Pubdate: Sun, 09 Jul 2000
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)
Copyright: 2000, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Contact:  414-224-8280
Author: Dave Michon


The June 18 Journal Sentinel editorial "Talk to your kids, it really
does work" represents some of the more considered rhetoric in our war
on drugs. It doesn't call for more and harsher drug laws, more prisons
or the death penalty for dealers.

Communication is good. But what are we to tell the youngsters? Are we
to tell them the truth? We all know that anything but the truth is
useless, especially with teens. If so, then we must tell them how the
war on drugs is ruining this country.

What do we tell them when they ask why alcohol and tobacco are legal,
but safe drugs such as marijuana can destroy their lives - not by the
actions of the drug itself, no death has ever been documented - but by
arrest, imprisonment, forfeiture and job dismissal? Are these actions
sensible? Are they "fair," a concept that teens apply constantly? What
do we tell them of this country's former worship of freedom and the

And what of the addicts? We know instinctively that addiction happens
to good people and that it happens with alcohol and tobacco many times
more than with, say, heroin. But how do we treat these victims of
drugs? Prison. I don't know about your kid, but mine thinks that's
"stupid and mean."

Treatment? Even here the war is confusing: Some treatments,
abstinence-based, are "good," while others, such as methadone, needle
exchange and medicinal marijuana, are "bad." True to form, the "bad"
treatments do the most good, if anyone cares to check. I don't know
what to tell my kid on that one.

And what of the drug war and prohibition in general? Why can't we even
discuss alternatives? Why do people of color do most of the prison
time for drugs when whites do most of the drugs? Why do our schools
teach that alcohol prohibition was wrong, but drug prohibition is
right? Why do we allow our government to confiscate property after all
we fought for in the Revolutionary War?

Kids aren't stupid when it comes to drugs. Adults are. And I have no
explanation for that.

Dave Michon
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