Pubdate: Wed, 17 Jan 2001
Source: Newsday (NY)
Copyright: 2001 Newsday Inc.
Contact:  235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville NY 11747
Fax: (516)843-2986
Author: Robert Sharpe


Regarding the article "Ecstasy From Overseas to Our Streets" [Jan. 14]: 
Ecstasy is the latest illegal drug to be making headlines across America, 
but it won't be the last. Drug policies designed to protect children have 
given rise to a youth-oriented black market. Unlike legitimate businesses 
that sell alcohol, illegal drug dealers do not ask to see an I.D. But they 
do push trendy, profitable "club drugs" like ecstasy when given the chance, 
regardless of the dangers posed. Sensible regulation is desperately needed 
to undermine the black market and restrict access to drugs.

As counterintuitive as it may seem, replacing the marijuana prohibition 
with regulation would do a better job protecting children than the failed 
drug war. Marijuana is by far the most popular illicit drug. Compared to 
deadly alcohol and addictive tobacco, marijuana is relatively harmless.

Yet marijuana prohibition is deadly. Although there is nothing inherent in 
marijuana that compels users to try harder drugs, its black market status 
puts users in contact with the criminals who sell them. Current drug policy 
is effectively a gateway policy.

The "If you can get pot, you can get E" quote from a local teenager 
highlights a fundamental flaw in current drug policy. As long as marijuana 
remains unregulated, the established criminal distribution network will 
ensure that kids sample every new poison concocted by drug pushers. 
Drug-law reform may send the wrong message to children, but I like to think 
that the children themselves are more important than the message.

Robert Sharpe, Washington, D.C.

Editor's Note: The writer is program officer for the Lindesmith Center-Drug 
Policy Foundation.
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