Pubdate: Sun, 26 Feb 2006 Source: Daily News Tribune (Waltham, MA) Copyright: 2006 The Daily News Tribune Contact: http://www.dailynewstribune.com Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/3562 Author: Robert Sharpe Referenced: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v06/n232/a11.html DRUG POLICY FINANCES CRIME Regarding Rick Holmes' thoughtful column ("40 years of reefer madness," Feb. 19), there is a big difference between condoning marijuana use and protecting children from drugs. Decriminalization acknowledges the social reality of marijuana and frees users from the stigma of life-shattering criminal records. What's really needed is a regulated market with age controls. Separating the hard and soft drug markets is critical. As long as marijuana distribution remains in the hands of organized crime, consumers will continue to come into contact with sellers of hard drugs like heroin. This "gateway" is the direct result of a fundamentally flawed policy. Given that marijuana is arguably safer than legal 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, MPA policy analyst, Common Sense for Drug Policy, Arlington, Va.