Pubdate:  Sun, 23 Aug 1998
Source: Centre Daily Times (PA)
Authors: Jay Ferguson, Redford Givens, Joel Carlson, Kirk Nechamkin,
Cindy Campbell, Clifford A. Schaffer, Joseph Filko


Editor's note: The following cluster of letters all respond to Joesph
Filko's Aug. 16 "My View" column. These are all of the letters
received by the close of business on Friday.

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As a protester against the War on (some) Drugs, I thought in view of
the "My View" article entitled "Illegal drug use leads to surrender of
social liberties" by Joseph Filko that I would mention to you one
freedom that is dear to us all that is indeed threatened to be
abolished. This freedom is our First Amendment right, the freedom of

In the a recent article in Reason magazine ("A Duty to Censor," by
Phillip O. Corrin, in the Aug./Sept. issue), we read that the United
Nations is attempting to prohibit any and all who have a differing
opinion to current drug policy. In a country where the most bigoted
racist has a platform to speak his mind, how do we justify the
censorship of those who suggest Drug Policy Reform. To Mr. Filko, this
is why I protest every Thursday at noon on the corner of Allen Street
and College Avenue.

The article I've mentioned highlights the United Nations' position. I
wonder if Mr. Filko stands with them. Prohibiting dialog and speech is
justified since everything is justified in the War on (some) Drugs. I
may not agree with your opinion but I will defend to the death your
right to speak it. I invite a debate with Mr. Filko at any time.

I finish with a quote from Abraham Lincoln: "It has been my experience
that folks who have no vices have very few virtues." Looks like ol' Abe
knew about the hypocrisy of banning people from consuming what they will,
and to a deep level. Think about that when you have a beer and scorn a
person for smoking marijuana.

Jay Ferguson

State College

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*  History is repeating itself. During alcohol prohibition things got so far
out of control that teen alcoholism became a major problem. Every high
school had its own bootlegger. Schools were closed because of student

The cause of the problem was the same for alcohol then as it is for
drugs now -- outlaws don't ask for ID cards. In a criminal black
market anyone of any age can buy anything they have enough money to
pay for. Hence, we are seeing 13-year-old heroin users.

It is essential to recognize this as a symptom of a failed policy.
Escalating the drug laws will only make matters worse. The results of
15 years of the most intensive drug prohibition in history are nothing
less than a national disaster. A massive effort costing well over a
trillion dollars to date has resulted in the cheapest, purest and most
widely available heroin and cocaine since the drug laws went on the

Even school children now have access. It's time to stop listening to
hypocritical drug prohibitionists who actually create child addiction
with their drug policies.

The solution is to legalize drugs for adult use and regulate the drug
market the same way we do the alcohol trade. Criminal dealers cannot
compete in a legal market and licensed dealers won't sell to kids.
That's why we don't see bootleggers selling booze in the schoolyards
the way they did in the 1920s.

Legalization and regulation will greatly reduce children's access to
drugs and eliminate all "drug crime" caused by empowering a criminal
black market.

Redford Givens

San Francisco

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*This letter is a responsible citizen's addendum to Joseph B. Filko's Aug.
16 column. The title was "Illegal drug use leads to surrender of social

Does this mean that legal drug use does not?

Filko asserts that marijuana "adds nothing to civilized society or to
human productivity." What about alcohol (see numerous articles from
CDT on the alcohol-induced arts festival riot)?

The author's argument is a moral one, that abusing intoxicating or
hallucinogenic substances is tantamount to Iying to oneself by
distorting reality. Should we also make Iying to ourselves illegal?

The article ignores the issue of hemp. To those who support laws
compelling others to do what we think is best for them: Must we also
ban hemp as an alternative to deforestation and dependence on
petroleum-based, oil-producing countries?

Joel Carlson

State College

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* While marijuana is most definitely a psychoactive drug with intoxicating
properties, it absolutely does not promote violence like alcohol does. In
the Netherlands, coffee shops that serve marijuana are notorious for their
peaceful atmosphere. Anybody who frequents them will tell you that there
is never any violence or lunacy associated with marijuana use. There is no
reason why Americans should not have the freedom to consume marijuana.

Some people think that people should be free to do things the
overhwhelming marjority of society agrees upon. In acuality, this is
not freedom. Nobody needs the freedom to do that which everyone will

Personal liberty comes at an expense to society. This is a defining
characteristic of liberty.

In a recent column in the CDT, Joseph B. Filko wrote: "Human rights
are more accurately defined as those freedoms of action which are
required for the realization of the full potential and continuation of
human life."

What he is describing is not freedom. Similar reasoning is often used
to condemn homosex-uality. In fact, if we could successfully prohibit
heterosexual intercourse, we could reduce the spread of HIV (and,
thus, AIDS-related deaths) significantly.

As people's views on religion and spirituality vary significantly, so
do our goals and aspirations in life. What one person regards as "the
full potential" of humanity might be agreed upon by everyone. For some
people, the freedom to peacefully consume a marijuana cigarette seems
as basic as the freedom to engage in consensual sexual relations.

Kirk Nechamkin

Forest Hills, N.Y.

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* This is a response to the editorial by Mr. Joseph B. Filko on Aug. 16.
Mr. Filko, you suggest "... that the demonstrators have a very limited
grasp of the rational and historic origins of human and civil rights." I
claim that in fact the demonstrators have an excellent understanding of
the disturbing history of drug prohibition and the dismal reality of the
war on drugs.

Laws against marijuana, as well as other drugs, were enacted primarily
to repress minority groups. In a hearing before Congress in 1937, the
Bureau of Narcotics Commissioner Harry J. Anslinger argued that
marijuana needed to be prohibited because of its supposed violent
"effect on the degenerate races."

Congress agreed over the protests of the American Medical Association,
which presented evidence that marijuana was not a threat to public
health. And thus the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 became law, passed as a
tax law because they understood what the demonstrators are trying to
tell you -- that outright prohibition is an infringement of personal
liberties guaranteed by the Constitu-tion.

Founded in such ignorance and bigotry as this, it is no wonder that
the War on Drugs has reaped such devastation. The facts are appalling:

* Drug addicts are treated as criminals instead of

* Prisons are crowded beyond capacity;

* Inner cities have become war zones;

* And the government has continued to repress badly needed research
regarding the medical merits of marijuana

Mr. Filko said to survive we need "... to perceive reality accurately"
and to respond to it rationally.

I agree. We must see the War on Drugs for what it is -- a
fundamentally flawed policy causing much more harm than good -- and
work for a better solution.

That is what these demonstrators are doing and I thank them for their

Cindy Campbell

West Haven, Conn.

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* I can see that Joseph Filko has taught political science and, therefore,
must be a scholar of drug policy, civil liberties and related issues. I
would like to pose two simple questions to Mr. Filko:

One: How would you explain the fact that even the people who wrote the
original federal drug prohibition laws (the Harrison Tax Act and the
Marijuana Tax Act) agreed that the federal government was constitutionally
prohibited from enacting any law to prohibit the personal use of drugs?

Two: I have collected the full text of most of the major studies of drugs
and drug policy over the last 100 years, from around the world. Mr. Filko
can find that collection on the Internet at

As anyone can readily see, the short summation of the world's serious
research on this issue is that this drug policy is a bad idea and
always has been -- regardless of what you might think about the civil
liberties issue.

I ask Mr. Filko -- as the scholar of these issues that he is -- to
supply me with the name of any significant study of drug policy in the
last 100 years that he thinks supports our current drug policy --
particularly with respect to marijuana. I have been searching for 10
years, and I can't find one.

Clifford A. Schaffer

Canyon Country, Calif.

The writer is director or the DRCNet Online Library of Drug Policy,
which can be viewed at

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* Joseph Filko responds:

The writers of the referenced legislation were in no position
to determine what is constitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court enjoys that
exclusive priviledge, and they, apparently, have not seen fit to so
rule regarding current drug law.

I suggest that Mr. Schaffer pick up his telephone and call the
director of life underwriting at any top-rated life insurance company
and ask how applicants who are regular marijuana users are
underwritten. He'll find that such persons are either declined
insurance altogether or are so highly rated as to make the insurance
practically unaffordable.

Insurance companies reject or rate such applicants on the basis of 
claims experience and statistics, not puritanical thinking.

He may also want to review "Say No to Marijuana Legalization," by
Donna Shalala in the Wall Street Journal, Aug. 8, 1995, as well as
reports to Congress from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Check
the NIDA World Wide Web site for more information at:

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Checked-by: Patrick Henry