Pubdate: Fri, 13 Mar 1998
Date: March 13, 1998
Source: Cape Cod Times (MA)
Author: Richard D. Elrick, Esq.

While Newt Gingrich says we should execute marijuana users and President
Clinton believes we should simply incarcerate them all, two new studies
have shown that marijuana use is less dangerous than either alcohol or
tobaco and doesn't lead to harder drugs like cocaine and heroin.

According to the 2/19 issue of the esteemed British magazine, New
Scientist, a recent study by the United Nations World Health Organization
(WHO), confirming findings from previous studies, concluded that marijuana
does less harm to public health than either alcohol or tobacco.
Unfortunately, the study, which was due to appear last December in the
WHO's first report on the effects of marijuana in 15 years, was withdrawn
at the last minute because of political pressure from American drug
officials and advisers for the UN Drug Control Program who were concerned
that the conclusions would support marijuana legalization efforts.

At the same time, a 10 year study by the Center for Drug Research at the
University of Amsterdam showed that in Holland (where marijuana use by
adults has been legal since 1976) there is a lower use by teenagers, not
only of marijuana, but also of heroin and cocaine, than in other European
countries and the U.S., where those drugs are illegal. When you add that to
the recently published results showing Dutch students achieving
substantially higher scores than Americans on math and science tests, one
can only wonder what the Dutch are doing right that we aren't.

The Dutch study makes clear that by decriminalizing marijuana and
separating it from the market place of hard drugs young people are diverted
away from using such drugs as heroin and cocaine.

No one is saying that the use of marijuana is entirely harmless-no drug use
is. But if the results of legalization were as dangerous as our government
and the drug warriors claim, then those dangers would be readily apparent
after 20 years of the Dutch experiment-and they simply are not.

Our drug policy should be designed to reduce the accessability of drugs by
children and ameliorate the harm caused by drug abuse, not exacerbate it.
By turning our country into the world's largest incarcerator of drug users,
while at the same time having the effect of increasing the quantities,
accessability and potency of drugs, our present policy only makes the drug
problem worse. Like Alcohol Prohibition before it, marijuana prohibition
has been a colossal failure. In 1996 alone, our state and federal
governments spent several billions of precious tax dollars to make 640,000
marijuana arrests. In light of the new studies, it only seems reasonable to
ask why?

Richard D. Elrick, Esq.
Hyannis, MA