Pubdate: Mon, 22 Nov 1999
Date: 11/22/1999
Source: Nation, The (US)
Author: Thomas Leighton & Aaron Wilson
Related: All the special issue articles are linked at:

By rejecting the full legalization of marijuana, Michael Massing makes
a mistake that is common in liberal circles: underestimating the role
of marijuana in the war on drugs.

Massing argues that to "decriminalize" marijuana possession and
private use is enough.

New York State decriminalized possession of small amounts in 1977. But
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani directed the police to target low-level
marijuana offenders, and in 1998 almost 35,000 people in New York City
were arrested for marijuana possession, The rate of these arrests has
risen 2,200 percent since 1992 and now accounts for 10 percent of all
arrests in Hew York City. Clearly, decriminalization is susceptible to
political opportunism.

Like many liberals, Massing also overlooks the political psychology of
marijuana in the drug war and focuses instead on class- and
race-related injustices. But it is the fear of marijuana, manufactured
by opportunistic political and law enforcement leaders, and played to
the soccer-mom set, that drives the war on drugs.

The drug with which suburban parents have the most contact (cocaine
and heroin are incorrectly perceived as "inner city" problems),
marijuana is the drug they believe their children are most likely to
use. By associating marijuana with more dangerous drugs, the drug war
establishment whips up concern among its favored voting group,
suburbanites, who otherwise would be apathetic about "urban" drug problems.

If the left is serious about ending the drug war, it must recognize
the tactical importance of the marijuana issue.

Thomas Leighton Aaron Wilson Marijuana Reform Party of New York New
York City