Pubdate: Sat, 04 Aug 2001
Source: Fayetteville Observer-Times (NC)
Copyright: 2001 Fayetteville Observer-Times
Author: Robert Sharpe,  Program officer, Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy 
Foundation Washington, D.C.


Kudos to the Observer for the excellent July 22 editorial, "Budget crisis 
won't depart without work," on the Higher Education Act's denial of student 
loans to youth convicted of drug offenses.

Anyone born into a wealthy family need not fear the impact of the Higher 
Education Act. Instead of empowering at-risk students with college degrees, 
HEA limits career opportunities and increases the likelihood that those 
affected will resort to crime. Speaking of crime, convicted rapists and 
murderers are still eligible for federal student loans.

The hypocrisy of the drug war is glaring. Alcohol poisoning kills thousands 
annually. Tobacco is one of the most addictive substances known to man.

Marijuana, on the other hand, is not physically addictive and has never 
been shown to cause an overdose death. If health outcomes determined drug 
laws instead of cultural norms, marijuana would be legal.

The first marijuana laws were a racist reaction to Mexican immigration 
during the early 1900s, passed in large part due to newspaper magnate 
William Randolph Hearst's sensationalist yellow journalism. White Americans 
did not even begin to smoke marijuana until a soon-to-be entrenched 
government bureaucracy began funding reefer madness propaganda.

These days marijuana is confused with 1960s counterculture. This 
intergenerational culture war does far more harm than marijuana. Illegal 
marijuana provides the black market contacts that introduce users to hard 
drugs like crack. This "gateway" is the direct result of a fundamentally 
flawed policy.

Politicians need to stop worrying about the message that drug policy reform 
sends to children and start thinking about the children themselves.

Robert Sharpe Program officer, Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation 
Washington, D.C.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom