Pubdate: Fri, 30 Jul 1999 Date: 07/30/1999 Source: Irish Independent (Ireland) Author: Tara Fox Sir, It is interesting, as always, to see when Irish news finally catches up with the rest of the world on the cannabis debate. Landmark court cases in Britain regarding the 'Demon weed' make for a titillating read on the DART but still the majority of the population remains ignorant about the facts surrounding the cannabis family and its uses. This is due primarily to fear instigated by over-zealous educators, mis-representation by world governments (we should be used to that by now) and apathy to the needs or wishes of others. The cannabis question is of increasing concern to many who prefer to indulge in its inebriant qualities over alcohol. We need to understand why people enjoy using the drug rather than condemn its use. It is too easy for older generations to pass judgement and slap our offspring into prison. The time has come for society to mature beyond the infantile, towards 'just say know'. The so-called drug war has cost far more than it has benefited the government of North America. Why does Ireland insist on following their lead when we know it hasn't stopped the use of any drugs in society. Some facts to think about: Over 652,000 people were arrested in the US in 1997 for marijuana possession. Terms of life imprisonment are given for cultivation of marijuana in some US states. 400,000 tobacco related deaths occur in the US every year. Thousands die from allergic reactions to aspirin and penicillin each year also. No-one has ever died from using marijuana. We also continue to ignore the potential benefits to the environment from the growth of the non-drug cousin of marijuana called hemp. This plant is now grown in 28 countries, including Ireland, and could serve to benefit a society who wish to preserve the lands and forests from excessive tree-harvesting techniques. Hemp requires far less pesticides and little or no fertiliser. There are subsidies offered by the EU to grow hemp. Over $250 million was spent on hemp goods last year in the US. This figure is estimated to rise to $1 billion by 2002. Isn't it time to educate ourselves a little more and lead rather than follow? For more information consider accessing the very informative http://www.marijuananews.com. TARA FOX, Nth Circular Rd, Dublin 7.