Pubdate: Wed, 31 Jul 2002
Source: Daily Star, The (NY)
Copyright: 2002 The Daily Star
Author: Robert Sharpe


Regarding your July 27 editorial on the Pride survey: The most striking 
finding of the Pride survey was the dramatic decline in tobacco use among 
teen-agers. Public education efforts are clearly paying off. This raises 
serious questions about the $50 billion drug war. Apparently random drug 
testing, mandatory minimum sentences, civil asset forfeiture and jail cells 
are not necessarily the most effective means of discouraging unhealthy 
choices. Most teen-agers outgrow their youthful indiscretions involving 
illicit drugs. An arrest and criminal record, on the other hand, can be 
life-shattering. After admitting to smoking pot (but not inhaling), former 
president Bill Clinton opened himself up to "soft on drugs" criticism. 
Thousands of Americans have paid the price in the form of shattered lives. 
More Americans went to prison or jail during the Clinton administration 
than during any past administration. As an admitted former drinker and 
alleged illicit drug user, President George W. Bush is also politically 
vulnerable when it comes to drugs. While youthful indiscretions didn't stop 
Clinton or Bush from assuming leadership positions, an arrest surely would 
have. The short-term health effects of politically incorrect drugs like 
marijuana are inconsequential compared to the long-term effects of criminal 
records. Drug abuse is bad, but the zero-tolerance drug war is worse.

Robert Sharpe, M.P.A. , Arlington, Va.

Sharpe is program officer for Drug Policy Alliance in Washington, D.C.
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