Pubdate: Fri, 30 Aug 2002
Source: El Paso Times (TX)
Copyright: 2002 El Paso Times
Author: Robert Sharpe


That border drug cartels are using teenage "mules" to do their dirty work 
should not come as a surprise. Drug policies modeled after alcohol 
prohibition have given rise to a youth-oriented black market. Illegal drug 
dealers don't ID for age, but they do recruit minors who are immune to 
adult sentences.

So much for protecting the children.

In Europe, the Netherlands has successfully reduced overall drug use by 
replacing marijuana prohibition with adult 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 proved to be more effective than zero tolerance policies. In 
the U.S., marijuana provides black market contacts that introduce consumers 
to addictive drugs. This "gateway" is the direct result of a fundamentally 
flawed policy.

Given that marijuana is arguably safer than 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 are more important than the message.

Robert Sharpe

program officer, Drug Policy Alliance

Washington, DC
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