Pubdate: Wed, 17 Apr 2002
Source: Charlotte Creative Loafing (NC)
Copyright: 2002 Creative Loafing Charlotte, Inc.
Author: Robert Sharpe


To The Editors:

Tara Servatius' April 3 column ("Time To Clean House") on the "one- strike, 
you're out" policy of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development 
failed to fully acknowledge the law's potential collateral damage. The zero 
tolerance measure requires that entire families be evicted from public 
housing if anyone, even a guest, uses drugs. The youthful indiscretions of 
a rebellious teenager could result in homelessness for an entire family.

According to the Monitoring the Future Survey, over half of all high school 
seniors have tried an illegal drug at least once. Exposing 50 percent of 
all families living in public housing to the dangers of living on the 
street is not the answer to America's drug problem. Most teenagers outgrow 
their youthful indiscretions involving drugs. An arrest and criminal 
record, on the other hand, can be life-shattering.

After admitting to smoking pot (but not inhaling), Clinton opened himself 
to "soft on drugs" criticism. And 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 
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 Program Officer Drug Policy Alliance Washington, DC
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