Pubdate: Fri, 12 Mar 2004
Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal (NV)
Copyright: 2004 Las Vegas Review-Journal
Author:  Juliet V. Casey, Review-Journal
Cited: The Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana (CRCM)
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Walters, John)

Drug Control Policy:


John Walters Calls Measure Foolhardy

The nation's drug czar described as foolhardy Thursday the latest
Nevada initiative to legalize marijuana. John Walters, in Las Vegas to
push for a crackdown on the abuse of prescriptions drugs, said
legalizing marijuana is "not an area for legitimate debate."

Walters, who oversees all federal anti-drug programs and spending,
said studies have shown that 60 percent of the 7 million Americans who
need treatment for addiction are dependent on marijuana. Walters also
said people are killing each other by driving under the influence of
the drug, which is smoked or chewed for its euphoric effect.

"Legalizing any marijuana possession for consumption is fundamentally
detrimental," he said. The Committee to Regulate and Control
Marijuana, established in Nevada this year by the national Marijuana
Policy Project, will try to make Nevada the first state in the nation
to legalize possession of marijuana.

Bruce Mirken, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, contended
people seeking treatment for marijuana addiction were forced into it.

"They were arrested for possession and offered treatment or jail," he
said. "It's Orwellian to the point of being creepy, and it's
misleading to the public."

The 2002 campaign, called Nevadans for Responsible Law Enforcement,
qualified a petition with 110,000 signatures seeking to legalize
possession of up to 3 ounces of marijuana. But a coalition of law
enforcement and citizens groups blocked its passage, with 61 percent
of voters opposing the measure and only 39 percent supporting it.

The new proposal calls for legalizing possession of 1 ounce of
marijuana and would increase penalties for vehicular manslaughter and
delivery of marijuana to a minor.

The initiative would impose penalties of up to 10 years in prison for
first-time offenders and life in prison for second-time offenders
convicted of delivering marijuana to a minor. It also would impose a
minimum penalty of five years to life in prison for anyone convicted
of vehicular manslaughter while driving under the influence of alcohol
or any controlled substance.

But even with the increased penalties, Clark County Sheriff Bill Young
would oppose the measure. "Sixty to 70 percent of the crimes committed
in the county emanates from drug use or abuse," he said.

If the initiative qualifies for the November ballot and passes, it
would have to pass again in 2006 to become part of the

Jennifer Knight, a spokeswoman for the Committee to Regulate and
Control Marijuana, said the country's drug czar is defending a system
that is keeping marijuana use high among teens.

"Walters represents what is wrong with our current system," she said.
"He keeps supporting current marijuana laws that don't work. Now, he
is coming here to Nevada to tell us how to vote on a state initiative
while ignoring his own report that shows that 67 percent of teens in
Nevada have tried marijuana. Where is his solution?"

Walters, during his speech to a small gathering at the WestCare Nevada
Center for Women and Children, a nonprofit treatment facility for
substance abusers, said his administration is working closely with the
Drug Enforcement Agency to eradicate domestic production of marijuana,
much of which is grown on public land.

He said he also is working with Mexico to stem the flow of opium,
poppies and marijuana into the country, and with Canada, where more
potent marijuana is being grown.

But Candice Kidd, director of the WestCare women's campus, said a
greater problem in Nevada is methamphetamine, a stimulant that
increases energy and decreases appetite.

"Methamphetamine seems the be the drug of choice for a lot of women,"
she said, adding 90 percent of the women in her programs are addicted
to the drug.

Walters said his administration is teaming up with law enforcement
organizations to target methamphetamine mass producers, which often
are run by organized crime, motorcycle gangs and operations in Mexico.

"We're not so much going after people who just cook it for
themselves," he said.

Walters said his war on drugs is about public health and safety and is
balancing measures to eradicate drugs with treatment for people
addicted to them.

Tamara Brymer, a 26-year-old recovering methamphetamine addict at
WestCare who heard Walters speak, said she was pleased to hear he is
focusing on treatment.

As a teen she experimented with marijuana before discovering her drug
of choice.

"I believe drug pushers would think it's a free-for-all if they
legalize marijuana," Brymer said. "It's the drug teens focus on, and
it's the drug that leads to meth."

Knight said the 2004 Marijuana Initiative will reduce teen use by
taking marijuana off the streets and regulating it. The initiative
also would tax the sale of marijuana, dedicating revenue to drug and
alcohol treatment and education. 
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