Pubdate: Tue, 08 Oct 2002
Source: Times-News, The (ID)
Copyright: 2002 Magic Valley Newspapers
Author: Andrew J. Crane


The Times-News editorial on marijuana (Sept. 26) quotes the head of the 
Office of National Drug Control Policy commenting on marijuana addiction 
among teen-agers. Although the syndrome of cannabis dependence has been 
verified, it is questionable whether the term "addiction" can be properly 
applied, since even chronic users manifest, at most, mild withdrawal 
symptoms. Regardless, the claim that "marijuana is the most addictive drug 
among teen-agers today" is arguable when tobacco and alcohol are 
considered. Alcohol withdrawal, for example, can be so severe as to result 
in death. In any case, few advocates of decriminalizing the personal use of 
marijuana would disagree that there are health risks from smoking pot.

But that's not the point. The issue is the mistaken belief that draconian 
penalties for marijuana use are justified either morally or practically. 
Two generations of federal drug czars have fought a "war on drugs." But 
according to a blue-ribbon scientific commission in California, "this 
traditional approach has accomplished little except possibly to increase 
price and encourage experimentation with alternate drugs." The "war" has 
been successful, however, in imprisoning tens of thousands of Americans who 
harmed no one, some of whom received longer sentences than criminals 
convicted of rape or murder!

As to your claim that marijuana is a "threshold" drug which leads to other 
illicit substances: In a report to the World Health Organization, 
researchers determined that it is more probable that adolescents with a 
propensity to use other illicit drugs are drawn into marijuana use.

One of the reasons the "war on drugs" has been ineffective is that it lumps 
all illegal drugs together as equally dangerous to society. The federal 
government has systematically ignored contradictory scientific evidence as 
it continued ill-conceived and ineffective policies. Law enforcement 
officials should be able to devote their limited resources to fighting the 
scourge of methamphetamines, for example, rather than arresting people for 
smoking a joint. A number of states have reasoned, fair and humane policies 
toward personal marijuana use. Idaho should follow suit.

Andrew J. Crane

Twin Falls
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