Pubdate: Fri, 03 Mar 2000
Source: Amherst Bulletin
Contact:  (c) 2000 Amherst Bulletin
Author: Ellsworth Barnard, Amherst


Howard Ziff's comments on marijuana (Bulletin commentary, Feb. 11) call for
elaboration.  The present laws, federal and state, which criminalize the
sale, possession, or use of marijuana are, quite simply, indefensible --
the offspring of willful ignorance and impenetrable prejudice.

The evidence offered in their support is purely ancedotal and sometimes
obviously fictional.  I know of no scientific, peer-approved study that
justifies the present system.

Though  the smoke, like that of tobacco, is damaging to the lungs, it is
not, like nicotine, addicitve.  And, unlike "hard" drugs, the need for it,
or for the money to buy it, does not lead to crime. Furthermore, unlike
alcohol, it does not lead to violent or uncontrolled behavior.  I have
never heard that it encourages rape; I have never heard of a car crash that
was attributed to the use of marijuana by the driver. Finally, the charge
that it becomes a "gateway" to the use of "hard" drugs is, like the other
charges, scientifically unsubstantiated.

On the other hand, attempts to enforce the laws against it are undeniably
destructive.  The cost in dollars runs into the billions; the human cost is
incalculable.  They corrupt the persons who enforce them (as was
graphically demonstrated in a TV "Frontline" program a few months ago), and
they fill the jails with persons (mostly young, and often black) who have
been guilty of nothing that reason would call a crime.

A final baneful effect of society's obsessive fear of marijuana is the
denial to terminally ill persons of the relief from suffering that it would
offer.  What rational motive can there be for such a prohibition? This is
not merely unjustified, it is cruel and contemptible, a forced and
senseless sacrifice to a fanatical and false belief.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart