Pubdate: Wed, 27 Dec 2000
Source: Alameda Times-Star (CA)
Copyright: 2000 MediaNews Group, Inc. and ANG Newspapers
Contact:  P.O. Box 28884 ,Oakland, CA 94612
Fax: (510) 208-6477
Author: Robert Sharpe


REGARDING THE excellent Dec. 7 editorial on medical marijuana: the plant 
has been used medicinally for thousands of years. In 1999, a federally 
commissioned Institute of Medicine report concluded that there are 
circumstances in which smoking marijuana for medical uses is recommended.

Marijuana is one of the most studied plants around. Nonetheless, entrenched 
interests riding the drug war gravy train continue to claim further 
research is needed.

Not only should medical marijuana be made available to patients, but adult 
recreational use should be regulated as well. The reason for this is 
simple: leaving the distribution of popular recreational drugs in the hands 
of organized crime puts children at great risk.

The thriving black market is very much youth oriented. Illegal drug dealers 
don't ID for age, but they do push profitable, addictive drugs like heroin. 
Sensible regulation is desperately needed to undermine the black market and 
restrict access to drugs.

Marijuana is the most popular illicit drug. Compared to alcohol and 
tobacco, marijuana is relatively harmless. Yet marijuana prohibition is 
deadly. While there is nothing inherent in marijuana that compels users to 
try harder drugs, its black market status puts users in contact with 
criminals who push them.

Current drug policy is, effectively, a gateway policy. As counterintuitive 
as it may seem, replacing marijuana prohibition with regulation would do a 
better job protecting children than the failed drug war.

As for medical marijuana, doctors should decide what is best for their 
patients, not Supreme Court Judges or drug warriors.

Robert Sharpe, MPA, Program Officer, The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy 
Foundation, Washington, DC
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