Pubdate: Thu, 31 May 2001
Source: Northwest Florida Daily News (FL)
Copyright: 2001 Northwest Florida Daily News
Authors: Richard Sinnott, Jerry Epstein, Ginger Warbis, Dave Michon,
Debra Cochrain, Kim Hanna, Richard Marchese


John Stevenson (letter, "I don't sympathize," May 24) considers
medical marijuana users, and I presume anybody who sides with them
philosophically, to be lawbreakers or outlaws. He holds himself up as
an example of one who obeys the law, as though he is morally superior
to those who would use marijuana.

How inspiring to be in the presence of such a morally superior human!
Would it be safe to assume that Mr. Stevenson would be equally moral
and obey the Fugitive Slave Act had he lived in 1850?


Fort Pierce


John Stevenson (letter, "I don't sympathize," May 24) wrote about drug
policy "think tanks." As president of one such group, let me say that
Stevenson totally misinterprets the concerns of most of us when he
states that we "side with ... drug abusers."

My concern is that Stevenson and, indeed, most voters do not know that
only about 2 percent of us have a serious illegal drug problem.

Why are we having a drug war that 98 percent don't need and that the
other 2 percent ignore?

Laws have little impact on the amount of drug abuse. But those laws
have created another group of people: drug lords.

Modern Al Capones make drugs more dangerous and more available to
children. Those children are my concern. The drug war costs us $40
billion a year in order to give drug lords $400 billion a year. My
pocketbook is my concern. The crime, violence and corruption the drug
lords spread are also my concern.

Like Stevenson, I smell a rat. It's the repeat of the errors of
alcohol prohibition in order to help support more than 50 useless
federal bureaucracies and the profits of special interests that depend
on the drug war.

I think Stevenson would share my concerns. I invite him to reconsider
and switch sides.

JERRY EPSTEIN President, Drug Policy Forum of Texas

IT'S A WITCH HUNT John Stevenson (letter, "I don't sympathize," May
24) asks: "Why do these people constantly side with law-breaking,
'suffering' drug abusers?"

It was once illegal in this country to harbor a runaway slave, even
one who had better-than-average cause to break the law by running.

Mr. Stevenson might think that drug czar appointee John Walters is on
his side on this issue. But, as recently as March of this year, Mr.
Walters was published in the Weekly Standard advocating more
court-ordered treatment, which is consistent with his 1996 Senate
testimony advocating Phoenix House. This is the same thought-reform
program to which Darryl Strawberry has recently been

Whether you like to think of it or not, something on the order of 70
percent of the people on whom we depend daily - for everything from
our daily bread to medical services - have used illicit drugs. Very
few of them ever become drug abusers.

I've been watching the editorial pages closely on this issue too. And
the more I see, the more it looks like a witch hunt. Some folks want
to burn 'em straightaway while others want to convert 'em first.

Neither unhappy end is a consequence of drug use, though. Both are
consequences of the largest, most expensive failed New Deal program:
the War on Drugs.

Lighthouse Point


So John Stevenson (letter, "I don't sympathize," May 24) doesn't have
compassion for the victims of the drug war or the consequences of its
black market. He did indicate there's one thing he does care about -
money, specifically tax money. So let's take a look at where our tax
money is going when these congressional and state drug-war shysters
start getting into our pockets.

Remember Nixon? In 1969, the Nixon administration spent $65 million on
the drug war. In 1982, the Reagan administration spent $1.65 billion.
By 2000 the Clinton administration spent more than $17.9 billion.
We're sending billions to Colombia now, for the next Vietnam.

And that's just federal money. The real money gets spent in the
states, on prisons. Mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drugs mean
that murderers and rapists are released every day to make room for pot
smokers and addicts who never hurt anyone but themselves.

Still don't sympathize with treatment? How about this: A Rand Corp.
study found that every dollar invested in substance abuse treatment
saves taxpayers $7.46 in societal costs.

More? The Rand Corp. found that additional domestic law enforcement
efforts cost 15 times as much as treatment to achieve the same
reduction in societal costs.

If Mr. Stevenson doesn't get it yet, I don't sympathize ... with

Eau Claire, Wis.


I'd like to answer some of John Stevenson's questions (letter, "I
don't sympathize," May 24). Perhaps he could open his mind for just a

I once felt just like John. All were "criminals" and were destroying
society. Then my family was affected. Then I studied many things - the
drug war, the illness of addiction, jail vs. treatment, coerced and
voluntary treatments, to name a few.

The government and the treatment programs had misled me. Some people
do not develop coping skills. Others are not born with the correct
chemical balances required to be drug-free. Jail doesn't work for
those needing mental health treatment. Forced treatment and forced
abstinence are not an answer for many either.

I will agree that many are in the business of illicit drugs for the
power and the money. But many are innocent victims and are
self-medicating their way through life.

The government and the churches tell us they're all bad people. But I
know that some are really quite ill, and because we are misled, we
throw the sick away. With the criminal.

People must be allowed to find help for those sick with addiction.
Addiction is not a crime but an illness.

We need to separate the sick from the criminal. We need to take action
for the future.

Fritch, Texas


I appreciate the Northwest Florida Daily News' news and opinion on
America's drug war. You have a progressive newspaper and have the
courage to print material that may not be politically correct in
certain circles.

This is the mark of a good newspaper, one that provides a good service
to its readers and in a broader sense lives up to the true meaning of
a "free press."

Worcester, Mass.


John Stevenson (letter, "I don't sympathize," May 24) writes: "I don't
want my wallet to be the safety net for foolish and selfish
individuals. ... And, by the way, if I choose to be compassionate for
a drug abuser, I want to make that decision. Otherwise, it isn't

Others pay the cost of such selfish intolerance.

The cost of incarcerating good folks who are doing no harm to anyone
is more than $14 billion per year (an estimated 400,000 people at
$35,000 per year). Many are serving mandatory minimum sentences of 15
years or more.

Those costs do not include any of the prohibition agents' salaries,
the judges' salaries, the loss of life due to impure bootleg, or the
turf battles over prohibition profits. It does not include the murders
of grandfathers or parents by prohibition agents during botched
no-knock raids on homes. It does not include the lives ruined by
prohibition laws that brand good folks as criminals, or the AIDS cases
caused by the prohibition laws against clean needles, etc.

Remember how the Jews had to wear stars in Nazi Germany? Well,
students who have been "caught" smoking some pot are now branded with
not being able to receive student loans. That will deny all of us the
benefits of their future discoveries.

Fairfield, N.J.
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