Pubdate: Mon, 14 Jan 2008
Source: Wisconsin State Journal (WI)
Copyright: 2008 Madison Newspapers, Inc.
Author: Robert Sharpe


Regarding Maureen Martin's Wednesday guest column, the Waukesha 
County Board's vote to treat possession of marijuana by first-time 
offenders as a ticketed offense rather than a crime is a step in the 
right direction.

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 age controls.

Separating the hard and soft drug markets is critical. As long as 
marijuana distribution is controlled by organized crime, marijuana 
consumers will continue to come into contact with sellers of hard 
drugs like methamphetamine. This "gateway" is the direct result of a 
fundamentally flawed policy.

Given that marijuana is arguably safer than legal alcohol -- the 
plant has never been shown to cause an overdose death -- it makes no 
sense to waste tax dollars on failed policies that finance organized 
crime and facilitate the use of hard drugs. Drug policy reform may 
send the wrong message to children, but I like to think the children 
are more important than the message.

- -- Robert Sharpe, policy analyst, Common Sense for Drug Policy, 
Washington, D.C.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom