Pubdate: Thu, 16 Aug 2001
Source: Daily Herald (NC)
Copyright: 2001 Daily Herald
Author: Robert Sharpe
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


The daily herald's thoughtful Aug. 5th editorial on the Emmit Scott 
case makes the point that marijuana is relatively harmless compared 
to many legal drugs. 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 '60s counterculture. This 
intergenerational culture war does far more harm than marijuana. Drug 
policies modeled after America's disastrous experiment with alcohol 
prohibition effectively subsidize organized crime, while failing 
miserably at preventing use. Indeed, the black market's lack of age 
controls makes it easier for kids to buy illegal drugs than beer.

In Europe, the Netherlands has successfully reduced overall drug use 
by replacing marijuana prohibition with regulation. Dutch rates of 
drug use are significantly lower than U.S. rates in every category. 
Separating the hard and soft drug markets and establishing age 
controls for marijuana has proven more effective than zero tolerance. 
As the most popular illicit drug in the U.S., illegal marijuana 
provides the black market contacts that introduce users to drugs like 
heroin. This "gateway" is the direct result of a fundamentally flawed 

Given that marijuana is arguably safer than legal alcohol - the plant 
has never been shown to cause an overdose death - it makes no sense 
to waste tax dollars on failed policies that finance organized crime 
and facilitate the use of hard drugs. Drug policy reform may send the 
wrong message to children, but I like to think the children 
themselves are more important than the message. Opportunistic "tough 
on drugs" politicians would no doubt disagree.

A dated comparison of Dutch vs. American rates of drug use can be 
found at:

More recent figures can be found at:

Sincerely, Robert Sharpe, M.P.A. Program Officer The Lindesmith 
Center-Drug Policy Foundation Washington, D.C.
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