Pubdate: Thu, 10 May 2001
Source: Sun News (SC)
Copyright: 2001 Sun Publishing Co.
Author: Robert Sharpe


Regarding Assembly Bill 453, which would authorize medical use of
marijuana and decriminalize possession of small amounts of pot, the
proposed legislation does nothing to undermine the black market or
provide Nevada's medical marijuana patients with a supply. There is a
big difference between condoning marijuana use and protecting
children from drugs. Needless to say, the thriving black market has
no age controls that work to keep drugs out of the hands of children.

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 have proven more effective than zero tolerance.

Here in the United States, illegal marijuana provides the black
market contacts that introduce users to drugs like heroin. This
"gateway" is the direct result of a fundamentally flawed policy. 
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 policies that finance organized crime and facilitate the
use of hard drugs.

As for medical marijuana, the hypocrisy of the drug war is made all
the more glaring by the fact that the federal government currently
grows and distributes medical marijuana to eight patients. Those
fortunate enough to enroll in the government's Compassionate Use
Program before drug warriors shut it down needn't worry about
marijuana's worst side-effect: jail.

ROBERT SHARPE, Program officer, The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy
Foundation, Washington, D.C.
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