Pubdate: Sun, 8 Nov 1998
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Copyright: 1998 Globe Newspaper Company.
Author: Richard D. Elrick


I'm writing to express my complete agreement with Thomas Clark's view that
the ``criminal penalties for personal marijuana use should be abolished''
(``A realistic prescription to mix marijuana and moderation,'' Nov. 1,
Focus). As a father, attorney, and elected official (Barnstable town
councilor) I have come to realize that, like alcohol prohibition before it,
the policy of criminalizing marijuana use has done far more harm than the
use of that substance ever could.

It is especially cruel and indefensible to be incarcerating marijuana users
when both the National Academy of Sciences and the World Health
Organization have concluded that marijuana is one of the least dangerous
drugs, legal or otherwise, and creates less of a public health danger than
either alcohol or tobacco. Even an administrative law judge for the US Drug
Enforcement Administration, Francis Young, said in 1988 that ``marijuana is
one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.'' It is
time to look honestly at how the present drug policy, with its focus on
exaggerated rhetoric, has failed.

Unless we are willing to evaluate our options, including various
decriminalization strategies, objectively, we will never find the best
solution to the problems of substance abuse. It is time to move from
incarceration to education and treatment, the approaches most of the
medical experts (rather than the politicians) tell us are the only truly
effective and moral solutions.

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Checked-by: Pat Dolan