Pubdate: Wed, 21 Jul 2010 Source: Express-Times, The (PA) Copyright: 2010 The Express-Times Contact: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/opinion/sendaletter/ Website: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/expresstimes/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/1489 Author: Robert Sharpe Referenced: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v10/n559/a09.html THE ANSWER TO DRUG WAR: DECRIMINALIZATION OF POT Regarding your July 16 editorial on New Jersey's stalled medical marijuana program, the drug war is largely a war on marijuana smokers. In 2008, there were 847,863 marijuana arrests in the U.S., almost 90 percent for simple possession. At a time when state and local governments are laying off police, firefighters and teachers, this country continues to spend enormous public resources criminalizing Americans who prefer marijuana to martinis. The end result of this ongoing culture war is not necessarily lower rates of use. The U.S. has higher rates of marijuana use than the Netherlands, where marijuana is legally available. Decriminalization is a long overdue step in the right direction. Taxing and regulating marijuana would render the drug war obsolete. As long as organized crime controls distribution, marijuana consumers will come into contact with sellers of hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin. This "gateway" is a direct result of marijuana prohibition. ROBERT SHARPE Arlington, Va. Policy analyst Common Sense for Drug Policy Washington, D.C.