If We Regulate Marijuana, It Won't Be a 'Gateway Drug'

I'm writing about Renée Downing's "Marijuana World" (Nov. 17). Should marijuana be legalized for medical use or any other use? It seems to me that this is the wrong question. The question should be: Should marijuana remain completely unregulated, untaxed and controlled by criminals?

Because marijuana is now illegal, it is sold only by criminals (who often sell more dangerous drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine). And they often offer free samples of the more dangerous drugs to their marijuana customers--thus, the so-called "gateway effect." In a regulated market, this would not happen.

Do the readers know of anyone who has been offered a free bottle of whiskey, rum or vodka when legally buying beer or wine? I don't, either. If we regulate, control and tax the sale and production of marijuana, we close the gateway to hard drugs.

Kirk Muse

Science, Practice Show Marijuana's Benefits

I want thank Renée Downing for her thoughtful examination of our government's marijuana policy and the consequences it has for members of our community. As someone who has had two friends who relied on marijuana to mitigate the side effects of their cancer treatment, I appreciate her attention.

Marijuana also shows promise in providing relief for patients with multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and AIDS, and even possible protection against some cancers and Alzheimer's disease. I know about this, because as a member of NORML, I receive their e-newsletter, which updates subscribers on medical-marijuana research and legislative initiatives around the globe. To me, the real crime is that people suffering from these devastating diseases are forced to become criminals to get relief from their symptoms.

In this age of global terrorism, the Bush administration has diverted scarce law-enforcement resources to make prosecution of medical marijuana dispensaries in California a top priority. This, despite the fact that our own government studies have verified the relative benignity of marijuana consumption. There is no known lethal dose of cannabis, and recent British studies have concluded that marijuana smokers are actually more cautious drivers.

But NORML does not endorse driving under the influence of marijuana nor marijuana use by those less than 18. Rather, they support legalization of responsible use of marijuana by adults. Our government could use the tax revenues generated by such a policy and the savings resulting from the decrease in the prison population.

Recent Gallup surveys indicate that 36 percent of Americans support legalization of marijuana, and 75 percent of Americans 45 and older support legalization of marijuana for medical use. One doesn't need to be a marijuana user to be a NORML supporter. After all, many of us support the work of human rights and relief organizations, even if we personally have never needed their aid.

Anne Helwig

Anarchists Focused on Selves, Not Strategies

Mike Sousa claimed that Jeneiene Schaffer's column of Nov. 3 about activists and anarchists was an act of "opportunism." What Mr. Sousa ("Peace Keepers Have No Place at a Public Protest," Mailbag, Nov. 17) failed to do was back up that complaint with an actual example of what Ms. Schaffer had to gain by her article, other than the wrath of some local activists.

Like the right wing, some anarchists resort to name-calling, calling Ms. Schaffer a "stereotypical liberal elitist." Well, the right wing of the nation thanks you. She never defends the "trigger-happy police"; in fact, she has been the target of such abuse in the past. The commentary talks about the unwillingness of some anarchists to work with others who are essentially on their side. It appears that for some, divisiveness is seen as a way to a movement's success, but it's not. She was also not "blaming" anarchists; she was calling for a spirit of cooperation. She never used the terms "good protester, bad protester" ("Good Protester--Bad Protester Paradigm an Effort to Silence Opposition," Mailbag, Nov. 17); she was simply asking, "Where do we go from here, and how do we get there?"

Apparently, some activists are more focused on their personal strategies than creating alliances with other activists that might lead to success.

Tex Shelters (aka Joe Callahan)

Activists, Can't We All Just Get Along?

Whether or not to have "peace keepers" usually comes up in the planning of a large peace demonstration. People have strong feelings on both sides of the issue, but it's not a big contradiction in the Tucson peace movement. The organizations who work with the Tucson Peace Action Coalition (TPAC), as well as other organizations and thousands of regular folks who make up the movement, experience some much greater contradictions. However, we are united in our efforts to stop the criminal war on Iraq.

Why does Mike Sousa have to depart from discussion of the issues and from the truth? He quotes Jeneiene Schaffer, Susan Thorpe and me as having said, "Our movement is being hijacked by radicals." Aside from the fact that the three of us have probably never been to a meeting together, we would never say such a stupid thing. I think that I can speak for all three of us when I say that we ourselves are radicals, and that the movement neither belongs to us, nor can it be hijacked by anybody. It can, however, be sabotaged and destroyed.

And please don't come back with the "but we are more radical" shit. There is always someone more radical--it's a pissing contest. It's more important to do the right thing than the more radical thing.

Our differences are real, but they are not antagonistic. We are on the same side in these battles. We are against war and capitalist greed. We have much work to do.

Joe Bernick

Peaceful, Safe Protesting Is a Right

The indignant folks responding to Jeneiene Schaffer's column on keeping peaceful protests peaceful clearly don't understand what it means to have children. If they did, they would understand at least one reason that it's important to honor the rules arranged by protest organizers, including where and when to march during a specific event. No parents want to bring their children into a protest where there's a risk they will be shot in the back by a police projectile.

During a thousands-strong Tucson peace march back in 2002, a group of black-clad activists walking in front of me got arrested for repeatedly venturing into the lane designated for incoming traffic. I was sorry to see them arrested, yes. But I also understood that their determination to take over both sides of the street raised issues about safety--theirs more than anyone else's. I remember thinking: What are we marching for here, the right to take up two lanes of traffic? No, there are much bigger issues at hand--the lives of American soldiers and Iraqi citizens.

Nobody is saying that anarchists don't have the right to organize their own actions. Getting arrested for a cause is a time-honored tradition employed by heroes ranging from Rosa Parks to Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther King. And, yes, by Jeneiene Schaffer. We'll always need heroes willing to risk the danger, inconvenience and expense of getting arrested to fight injustice. We also need the big, pulsing marches that draw the masses. I hope we can agree it's important to respect the rights of protesters--including the rights of organizers to hold a peaceful protest.

Melanie Lenart

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