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Decriminalizing the Use of Drugs

April 17, 1988

As a physician who sees both the immediate and long-term consequences of alcohol and drug abuse, I feel compelled to respond to Stephen Morse's essay on decriminalization of drugs (Op-Ed Page, April 8).

I am always struck (usually when treating the end stages of alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver or suturing the scalp of an inebriated patient who has been in a fight), that a citizen of this country, upon reaching 21 years of age, can walk into a legitimate place of business and buy a mind altering, toxic chemical substance in the form of an attractively packaged beverage, yet risk fines or imprisonment to achieve a similar degree of intoxication with marijuana or cocaine.

Alcohol is a dangerous drug, yet a ban on its consumption is not even worthy of serious consideration. The Prohibition years have shown us that. Society has instead focused its concern about alcohol on understanding the causes of and developing treatments for its abuse, as well as punishing those whose abuse of alcohol deprives others of life or property. Perhaps a similar approach should be taken with marijuana and cocaine.

I do not argue that marijuana or cocaine are safe or desirable in our society, only that there is a hypocrisy and inconsistency in our approach to drug abuse for which I see no logical resolution under our current laws.

ROBERT REISS, M.D.

Northridge

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