Pubdate: Fri, 23 May 2003
Source: LA Weekly (CA)
Copyright: 2003, L.A. Weekly Media, Inc.
Author: Robert Sharpe


Los Angeles' drug courts are definitely a step in the right direction ["High
on Justice," May 9--15]. For nonviolent offenders with chronic
substance-abuse problems, drug treatment is a cost-effective alternative to
incarceration. Unfortunately, drug courts are being misused for political
purposes. Record numbers of Americans arrested for marijuana possession have
been forced into treatment by the criminal-justice system. The resulting
distortion of treatment statistics is then used by drug czar John Walters to
make the claim that marijuana is "addictive.

Zero-tolerance drug laws do not distinguish between occasional use and
chronic abuse. The coercion of Americans who prefer marijuana to martinis
into taxpayer-funded treatment centers says a lot about U.S. government
priorities but absolutely nothing about the relative harms of marijuana. For
an objective take on marijuana, look to Canada. In the words of [Canadian]
Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, "Scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates
that cannabis is substantially less harmful than alcohol and should be
treated not as a criminal issue but as a social and public health issue.

Robert Sharpe
Drug Policy Alliance
Washington, D.C.
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