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June 13, 2005 - Hendersonville Times-News (NC)

Column: Will The Real 'War On Drugs' Please Stand Up

By Susan Hanley Lane

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

I'm confused. Are American legislators for drugs or against them?

This is an important question, because we are a nation of drug addicts. As harsh and extreme as that sounds, it forms the only honest basis for any meaningful discussion about the true answers for our drug problems in America.

Technically, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol are all classified as drugs. But since these drugs have been around a lot longer than the FDA, no one would dare to tell coffee drinking smokers the jig is up. And Prohibition was a dismal failure.

Instead, taxes on these drugs yield the government a tidy profit, which makes me wonder why we can't tax and regulate the sale of medical marijuana.

On Monday, June 6, 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress can prohibit and prosecute the possession of marijuana for medical purposes. Under federal law, marijuana is considered a drug and the use of it in any form is illegal.

Meanwhile, 10 states have passed laws allowing persons with illnesses that respond to marijuana, to use the plant form (as opposed to the pill form: Marinol) to treat their symptoms because patients testify it is far more effective in alleviating symptoms.

The court's ruling would make all such use illegal. Those who continue to use marijuana (including Montel Williams, who has MS) could face jail time under federal law, even though states may not prosecute them.

Mind you, I am not in favor of marijuana use. I have never once smoked a joint.

But I cannot understand why it is so critically important to prevent sick Americans who receive relief from smoking marijuana from having this form of treatment, yet it's OK to sell a known carcinogen to smokers.

The most recent news in "Marlboro Country" is that the huge settlements levied against the tobacco companies have been reduced. Drastically reduced. First the government wanted to reduce the $280 billion in fines down to $130 billion.

But last week on The News Hour, Matthew Myers of the Foundation for Tobacco Free Kids, told the story of an appalling lapse of ethical integrity during the latest tobacco trial, which has been going on for the past eight months.

After hundreds of days of evidence presented by the government proving continued rule breaking by the tobacco companies, The Department of Justice (which had stood firmly behind the expert testimony of its foremost advisor in this case, Dr. Fiore) did an abrupt about face at the 11th hour and reduced the suggested $130 billion fine to a mere $10 billion.

Myers was candid in stating that he believed there had obviously been pressure placed on the legislators making this sellout decision.

Meanwhile poppies, the beautiful precursor to the deadly drug heroin, are still growing in Afghanistan. During the reign of the Taliban their cultivation was completely eradicated.

But when the United States liberated Afghanistan, we were somehow convinced to drop the ban on poppy growing, even though the heroin that will be made from those poppies will find its way into the veins of countless addicts in America.

Are we so foolish and blind that we can actually convince ourselves that our young people can't see through this blatant hypocrisy?

Try to look at these facts through the eyes of a high school or college student:

1.) Alcohol and cigarettes are legal but marijuana is illegal.

2.) Cigarettes alone are one of the leading causes of preventable disease and death in the United States.

3.) Alcohol use is tied to the majority of murders, suicides, rapes, acts of vandalism, incidents of domestic violence, use of other illegal drugs, and a large proportion of preventable diseases in the United States.

4.) Americans cannot use marijuana, even for medical reasons, but the American government put the poppy farmers in Afghanistan back in business, and the heroin they produce, which is far more deadly than marijuana, is available from a dealer near you.

5.) Americans can no longer purchase prescription drugs legally from Canada and other foreign sources. Instead, they must buy them here in the United States at the prices American drug manufacturers set; prices so high that many seniors have to choose between their medications or food.

To stand up now and proclaim with righteous indignation, that we absolutely will not tolerate the use of marijuana for medical purposes, even under the supervision of a physician, as we all but nullify the important victories of the tobacco settlements, tells our young people that it is money, not ethical values, that drives the politics of the drug wars.

Then, to add insult to injury, at the same time we forbid people to buy the drugs they need at a rate they can afford, we profit from the suffering that goes along with addiction to tobacco and alcohol by licensing vendors to sell these killers legally and taxing them to help pay for "worthy causes" like better schools.

May God forgive us.

The important point we are missing in all of this is the real drug war, which we are NOT fighting.

Drugs, heroin and all the rest of them, are a terrorist's best friend. They work better than guns, suicide bombers, or invasion.

Why? For the privilege of killing themselves on the installment plan, drug addicts will pay big bucks, which farmers in Iraq and Afghanistan (i.e. many of the local terrorists) can then use for weapons to fire back at an invading enemy.

If the United States is really serious about the drug war, we must address the issues honestly. Anything less tells our young people that the bottom line is the same as its always been: money, politics, and influence buying.

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