Pubdate: Wed, 24 Jul 2002
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Copyright: 2002 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Author: David T. Wilkinson, Robert Sharpe, Mark Mainwaring


In your July 16 editorial "Going to Pot," you assert that "the evidence 
emerging in countries that have legalized (the Netherlands, Switzerland, 
Belgium) supports the view that decriminalization leads to rising drug use 
and higher crime rates."

In Holland the homicide rate is 1.8 per 100,000 population, according to 
the Registered Murders in the Netherlands, Press Release, CBS 
Voorburg-Statistics Netherlands (1995). The Uniform Crime Reports: 
Department of Justice (1995) reports that the U.S. rate is 8 per 100,000. 
In other words, the U.S. murder rate is 444% of the Dutch rate.

There is also a large disparity in drug usage rates. The Netherlands, as 
reported by the University of Amsterdam, Centre for Drug Research, found a 
lifetime prevalence of marijuana use at 15.6% for people 12 and older. The 
comparable number in the U.S. is 33%, according to the U.S. Department of 
Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services 
Administration, National Household Survey on Drug Abuse.

David T. Wilkinson

Buzzards Bay, Mass.



The actual impact of marijuana laws on rates of use is negligible. The 
University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future Study reports that lifetime 
use of marijuana is higher in the U.S. than any European country. Yet 
America is one of the few Western countries that wastes resources punishing 
citizens who prefer marijuana to martinis.

Unlike alcohol, marijuana has never been shown to cause an overdose death, 
nor does it share the addictive properties of tobacco. The short-term 
health effects of marijuana are inconsequential compared with the long-term 
effects of criminal records. Unfortunately, marijuana represents the 
counterculture to misguided reactionaries in Congress intent on legislating 
their version of morality. In subsidizing the prejudices of culture 
warriors, the U.S. government is inadvertently subsidizing organized crime.

The drug war's distortion of immutable laws of supply and demand make an 
easily grown weed literally worth its weight in gold. The only clear 
winners in the war on some drugs are drug cartels and shameless 
tough-on-drugs politicians who've built careers on confusing drug 
prohibition's collateral damage with a relatively harmless plant. The big 
losers in this battle are the American taxpayers who have been deluded into 
believing big government is the appropriate response to nontraditional 
consensual vices.

Robert Sharpe

Program Officer, Drug Policy Alliance, Washington



As one who agrees with most of your editorials, I'm always surprised that 
you and most conservatives are willing to ignore oft-stated "principles" of 
limited government, states' rights and individual freedom to jail Americans 
who use a substance far less harmful than alcohol or tobacco.

Mark Mainwaring

El Paso, Texas
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