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Drawing Distinctions on Substance Abuse

July 17, 1988

I must take strong exception with one of your readers' letter regarding the zero tolerance raids by the Santa Ana Police Department. In Gilbert Doran's letter (July 2) he states that there "is no moral difference between the casual users smoking a joint and the rock house kingpin mowing down bystanders with automatic weapons fire." The statement is ridiculous and irrational, yet does point to the real issue: When will society acknowledge that there is no moral difference between casual users smoking a joint and a gin and tonic?

As long as society fails to acknowledge and accept that millions of productive, successful and otherwise law abiding Americans casually use marijuana, we are doomed to ineffective and unworkable solutions in dealing with the real menace: substance abuse. This country faces a critical problem due to the fact that millions of Americans cannot refrain from the use of foreign substances in a manner which detrimentally affects their health, their lives and our society.

I hope that marijuana bashing will one day see its end. However, as long as opinions like Doran's, who also advocates the death penalty for drug possession, are propounded as part of supposed rational public debate, we are a long way from having a substance-abuse-free society.

WILLIAM R. MITCHELL

Newport Beach

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