Pubdate: Sat, 17 May 2003
Source: Miami Herald (FL)
Copyright: 2003 The Miami Herald
Author: Robert Sharpe


Re the May 8 article Drug court graduates are touched by governor's remarks:

Miami-Dade County's Drug Court definitely is a step in the right direction. 
For nonviolent offenders with chronic substance-abuse problems, drug 
treatment is a cost-effective alternative to incarceration.

Unfortunately, drug courts are being misused for political purposes. Record 
numbers of Americans arrested for marijuana possession have been forced 
into treatment by the criminal-justice system. The resulting distortion of 
treatment statistics is then used by federal Drug Czar John Walters to make 
the claim that marijuana is "addictive."

Zero-tolerance drug laws do not distinguish between occasional use and 
chronic abuse. The coercion of Americans who prefer marijuana to martinis 
into taxpayer-funded treatment centers says a lot about U.S. government 
priorities but nothing about the relative harms of marijuana.

For an objective take on marijuana, look to Canada. In the words of 
Canadian Sen. Pierre Claude Nolin: "Scientific evidence overwhelmingly 
indicates that cannabis is substantially less harmful than alcohol and 
should be treated not as a criminal issue but as a social and public- 
health issue."

ROBERT SHARPE is Program Officer, Drug Policy Alliance, Washington, D.C.
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