Pubdate: Thu, 23 Oct 2008
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald (Hilo, HI)
Copyright: 2008 Hawaii Tribune Herald
Author: Francine Pearson


I still don't know how I'll vote on the ballot issue making marijuana
a low law enforcement priority in Hawaii County. As a retired teacher,
I think that any substance that our young people use to alter their
consciousness will harm their intellectual and interpersonal

But after reading Mr. Gagner's views in the Oct. 22 edition of the
Tribune-Herald, I was curious, and decided to research his findings.
Using the same statistical source Mr. Gagner used, what I found was
quite alarming.

According to TEDs, the statistical source used by Mr. Gagner, in 2002
13 percent of ER admissions, or approximately 32,000, were
marijuana-use related.

That same year, 47 percent, or approximately 116,000 ER admissions,
were alcohol-use related.

If we agree that any substance that sent over 30,000 people to the
emergency rooms across America in 2002 (and inferentially about the
same numbers each year) should be illegal, will Mr. Gagner agree that
any substance that sent over 116,000 to U.S. ERs in 2002 (and
inferentially about the same numbers each year) should be even more
illegal, with greater judicial penalties for use and abuse?

And yet we continue to allow alcohol to be legal while we arrest
marijuana users. This makes no sense to me.

It makes even less sense if we count those that were injured by the
alcohol users. Once we look at that, the numbers go up exponentially.
These include family and spousal abuse, fist fights, terroristic
threatening and DUIs including vehicular homicides. These kind of
collateral injuries are not a significant part of the threat posed by
marijuana usage, according to the data.

Applying Mr. Gagner's reasoning and statistical sources, I recommend
that if we continue to criminalize the use of substances that cause
damage to self, others and property, alcohol must be first among
these, with marijuana coming in a distant fifth after methamphetamine,
cocaine and opiates.

Although, as I mentioned at the beginning of this letter, I'm still
not sure how I'll vote on the ballot initiative regarding making
marijuana a low-priority law-enforcement issue, after seeing these
statistics, I am convinced that if incidences of harm to self and
others is our criteria, alcohol should be criminalized immediately. To
do otherwise would be hypocritical.

Francine Pearson

- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin