Pubdate: Thu, 27 Jun 2002
Source: Gainesville Sun, The (FL)
Copyright: 2002 The Gainesville Sun
Author: Robert Sharpe


This is in response to The Sun's story (June 21), "Police frustrated by 
Ecstasy deaths."

Ecstasy is the latest illegal drug to be making headlines, but it won't be 
the last until politicians acknowledge the drug war's inherent failure.

Drug policies modeled after alcohol prohibition have given rise to a 
youth-oriented black market. Illegal drug dealers do not ID for age, but 
they do push trendy, profitable "club drugs" like ecstasy, regardless of 
the dangers posed.

The ecstasy variant known as PMA, which has been taking the lives of 
Florida youth, is today's version of Prohibition's "bathtub gin."

The overdose victims thought they were buying ecstasy, but the thriving 
black market has no controls. The drug war fails miserably at its primary 
mandate of protecting children from drugs.

Taxing and regulating marijuana, the most popular illicit drug, is a 
cost-effective alternative to never-ending drug war. There is a big 
difference between condoning marijuana use and protecting children from drugs.

Decriminalization acknowledges the social reality of marijuana use and 
frees users from the stigma of life-shattering criminal records. What's 
really needed is a regulated market with age controls.

Separating the hard and soft drug markets is critical. Marijuana may be 
relatively harmless compared to alcohol - pot has never been shown to cause 
an overdose death - but marijuana prohibition is deadly. As long as 
marijuana distribution remains in the hands of organized crime, consumers 
will continue to come into contact with 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.

Tough-on-drugs politicians who depend on drug hysteria to literally scare 
up votes would no doubt disagree.

Robert Sharpe,

program officer,

Drug Policy Alliance,

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