Pubdate: Wed, 31 Mar 1999
Source: Wall Street Journal (NY)
Section: Editorial Page 
Page: A23
Copyright: 1999 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Authors: Arthur Sobey, Mark Honts, Chad Thevenot, Shaun Breidbart
Note: These Published Letters are at the top of the Letters to the Editor
column in the newspaper, headed by the two column wide 'Reefer Madness
Logic.'  DrugSense thanks all the folks who responded to our FOCUS Alert
distributed Saturday, 27 March asking folks to write to the WSJ. While only
four of the hundreds of letters sent to the WSJ were published, each and
every one helps call to the attention of the editors how important folks
consider the issue, which results in this super positioning of the
published letters and, we hope, starts to cause the editors to question
their own position.  The WSJ has a circulation of 2 MILLION influential
readers and this group of LTEs had an ad value of over $18,000. The WSJ is
rated by Advertising Age magazine as the most influential publication in
the USA.
Readers who are not signed up to receive the DrugSense FOCUS Alerts may do
so at:
The referenced OPED is in our archives at:


In his March 26 editorial-page commentary "The Grass Roots of Teen
Drug Abuse," Joe Califano says the statistical correlation is so
strong that there must be a gateway-type connection between marijuana
and hard drug use. He has been pushing this nonsense for too long.
Statistical correlations are the weakest form of proof that exists,
and are the easiest numbers to fiddle with.

In the 1950s the feds proved that cancer was caused by emanations from
telephone wires. Eagle-eyed researchers noticed more cancers occurred
close to phone wires. Of course, someone quickly pointed out that
since more people live near phone wires, there is bound to be more of
everything near them, even cancer.

Using Mr. Califano's false logic, I can prove with statistical
precision that eating bread leads directly to a life of crime. I can
prove that working 40 hours a week is self-inflicted suicide since it
leads directly to the grave. I can also prove that people like
"Smoking Joe" have caused more damage to this nation's children than
all the marijuana that has ever been consumed.

Arthur Sobey
Norfolk, Neb.

* Some ideas are like the fictional Jason, who inspired "Friday the
13" and multiple sequels: they simply cannot be killed. Clearly, the
"gateway" canard, invented by Harry Anslinger and defended by Joe
Califano, falls into that category. Anslinger was nothing if not
inventive; the effects of cannabis were so universally unknown in the
mid-1930s that he was able to claim (successfully) that it provokes
casual users to murderous rage. Nowadays, thanks to the success of the
criminal market he campaigned for, that idea would be hooted off the

Gateway and numerous sons of gateway have proven far more durable than
"reefer madness," probably because there is a strong correlation
(acknowledged in the IOM report) between use of tobacco, alcohol,
cannabis and other drugs. This is the obverse of Mr. Califano's other
nugget: people who haven't used any drugs at all by age 21 are
unlikely to do so. Perhaps the most reasonable interpretation of his
tortured "data" is that some people are much more likely to use drugs
than others, a tendency usually expressed during their teen years.
Unfortunately for Mr. Califano's purposes, that interpretation could
hardly justify arresting 700,000 people a year in a futile attempt to
shut one gateway while allowing two others to gape invitingly.

Mark Honts
Fort Worth, Texas

* Even Mr. Califano's own organization, the National Center of
Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), admits in its 1994 report on
"gateway drugs" that a biomedical or causal relationship has not been
established. Many unbiased experts believe that the most likely
relationship between the use of marijuana and harder drugs is a
person's propensity for risk-taking, which may even be exacerbated by
the illicit market in marijuana, created by prohibition, which
routinely exposes children and adults to harder drugs.

In its landmark March 1999 report of marijuana's health effects, the
Institute of Medicine agreed: There is no evidence that marijuana
serves as a stepping stone on the basis of its particular drug effect.
In 1998, the World Health Organization stated emphatically that the
gateway theory between adolescent marijuana use and heroin use is the
least likely of all hypotheses.

Chad Thevenot

* Marijuana itself isn't terribly more dangerous than alcohol. What is
dangerous is lying to children, trying to convince them that marijuana
is practically like heroin. When these children realize marijuana
isn't so bad after all, that plenty of A-students and star athletes
use it with no obvious ill effects, they start to question the
association given between marijuana and heroin. The logical step is,
"Well, they told us pot is so bad, and it isn't, so maybe heroin isn't
so bad either."

Shaun Breidbart
Pelham, N.Y.

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