- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 23, 2001

America, free or 'drug-free?

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling against law enforcements use of thermal imaging to fight crime highlights a major flaw in the drug war ("Dimmer switch for high-tech eyes," Commentary, June 19). Simply put, its not possible to wage a war against consensual vices unless privacy is completely eliminated along with the Constitution. The United States can be either a free country or a "drug-free" country, but not both.

The court ruling stemmed from police use of thermal imaging to detect indoor growing lights used in marijuana cultivation. The drug war is, in large part, a war against marijuana, by far the most popular illicit drug. In 1999, there were 704,812 arrests for marijuana, 620,541 for possession alone. For a drug that has not been shown to cause an overdose death, the allocation of resources to enforce marijuana laws is outrageous.

Of course, a reform of marijuana laws would derail the entire drug war gravy train. Marijuana is demonized as a "gateway" drug that leads to harder drugs when, in fact, marijuana prohibition is best described as a gateway policy. Illicit marijuana provides the black-market contacts that introduce users to such harder drugs as heroin. As for protecting children from drugs, the thriving black market has no age controls.

Taxing and regulating marijuana is a cost-effective alternative to spending tens of billions annually on a failed drug war. It makes no sense to waste scarce resources on failed policies that finance organized crime, facilitate the use of addictive hard drugs and threaten to undermine our country´s Constitution.


ROBERT SHARPE

Program officer

The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation (www.drugpolicy.org)

Washington

America the free or 'drug-free'?

Jeffrey T. Kuhners June 21 Op-Ed column, "Puerto Rico, 51st state?" which deals with the merits of statehood for Puerto Rico presented some interesting arguments that should be seriously considered by the Bush administration and by American conservatives in general.

But one of his points about the Canadian province of Quebec appears to be the result of opinion being passed off as fact. Mr. Kuhner states that "unlike most French-speaking Quebecers, most Puerto Ricans want to learn English as a second language."

The implication about the wishes of most French Quebecers to remain unilingually French may have applied to Quebec in the early 1970´s, but it by no means applies today. The vast majority of Francophone Quebecers have come to the realization that learning English as a second language has become a necessity in today´s communication- and information-based economy. Most want to learn English, and a huge proportion of them do so, especially in the metropolitan area of Montreal.

Former Quebec Premier Jacques Parizeau, himself a strident separatist, once described the separatist movement as "an unending trip to the dentist" for all of Canada. He was right about that, of course, but the reality that Mr. Kuhner appears not to grasp is that the separatist problem in Quebec is no longer an issue based on language differences. Rather, it is simply a battle for political power between competing governments.


JEFFREY P. SULLIVAN

Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Canada

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