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Keep Striving Toward a Rational Drug Policy

September 21, 2002

Mike Males' "High Crimes and Misdemeanors" (Opinion, Sept. 15) gives the dangerous and faulty impression that marijuana is no more harmful for adolescents than for adults. The "Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts" reference he provides for this statement is 5 years old. A recent study revealed that people who begin smoking marijuana before age 17 have smaller brains and less gray matter than those who start smoking later in life. Data from adults show no differences in brain structure between marijuana smokers and nonsmokers.

I'm all for the rights of adolescents, but some activities are best begun later in life. We don't give chainsaws to 5-year-olds. We don't let 12-year-olds drive cars. Marijuana simply is not for children.

Mitchell Earleywine

Los Angeles

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What Males points out is the reality that the U.S. cannot have a rational discussion of drug use because our drug laws are so intimately connected with our prejudices. Our drug laws have always been based on our racial, ethnic and class prejudices. These are grounded in feelings of white superiority, fear and loathing. Our very first anti-drug law addressed the use of opium by the Chinese in San Francisco. Marijuana became a problem when it was an alternative for middle-class white Americans during Prohibition and later when it crossed the color line on college campuses.

America's "war" on drugs has been, in fact, a war on race and class in the guise of a public health debate. This is evident by the fact that the most dangerous drugs in America, those that claim the most American lives--alcohol and tobacco--are legal and generally ignored in the debate about drug use. But before we can move to a rational discussion on drugs we must face the racism inherent in our current drug policies.

Robert B. Harris

Lancaster

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I am a strong believer that no matter what is legal or illegal, teenagers do what they want to do. Those in this age group are easily influenced by the older age group, which they are surrounded by daily. If a teenager wants to smoke cigarettes illegally or drink under age, he or she will. Rules are made to be broken.

Marijuana is illegal for any person; however, teenagers and adults both have their hands on it. If this drug becomes legal it will only make it easier to consume. The usage won't increase or decrease, it will only be legal to buy. Legalizing marijuana will not lead to the abuse of any other illicit drugs, it will only be as common as the use of alcohol.

Kelli Reed

Valencia

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