Pubdate: Mon, 23 Feb 2009
Source: Daily Press (Newport News,VA)
Copyright: 2009 The Daily Press
Author: Robert Sharpe


Re: The editorial "So many criminals? It's time for a frank, calm
discussion about decriminalizing marijuana." Marijuana
decriminalization is merely 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

Separating the hard and soft drug markets is critical. As long as
marijuana distribution remains in the hands of organized crime,
consumers will continue to come into contact with sellers of hard
drugs like cocaine. 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

Editor's response: As the editorial noted, it's certainly time to
examine the question rationally. Marijuana laws as they stand eat up
police resources, clog the courts and breed defiance by otherwise
law-abiding citizens. One in six 18- to 25-year-olds told a recent
national survey that they'd used marijuana in the last month. Most
adults under 55 (including those 20-somethings, so this is not an old
hippie deal) said they'd used illegal drugs at some time. In 2007,
almost 20,000 of the 35,000 drug arrests in Virginia were for
marijuana. Yet this proposition has gotten less attention from this
year's General Assembly than whether the Eastern box turtle should be
the official state reptile. But who knows, maybe the marijuana arrest
in Norfolk Thursday of an assistant state attorney general will
suggest to the lawmakers that this issue has mainstream implications.
Of course, without a nudge from some voters, the box turtle bill will
remain more important.
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