Pubdate: Tue, 24 Jun 2008
Source: Times, The (Trenton, NJ)
Copyright: 2008 The Times
Author: Jerry Epstein


Children are a primary concern for drug policy partially because drug
abuse and addiction peak around age 21. The Times' call for increased
judicial discretion is welcome (editorial, "Zone defense," June 20),
but there is no data that show varying punishments based on distances
from schools has impeded availability. We must address the problem at
a more fundamental level.

Some 83 percent of drug abuse is due to alcohol -- 69 percent
exclusively alcohol and another 14 percent where other drugs have been
added. Much of the rest is prescription drug abuse. Policy does not
reflect those basic facts.

Despite massive increases in arrests and imprisonment over the
decades, the financial temptation produced by prohibition has led to
more than 3 percent of teens becoming involved in drug sales,
primarily of marijuana, which is currently used by 93 percent as many
as use alcohol on an average day by those aged 12 to 17.

Marijuana is the backbone of a distribution system that can be
expanded to provide other drugs (thus the "gateway," according to the
National Academy of Sciences). The national commissions on marijuana
of 1972 and 1982 pondered such effects and urged a serious review of
marijuana prohibition, which has never been ef fected but is
desperately needed.

Free market incentives work. We have surrendered control of the drug
supply to criminals. Sup ply meets demand. When we punish sales to
adults severely, we remove the disincentive to sell to the young.
Bottom line: Some 90 percent of 12th graders have reported marijuana
is "easy to get" since 1975 and most it's easier to get than alcohol.

Such an intolerable failure re quires open discussion, assessment and


Houston, Texas

The writer, a New Jersey native, is a researcher for the Drug Policy
Forum of Texas.
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