Q: Is the Government's War against Marijuana Justified as Public Policy?

Article excerpt

Yes: Protect the public from the practitioners of `Cheech-and-Chona'medicine.

Rolling Stone magazine noted in its May 5, 1994. issue that currency speculator and billionaire philanthropist George Soros gave the Drug Policy Foundation, one of many recipients of his "charitable" largesse, suggestions to follow if they wanted his assistance: "[H]ire someone with the political savvy to sit down and negotiate with government officials and target a few winnable issues, like medical marijuana and the repeal of mandatory minimums." Keith Stroup, founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, told an Emory University audience in 1979 that medicinal marijuana would be used as a red herring to give marijuana a good name. Richard Cowan, writing for the pro-drug High Times magazine, described the "medical model as spearheading a strategy for the legalization of marijuana by 1997."

According to public-opinion polls, legalization of marijuana is not supported by the American people. This explains why the drug lobby carefully steers away from using the term "legalization," preferring cryptic terms such as harm reduction, decriminalization and medicalization. The goal of the drug lobby has not changed; it only is camouflaged. The public sensibly and resolutely remains opposed to recreational marijuana use, but drug legalizers shamefully are trying to con voters through deceptive ballot referenda exploiting the ill and dying.

Marijuana legalizers commonly claim America's prisons teem with young people whose only come was simple possession of marijuana, and that drug arrests disproportionately affect minorities. The recent debate about crack-cocaine sentencing disparities sparked similar claims of racism by the criminal justice system. The drug lobby ignores the obvious fact that a war on drugs hits inner-city traffickers foremost and helps law-abiding residents of neighborhoods who have the least resources with which to fight back. Despite the inescapable conclusion that placing drug dealers behind bars protects neighborhoods against criminals, violent crime and social ills attendant with drug use, drug legalizers such as University of California at Los Angeles' Mark Kleiman absurdly claim: "Locking up a burglar does not materially change the opportunities for other burglars, while locking up a drug dealer leaves potential customers for new dealers."

The drug lobby frequently compares the drug war to Prohibition. But as a publication at the turn of the century (when the United States had a raging drug problem) observed, "a drunkard may retain his moral equilibrium between debauches . . . but the `dope fiend,' once thoroughly addicted, inevitably drops into utter debasement." Unlike illegal drugs, alcohol and drinking were embedded in Anglo-Saxon and European social customs. While the temperance movement prevailed after heated debate, drug restrictions passed during the same period widely were regarded as uncontroversial and needed. Western states passed marijuana-prohibition laws in response to a rash of crimes and violence linked to cannabis use among Mexican immigrants. A medical exemption existed then to the import of marijuana, but soon states and politicians appealed to the federal government for help in confronting -- the "loco weed." Legendary New York journalist Meyer Berger in 1938 summed up expert medical opinion at the time: "Marijuana, while no more habit-forming than ordinary cigarette smoking, offers a shorter cut to complete madness than any other drug."

Drug legalizers recently lost a ballot initiative in Washington state on Nov. 4, a setback from victories to legalize illegal drugs last year in California and Arizona. The Washington-state referendum -- I-685, which failed by a margin of 60 percent to 40 percent --combined the worst aspects of the legalization initiatives in California and Arizona by not only seeking to legalize marijuana but also cocaine, heroin, LSD and other narcotics on Schedule T of the federal Controlled Substances Act, drugs judged to have no medicinal benefit and high potential for abuse. …