Pubdate: Fri, 29 Oct 2004
Source: Peninsula Clarion, The (Kenai, AK)
Copyright: 2004 The Peninsula Clarion
Author: Kelly L. Drew
Cited: Ballot Measure 2
Bookmark: (Alaska)


As a drug abuse researcher and a mom, I support Ballot Measure 2 -
to protect families from the destructive consequences of current
marijuana laws, to create better ways of keeping marijuana out of the
hands of kids, to make marijuana available for medicinal use and
because of a moral obligation to protect our right to privacy.

As a mother, I want my child to know the difference between marijuana
and hard drugs, and I believe Measure 2 makes this distinction. As an
Alaskan, I want to feel safe in the privacy of my own home as
guaranteed by our state constitution. Measure 2 reaffirms this right
and will stop police raids on family homes.

As a biomedical scientist, I am committed to making the most effective
medicines available to those who need it. Measure 2 will send a
message to our legislators that we want marijuana available for those
who need it for medical reasons.

Current laws do not keep marijuana away from our children. Evidence
from state and national surveys suggests that marijuana is easily
available to high school students. Teenagers in the Fairbanks North
Star Borough say it is easier to obtain marijuana than either beer or
cigarettes, which are legally regulated. Regulating marijuana use and
distribution for adults will eliminate the illicit market that
currently lets children have equal access.

In the Netherlands, where marijuana use by or distribution to adults
is legally regulated and completely separated from the hard drug
trade, half as many high school students report using marijuana as in
the United States. Rates of hard drug use are far lower as well.

Our marijuana laws put our children and adults in contact with dealers
of hard drugs and fail to distinguish risks associated with marijuana
from much greater risks posed by drugs such as cocaine,
methamphetamine, inhalants or ecstasy (MDMA). By taking marijuana out
of the hands of drug dealers, Measure 2 can reduce the use of hard
drugs in Alaska by allowing adults who use marijuana to obtain it from
regulated establishments instead of having to resort to the criminal

Current marijuana laws pose much greater risks than marijuana use. As
a scientist with 13 years experience in drug abuse research and 11
peer reviewed scientific publications in this area, I know that the
legal consequences of marijuana cultivation and distribution far
outweigh the medical and social consequences of marijuana use.
Marijuana, while not harmless, is in many ways less dangerous than
alcohol. It is a moral obligation to bring marijuana laws in line with
the real risks of marijuana use.

In our own community of Fairbanks, we have witnessed families
devastated by our current marijuana laws. Government agents raid homes
with automatic weapons, assets are confiscated without due process and
parents are separated from their children for years to decades at a
time. Parents in prison cannot be parents.

Medical marijuana is not available for patients. Although a medical
marijuana initiative passed in 1998 with 59 percent approval by Alaska
voters, subsequent legislation was written that severely limits
medical use. Our legislators ignored the people of Alaska when they
failed to provide a legal source of medical marijuana.

As a result, many patients have abandoned the system of registration,
which invades their privacy and fails to offer them the medicine their
doctors recommend. Measure 2 will send a message to our legislators
that we want marijuana made available for the seriously ill.

Alaska has a unique opportunity to lead the nation in reform of
marijuana laws, but it will take a concerted effort on the part of
independent-thinking Alaskans who value their privacy. Measure 2 will
stop the arrests, and our legislators will decide how marijuana will
be regulated.

Measure 2 is an important step to reform marijuana laws and protect
the privacy of Alaskans -- one that I urge all Alaskans to support.
Together, we can make a difference and protect our families, our kids,
and our communities.

Kelly L. Drew, Ph.D., Alaska Basic Neuroscience Program, University of

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