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Carl Olsen's Marijuana Archive
The Des Moines Register, Friday, March 1, 1996, Page 12A.
Letters@desmoine.gannett.com, fax: 515-286-2504

The Register's Readers Say

Legal drugs: What about the children?

     Thank you to Karol Crosbie ("Who Will Protect Children from
Legalized Drugs?" Feb. 21) for putting into words the thoughts I
have every time I read an article or opinion piece proposing the
legalization of marijuana, cocaine, heroine or other currently
illegal drugs.
     Crosbie is right - legalizing these drugs will reduce their
cost and make them more available to young people.  Legalization
of these drugs for adult use would in all likelihood increase
their use among adults (there are people who refrain from illegal
activities because they view themselves as law-abiding persons).
     Increased public use of drugs by adults will make drug use
an "adult" thing to do (I can see the TV sitcoms rushing to
rewrite the story lines now) and being "grown up" is an
enticement for many young people who use cigarettes and alcohol
     Let's not take a chance on what legalization of drugs will
do to our children and society.
                                  -- Ann Burns,
                     315 S. Niagara, Maquoketa.

     Karol Crosbie's comparison of liquor consumption during
Prohibition was more opinion than fact.  How did she arrive at
0.173 gallons during Prohibition?  Dandelion and other wines and
beer were brewed in many homes that bought the same products in
stores before Prohibition.  No person can have any reliable
statistic on what was used.  No one who did not live at that time
can have any idea of what it was like.  People drank canned heat,
lemon extract, anything that contained alcohol.  Bootleggers
flourished in every town, and they sure didn't refrain from
selling to minors.
                         -- John Verbrugge Jr.,
                                     Swea City.

     Karol Crosbie asks "who will protect children from illegal
drugs?"  The answer is so simple, I am sure that you will wonder
why you had not thought of it before: I will protect my children
and you will protect your children.
     It is not the government's responsibility to protect your
children; it is your responsibility.  So teach your children
well.  Teach them to think.  Teach them to learn, teach them to
act responsibly and to accept the responsibility for their
actions.  Teach them to respect the rights of all living things.
     With a good education and solid ethical foundation, our
children will protect themselves from harmful drugs, as well as
from overly zealous legislators.
                             -- Alan J. Palmer,
               2801 N.W. Polk City Dr., Ankeny.

     One of the problems in drug-policy discussions is that we
lump all illegal drugs together as if they all posed the same
potential for abuse.  Another problem is that we are only given
two choices: (1) complete prohibition, or (2) complete
     Since Karol Crosbie thinks (and I agree) that alcohol is
such a problem for youth, perhaps we should take a look at some
possible remedies.  Should we criminalize the possession of
alcohol?  If not, then Crosbie's concerns about legalizing other
substances seem hollow.
     One possible solution would be to consider our laws
regarding distribution of alcohol to minors.  The penalty for the
first offense of providing alcohol to a minor is a $100 fine, a
second offense is $250, a third is $500 and all subsequent
offenses are a maximum $ 1,000.  Alcohol is possibly the most
dangerous drug, and giving it to a minor won't even get
you any jail time.
     This is in stark contrast to our treatment of illegal drugs.
Simple possession of marijuana can get you up to six months in a
county jail and up to a $1,000 fine for the first offense.
Giving marijuana to a minor can get you locked up for up to 10
years and a fine of $10,000.
     Maybe we need a new drug policy that includes all drugs and
rates them according to their abuse potential.  Under such a
system, all drugs might be legal for consenting adults.  However,
it might be illegal to provide any drug to a minor with the
penalties being consistent with the abuse potential of the drug
in question.
                              -- Carl E. Olsen,
           recorder, Libertarian Party of Iowa,
               1116 E. Seneca Ave., Des Moines.

It doesn't mean you could buy 'coke' at Hy-Vee

     Karol Crosbie ("Who Will Protect Children from Legalized
Drugs?") totally misstates the issue.  The argument is not about
legalizing drugs.  It is, "should they be decriminalized?"
     Crosbie is the only person who, when discussing
decriminalizing drugs, assumes that to do so will make them
available at the neighborhood Hy-Vee, gas station or ATM.  I have
yet to hear any responsible proponent of "decriminalizing" drugs
suggest that they should be available to the general public.
     By "decriminalizing" drugs, they are made available only to
addicts who, if unable to obtain them from controlled state
sources, instead would be stealing your stereo or mugging you to
get the money to buy them.  That is exactly what is happening
     There is a fear that by decriminalizing drugs, you might see
an initial increase in use.  That is a possibility.  There
probably are some people who might decide that when drugs are
decriminalized it would be the perfect time to start mainlining
heroin or snorting cocaine.
     But, on second reflection, is this really likely?  What's to
stop you, I or anyone from starting to use them right now?  Lack
of availability?  The market system has made them too available.
And, there's even a helpful pusher to instruct you on how to get
started and give you a generous discount until you're hooked.
     The reason you don't use drugs is the same reason I don't.
And, It's not lack of availability.  We understand that drugs are
very dangerous.  Spending your day in a drug-induced stupor isn't
conducive to a good family life or career.
     Education is certainly a very large part of the answer.  But
to keep our children from using drugs basically means that we
have to stop those who would push drugs at them from doing so.
Putting them in jail doesn't work.  There are too many
replacements.  We accomplish this by taking the enormous profit
out of selling drugs.  We put them out of business.
     The police will be the first to tell you there is no way
they can prevent illegal drugs from pouring into Des Moines or
any other city given the enormous profits.  For every busted
dealer there are many more willing to take his place.
     So what's to do?  Decriminalization?  I'm not sure that's
the complete answer.  There are some problems with that too.  But
let's keep the debate to the point.  Decriminalizing doesn't mean
that these drugs will be available at your local supermarket.
     Those of you who are adamantly against even thinking about
decriminalization must like the way things are today.  Rest
assured that you're not the only ones who feel that way.  The
pushers are with you on that issue.
                     -- Robert J. Bridge, M.D.,
                             3017 Jordan Grove,
                               West Des Moines.

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