Pubdate: Thu, 09 Jan 2014
Source: Calaveras Enterprise (CA)
Copyright: 2014 Ted Shannon
Author: Ted Shannon


It appears the War on Drugs has had little if any impact on their

"In the grand scheme, it has not been successful," said the U.S. drug
czar, Gil Kerlikowske, in 2010.

There were dissenters including our previous drug czar, John P.
Walters. "To say that all the things that have been done in the war on
drugs haven't made any difference is ridiculous," Walters said. "It
destroys everything we've done. It's saying all the people involved in
law enforcement, treatment and prevention have been wasting their
time." Mr. Walters may be partly correct; most people would hopefully
approve of treatment and prevention efforts, but dislike harsh
criminal prosecutions that have overfilled our prisons while
accomplishing little or nothing.

Our efforts have cost an estimated $1 trillion since 1969, when
President Richard Nixon led us into the politically popular crusade.
At least one specialist claims moderate drug use is not the dangerous
problem it been portrayed to be. Dr. Carl Hart received a PhD in
neuroscience from the University of Wyoming in 1996. His book "High
Price" details the lessons he learned from 22 years of studying drugs.
"I am here to tell you, drugs are not the bogeyman that people said
they were," he said.

In an interview with The New York Times, he said he thought he was
going to solve the problem of drug addiction, but came to believe the
real problem was drug policy.

He believes for the last three decades, law enforcement, politicians
and the media have been lying about the dangers of illegal drugs,
including cocaine and methamphetamines. No doubt his findings will be
widely discredited, but what if he is right?

His thesis deserves an objective study, not a "tar and feathering."
The majority of our nation's people must believe the war on marijuana
has been a failure judging by the numbers who support legalization.
Several polls show a nationwide low of 52 percent to a high in
California of 55 to 65 percent (two different polls) supporting

A majority of legislators surely know marijuana will eventually be
legalized, but they will not lead the way, possibly fearing the issue
could be a no-win situation.

Some years ago, a guest speaker at a Tuolumne County Alliance for
Resources and Environment dinner said politicians don't lead, they

That ought to be a good thing since our elected officials are supposed
to represent the majority's opinion. If they will do so, it is time to
legalize marijuana.

Of course, it would be difficult to admit the many billions of dollars
they authorized spending and all the dramatic speeches they made were
squandered. Since time immemorial, people all over the globe have been
using substances to relieve pain, alter reality or for other possibly
imaginary benefits, regardless of how many laws or extreme penalties
have been decreed by governments.

Beginning in 1920, the United States prohibited the sale of alcoholic
beverages in an effort to eliminate the widely acknowledged problems
associated with the abuse of alcohol.

Prohibition was expected to yield positive results, including a big
reduction in crime.

Instead, the hoped-for cure created a deadly plague.

Vicious gangs murdered their rivals for control of the lucrative
illegal liquor markets.

In addition to the products of a multitude of bootleggers in the
United States, alcoholic beverages were smuggled in from Canada,
Mexico and the Caribbean. It required only 13 years for a disgruntled
public to conclude Prohibition was a mistake and it ended in 1933.
Obviously, alcohol continues to be a tremendous problem.

Abuse has torn families apart and been responsible for the loss of
hundreds of thousands of lives through traffic collisions, health
issues and crime.

Misuse of legal prescription drugs is also a major concern and has led
to many thousands of deaths.

It should be clear that laws cannot solve all problems, but it is a
near certainty the public would not approve of legalizing all drugs.

The time has come to decriminalize marijuana though.

Many describe it as "a gateway drug," meaning its use leads users to
other more hazardous drugs. Could not the same be said of alcohol?

Our efforts should be on educating and rehabilitating people, not
making criminals of them. The campaign against smoking, which focused
on health issues, has had very favorable results.

 From 1964 until the present, the percentage of smokers has dropped by
half. Nonetheless, this legal drug is still the leading preventable
cause of death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Smoking marijuana may be as or more harmful than inhaling cigarette
smoke, but why continue to beat a dead horse?

Legalize it, but don't myopically tax it so heavily that illegal
growers who regularly damage public lands and kill both innocent
people and fellow druggies could undercut the prices of legitimate
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