everyone with so-called 
facts. We obviously are very experienced with marijuana - statistically, 
that is.

Joseph Zoretic


John Walters' Forum article is just more reefer madness for the 21st 
century. First he admits that government propaganda of the past was just 
that, propaganda. Then he continues with more propaganda, like the potency 
of marijuana being stronger than the marijuana of the past.

You can find the truth about the potency of today's marijuana from the 
University of Mississippi's Marijuana Potency Project. Every year, the 
University of Mississippi releases a report on the potency of marijuana 
that is collected from pot seized by the police from all over the United 
States. These reports continue to affirm that the potency of most marijuana 
in the United States is about 3.5 percent THC, which shows that today's 
marijuana on the black market is a little more potent than the pot tested 
in the 1970s, before regular testing was done by the government.

I will admit that from time to time some very good and potent marijuana, 
produced mostly by home growers for personal use, may end up in the mix 
tested by the University of Mississippi. But it seems to me that the only 
danger from this more potent marijuana is that government appointees like 
Walters will use it as a weapon to continue to wage war on responsible 
marijuana users.

John M. Hartman


Hartman is director of the Ohio Cannabis Society.

Drug czar John Walters is con fused if he thinks the principal argument for 
marijuana law reform is that the plant is harmful. Like any drug, marijuana 
can be harmful if abused. It is not the effects of marijuana that 
necessitate a change in laws, but rather the effects of marijuana prohibition.

There is a big difference between condoning marijuana use and protecting 
children from drugs. Decriminalization acknowledges the social reality of 
marijuana use and frees users from the stigma of life-shattering criminal 
records. What's really needed is a regulated market with enforceable age 
controls. Right now, kids have an easier time buying pot than beer.

Separating the hard and soft drug markets is critical. Marijuana may be 
relatively harmless compared to legal alcohol - the plant has never been 
shown to cause an overdose death - but marijuana prohibition is deadly. As 
long as marijuana distribution remains in the hands of organized crime, 
consumers will continue to come into contact with harder drugs like 
cocaine. Drug policy reform may send the wrong message to children, but I 
like to think the children themselves are more important than the message. 
Opportunistic, tough-on-drugs politicians would no doubt disagree.

Robert Sharpe

Washington, D.C.

Sharpe is a program officer for the Drug Policy Alliance
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