Pubdate: Fri, 08 Jun 2001
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Copyright: 2001 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Author: Jeff Arnett


While I support everything he presents here, Mr. Prager has both hit the 
mark and missed the bigger picture. What he offers here is no less than a 
well-reasoned argument for legalizing all drugs and narcotics for moderate 
use among those 18 (or 19) or older.

I too am no supporter of any "pro-alcohol agenda." Unlike Mr. Prager, I do 
not drink any alcohol at all, even though it's legal for me to do so. Nor 
do I use any illegal drugs--nor would I if they became legal, any more than 
I use alcohol now. And as someone who has experience as a marriage and 
family therapist, I've seen how its abuse destroys lives as well as ends them.

Yet no one today is arguing to make alcohol illegal. Perhaps because we 
learned in the 1920s that doing so is even worse than the social ills we 
face with a legal substance. But that is exactly the result of the "war" 
we're trying to fight today against other drugs and narcotics, isn't it?

I would take issue, however, with Mr. Prager's assertion that today's "war 
against tobacco" is in any way comparable to our attempt two generations 
ago to wipe out alcohol. Filing lawsuits against the producers is a far cry 
from criminalizing tobacco. Does he have any doubt that making tobacco 
against the law today would instantly transform it from "only a major 
health problem" to the same disastrous end we saw 75 years ago with alcohol 
and today with other drugs?

I'm intrigued also that he disparages today's antismoking climate. He was 
very forthcoming about his drinking patterns, but I'm wondering, Mr. 
Prager--do you smoke tobacco?

And finally, I wholeheartedly agree that there is a world of difference 
between the "countless good people [who] drink in moderation without the 
slightest ill effect on themselves or others," as he puts it, and the 
"problem drinking" that produces the various crises that many families and 
individuals face as a result of their uncontrolled behavior.

Let's win the "real war" against those who put others at risk by their own 
irresponsibility, and rechannel those resources wasted on occasional drug 
and alcohol users into more urgent social ills.

Jeff Arnett
El Cajon, Calif.
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