Pubdate: Wed, 30 Mar 2005
Source: Jakarta Post (Indonesia)
Copyright: The Jakarta Post
Author: A. Galli


It always struck me as strange that the drug laws in South East Asia are so 
draconian when measured against the paltry punishments for other crimes 
that appear to the casual observer to be far more destructive.

To impose the death penalty for smuggling marijuana, a plant which is 
readily grown throughout South East Asia, seems a grossly misplaced 
priority. Other far more pernicious activities, such as human trafficking, 
forced prostitution, illegal logging, poaching of endangered species, gross 
violations of human rights, and the religious fanaticism that manifests 
itself in horrific acts of terrorism, seem to earn little more than a slap 
on the wrist.

To put it bluntly (no pun intended) from an outsider's perspective, the 
sentencing of a cleric with close ties to a fanatical and murderous 
terrorist group, which planned the indiscriminate slaughter of many young 
men and women, causing incalculable loss to the important tourist 
industries of Indonesia, to three years in prison is scandalous.

To compare that to a possible death sentence for an Australian woman for 
carrying three pounds of marijuana, however reckless that act appears, is 
to move into the realms of absurdity. Furthermore, in certain areas of 
Indonesia it is perfectly legal to sell psychedelic mushrooms and I would 
assume there are other psychtropic substances in other areas that are 
similarly unregulated.

Whether or not these substances are allowed as traditional medicines, they 
may certainly be more hazardous than marijuana. The overwhelming popularity 
of betel chewing, palm wine, cigarettes and cheroot smoking certainly 
impose enormous health costs that far outweigh those of cannabis.

Indonesia is a lovely country with many unfortunate problems, and I am not 
writing to say that drugs are not one of them. All I am saying is that I 
would feel a lot better if it was the murderous terrorists and militias and 
the fiends that illegally destroy the irreplacable beauty of the forests 
and the seas that were facing the gallows and not some hapless hippy-chick 
on her way to a full moon dance party with an ill-considered choice of 
party favors.

A. GALLI, New York
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