Source: The Lethbridge Herald
Pubdate: Friday, 6 Feb 1998


Editor: I should like to respond to your young correspondent Erica Street,
(Letters, Feb.3) who urges us to continue to punish marijuana users in
order to prevent "many disastrous consequences that the country is not
prepared to face." Dear Erica: I commend you for participating in this most
important debate. I understand your position. Here's what I think about
laws that declare certain drugs to be illegal.  The prohibition of certain
drugs is only the latest manifestation of man's enduring propensity to look
down upon, to despise, to hate an identifiable minority of innocent

There is no more moral or medical or scientific reason to persecute the
users of certain drugs than there was in the past to burn witches a at the
stake, lynch blacks or gas Jews. Just as Hitler's propaganda conviced many
Germans that Jews were a menace to society, so too has the Canadian
government's unrelenting stream of anti-drug propaganda convinced you that
drug users must be punished. Drug prohibition is an abuse of our human
right, as adults, to ingest any damn substance we please.  In any event,
prohibition has always failed. If drugs are available in our prisons, how
can the police prevent them from being available everywhere?

Unfortunately,government propaganda has convinced many otherwise
intelligent Canadians to support drug prohibition, thereby condemning us to
re-learn the terrible lessons of alchohol prohibition- organized crime,
thousands of poisoned users, jammed courts and prisons and a corrupted
justice system- all over again. To paraphrase Hegel, We learn from history
that we do not lean from history". Please visit your local library to find
out the truth, and the truth shall make you mad.

Alan Randell, Victoria, B.C.

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Editor: Unfortunately, Erica Street doesn't seem to realize the disastrous
effect on the lives of many young people who become saddled with a
permanent criminal record because of marijuana convictions. Since the
1960's, over 600,000 Canadians have been convicted of simple possession,
the majority of those being under 30.  Although cannabis use is not
harmless, scientists at the Addiction Research Foundation say it is much
safer than alcohol and tobacco, and ARF director Perry Kendall feels that
prohibition is causing far more problems than it solves.

He also feels that the "just say no" approach is simplistic and
ineffective, drawing the comparison of sex education classes. Teachers
don't advise "don't do it, end of story." Instead they say, "Look, if you
are going to do it, at least do it responsibly; here are some guidelines"
Ms Street demonstrates another serious failing of Canada's current policies
when she mentions "public service announcements, telling me drugs are bad."
Such simplistic messages can lead young people to experiment with more
serious drugs once they discovered marijuana isn't as harmful as they'd
been led to believe. A British teen recently told the BBC, "Before I tried
cannabis, I thought it was classed as a bad drug, on a level of other drugs
such as heroin. After I tasted cannabis and saw there wasn't a problem with
it, I thought speed will be OK."

Despite the billions of dollars spent to exterminate marijuana, it is as
widely available as ever, even in our schoolyards. It is time Canadians
treat marijuana use as a public health issue and legalize its possession
and distribution while imposing regulations governing age limits, driving
and taxation. Government should play the role of the safe sex educator. If
so many of us are going to do it anyway, help us do it responsibly; develop
some rational guidelines.

Chris Clay, Sechelt, BC.

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Editor: I wonder whether Erica believes what she learned in her science
classes.  I am sure that she learned that science is the name given to the
system that describes how we know what we know, and simplicity, or the
principle of economy, Ockham's Razor, is the key to this process of
knowing.  Science is, basically, hypothesis testing; students must not be
given the idea that it is a method of shoring up one's previous beliefs, of
confirming one's biases.

Professor Colin Groves of the Australian National University says: "More
than that, hypothesis testing demands humility: the willingness to admit
that one may be wrong." Fundamentalist religion and idealogues of all
stripes teach the very opposite: the terrible certainty that one point of
view is right. To teach that to children, that is not education.  Is Erica
going to go through life believing everything people in positions of
authority tell her? I hope not. Science, and progress, would be at a
standstill if young people grew up like that.

Pat Dolan, Vancouver

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....our mailbag continues to swell in the first post-Christmas rush of
correspondence.  Included on the page are three letters sent by e-mail.All
from the west coast, are responding to a previous letter written by a
southern Albertan.  The writers saw the original letter on our Web page.
......A Southern Alberta high school student professes her views on drugs
in a daily newspaper and, several hundred miles distant, far from the
newspaper's circulation area, knocks a hornet's nest from a tree in British
Columbia. still amazes those of us who used to dictate our stories
to Canadian press with a telephone critched in our neck......  e-mail and
the Web are pretty much commonplace now, one wonders what new sorcery