Reefer madness

By Gary Kamiya

Published October 16, 2000 7:44PM (EDT)

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Let me first say that I am a conservative Republican and I agree with you almost completely. The war on drugs makes Vietnam look like a brilliant military success.

In my youth (the late '60s and '70s) almost everyone I knew smoked pot (including junior military officers) and we used to talk about how cool it was going to be when we came to political power. Instead we have become a generation of hypocrites bereft of any claim to honesty.

I have never read any credible study that demonstrate that drug use causes anywhere near the socioeconomic damage that our favorite drug, alcohol, causes.

My suggestion is that we decriminalize all drug use, utilize massive and HONEST education programs beginning in elementary school, and offer real drug (and alcohol) rehabilitation programs.

-- Mike Melugin
Manteo, N.C.

Hurrah for Gary Kamiya's lucid, well-argued plea for the end to hypocrisy on drugs. Two questions he didn't raise: Why is the medical use of marijuana still an issue when the medical use of codeine and morphine has never been questioned? And what effect do the major illegal drug importers have on political decisions? After all, the U.S. illegal drug trade is worth trillions of dollars -- if you were one of the beneficiaries, how much would you be prepared to spend to prop up loud-mouthed right-wing "morals" crusaders, and to vigorously lobby promising members of Congress in order to keep the status quo? Imagine how much power and influence organized crime would lose if marijuana were decriminalized. Reefer madness indeed!

-- Jenny Crocker

The big thing this country needs to recognize about the war on drugs is IT DOES NOT WORK. Like author/journalist Jim Hightower has said, "If something works, do it some more. If it doesn't, try something else." This country has spent massive amounts of tax dollars on this phony crusade with the only result being lots of profit for drug dealers and prison builders. That oft-repeated clichi about being able to keep a kid in Harvard or Yale for four years for the money it takes to support a prison bed for one year isn't just rhetoric. If that money were spent on kindergarten through fifth grade, we could solve many of the nation's problems with poverty and crime, not to mention addiction. All we got from Prohibition was massive law-breaking by ordinary citizens and we now get the same from the war on drugs and at a much greater cost.

P.S.: I am 73 years old and have never smoked marijuana in my life.

-- Barbara Robinson

This article is right on in its assessment of our cultural hypocrisy in regards to drug use. I grew up with the "Just Say No" and the DARE program in school. I think more than anything these programs presented me and my generation with a false reality of what drugs represent. Added together with the confusion when most of us find out that our baby boomer parents used drugs in their youth, a general cynicism develops towards the messages society tries to send us.

It is time for this issue to be brought out into the open, but the two main candidates and their parties ignore it or go off in the wrong direction. That is one reason why I won't be voting for either of them next month.

-- Christopher Hemmig

I am twenty-two years old and recently graduated with honors from Dartmouth. I was accepted at NYU Film School with a federally subsidized scholarship that I need to afford my program. Once in college, I was arrested because a passenger in my car had half a joint of marijuana in his pocket. Because of a new federal law that denies federal student aid to convicted drug offenders, I have lost my scholarship and may have to cut my education short.

Even if the federal government believes this natural plant to be evil and banishable, which I disagree with, how is denying me a master's degree and effective means of thwarting my recreational drug use? Denying education is the opposite the so-called rehabilitation I don't need anyway. Now I am terrified of police officers and resent our judicial system, even though I am an educated, nonviolent and highly productive member of our society.

Just thinking about it makes me want to go smoke a joint.

-- Andrew Singer

A thousand thanks for your thoughtful editorial on the reefer madness that has characterized much of the pre-crack and post-crack drug war. It is amazing that after spending both Monday and Tuesday evenings watching a very enlightening PBS special on the drug wars, I arrived at a presidential debate on Wednesday evening in which the subject didn't even come up.

I was reminded that during the 1960 debate between Richard Nixon and John Kennedy that of all the subjects that were discussed, the emerging war in Vietnam was never addressed. I wonder, as we send troops into Colombia to help fight a cocaine-financed leftist rebel army, whether we will look back on the debates of 2000, wondering why nobody said a word about this new level of deadly involvement in the drug war.

-- David Penn

Thank you for publishing Gary Kamiya's article about the ridiculous drug war. The way we are destroying lives over pot does not bode well for the future of our country. Demonized (on mainly racial grounds) at the beginning of the last century, pot has retained this ludicrous image of the "killer weed."

I am a successful editor at a business publication. I am married. I have a child. I smoke pot. I am not a criminal. I don't understand how the drug war continues. Everyone I know smokes, or has smoked, pot. Thanks for taking a stand.

-- Rob Hulsman

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