Pubdate: Mon,  2 Dec 2002
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2002 News World Communications, Inc.
Author: R. Keith Stroup


Florida drug czar Jim McDonough may be gloating prematurely when he
declares that the recent national elections were a "broad-based
rejection of the drug normalization campaign begun in the mid-1990s"
("They just said no," Op-Ed, Tuesday).

This fall's statewide marijuana policy initiatives in Nevada and
Arizona were defeated because they included provisions that went
beyond the point most Americans support. They called for legalizing
the sale of small amounts of marijuana in Nevada, and providing free
medical marijuana to patients in Arizona. However, polling continues
to demonstrate that a voter initiative would enjoy majority support if
it focused on the core issue of whether we should stop treating
responsible marijuana smokers as criminals.

A recent Zogby poll found 61 percent of the American public opposes
arresting and jailing marijuana smokers, while only 31 percent
supports current drug policies. A new Time/CNN poll found 72 percent
of the public favors a fine only - no jail - for marijuana smokers.

Contrary to Mr. McDonough's allegations, it is not "smoke and mirrors"
to report that the FBI says there were 724,000 Americans arrested on
marijuana charges last year, and that 89 percent of those arrests were
for simple possession. Most marijuana smokers are good, productive
citizens who contribute in a positive way to their communities. By
treating them as criminals, we are needlessly destroying the lives and
careers of our own citizens, and wasting law enforcement resources
that should be focused on serious and violent crimes, including terrorism.

In the long run, it will be impossible for the drug warriors to
maintain criminal penalties for the responsible use of marijuana by
adults, because a solid majority of the American public now opposes
criminalizing marijuana smokers. In a democracy, the laws must
eventually reflect the will of the majority.

Executive director NORML
Washington DC
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