Source:   New Scientist:
Contact:  "Dope on dope"

Kurt Kleiner quotes American bureaucrats who must have smoked too
much of what they think others shouldn't touch ("Turn on, tune in, get
well", 15 March, p 14).
	Health secretary Donna Shalala's statement that "our teenage
drug problem is for the most part a marijuana problem" is an outright
Some figures are illustrative. The Monitoring the Future study, done
annually by the University of Michigan, is the government's "bible" for
drug use among adolescents.
	The study for 1996 shows that 49 per cent of 12th graders
have smoked marijuana within the last 30 days, 22 2 per cent of 12th
graders smoke cigarettes daily, and 30 2 per cent have engaged in
binge drinking of alcohol, at least once, within the past 14 days. Binge
drinking is defined as five or more drinks or beers in succession, at one
sitting. Shalala is well aware of the facts on alcohol and nicotine, yet
continues to insist that marijuana is the problem.
	The National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA, is no less
dishonest. The claims of memory impairment, brain damage, lung
cancer and immune system damage have all been debunked by research
within the past year in the US and Australia. NIDA's policy of
providing marijuana only to studies aimed at finding negative effects of
marijuana has not been successful.
Arthur Sobey
Corpus Christi

The conclusions of the panel of experts convened at the request of the
National Institutes of Health were amazingly frank and accurate, given
the political dynamite with which they were dealing.
	The opinion that whatever evaluation of safety and efficacy
marijuana is subjected to,
it will have the added burden of proving it is the best agent available
would be regarded as facetious if made about any other class of
therapeutic agents. In the case of marijuana, for a scientist to allow that
such an outcome is even possible is regarded as dangerous heresy and
its utterance a mark of defiance.
	This is the sad state of affairs American drug policy has
brought us to. The most realistic hope at this point is that if enough
rational people are motivated to think about these problems, they may
gain enough insight into the ridiculous and destructive nature of the
paradigm of doctrinaire global drug prohibition to want to change it.
Thomas O'Connell
San Mateo, California