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The medical marijuana deception

    New York voters handed a defeat to drug legalization proponents on Nov. 4 by refusing to allow the medical use of marijuana.  This decision speaks well of an informed electorate, who may have watched with concern when legalization efforts prevailed in California and Arizona in November 1996.  Clearly, a state-by-state campaign is under way to legalize drug use.  As voices of drug proponents are heard, it is important for local government to keep this issue in front of the people by taking a stand in favor of our current drug policy.
    Legalization efforts will undoubtedly continue, as activists portray their efforts as an attempt to provide compassionate pain relief to millions of suffering Americans.  Law-enforcement officials are concerned because of the effects of this deception.  Our struggle with drug abuse has taught us a sobering lesson: Drug use increases dramatically when people believe that such use is an acceptable norm.
    The legalization movement, with its confusing message about the beneficial properties of substances like marijuana, can cause a decrease in the perception of risk.
    The Partnership for a Drug-Free America reported the results of a recent survey which showed that, as young people begin to perceive drugs as dangerous, drug use drops proportionately.  Conversely, when young people get the message that drugs are helpful and should be legalized, their drug usage increases.  Legalization tells our children that adults believe that drugs can be used responsibly and even for fun.  With such an atmosphere it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to reach children and convince them that "doing drugs" is dangerous.
    Illicit use of drugs by Americans fell from an estimated 24 million users in 1979 to an estimated 13 million users in 1994.  Education, leadership and vigorous enforcement of the law made the difference then.  This combination can make the difference again.  The law enforcement community asks the advocates of legalization to answer these questions:
    Should all drugs be legalized?  If not, who will determine which ones are legal and which will remain unacceptable?
    Who decides age limits, proper amounts and means of distribution for the formerly illegal drugs?
    Do you want to live next door to a drug franchise shop?
    Who will bear liability for damages caused by drug use and its attendant activities?
    When free-wheeling drug use becomes acceptable, who bears the social costs of health care, family disintegration and child neglect?
    Our laws are crafted by individuals who are committed to doing the right thing in their communities, who are dedicated to the greater good, and who educate themselves on the issues which face all of our citizens, especially children.  Police officials are ready and willing to fulfill their sworn duty to serve citizens of the law.

-- John L. Gray,
chief of Police, Altoona.

FURTHER REFLECTIONS are thoughts submitted by Register readers.

The Des Moines Register
Wednesday, November 26, 1997, Page 12A

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