- The Washington Times - Friday, November 8, 2002

Arkansas voter preferences

I find it ironic that Arkansas, where the public evidently is scandalized because Republican Sen. Tim Hutchinson divorced his wife to marry a former staff member in that order is the same state that gave us former President Bill Clinton ("Pryor ousts Hutchinson in Arkansas," Nation, Wednesday).

I'm not sure I know what that means exactly, but I think I do. I'll bet that while most Arkansans could have been equally scandalized by Mr. Clinton's behavior shortly after making him state attorney general in 1976, they didn't let that stop them from electing him governor in '78, '82, '84, '86, and '90. I'm sure those same Arkansans knew about Mr. Clinton's proclivities for quite some time long enough to have learned the difference between a Hutchinson and a Clinton.

Here's something interesting: In the World Almanac and Book of Facts, the third paragraph of Mr. Clinton's presidential biography begins, "Despite attacks on his character, Clinton won ." Shouldn't that be just "Despite his character "?


WILLIAM RICHARDSON

Virginia Beach

Georgia election was about more than a flag

The implication that soon-to-be-former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes' changing of the state flag was a major factor in his defeat is an incomplete and erroneous conclusion ("Georgia boots Barnes, elects Republican over flag change," Nation, yesterday). There are two very important reasons why Mr. Barnes will no longer be governor.

First, his "education reform" blamed teachers for the sorry state of Georgia's schools (Georgia ranks 50th in the nation for SAT scores). He railroaded through changes in the system against the advice of Georgia's top educator, Linda Schrenko, which cost him the support of the state's teachers, who historically form a Democratic voting body.

Second, Mr. Barnes has tried to foist an unbelievably expensive and poorly planned highway project, the Northern Arc, on three of the counties the article mentions as having voted heavily for Republican Gov.-elect Sonny Perdue. A local citizens group, the Northern Arc Task Force, campaigned very heavily for Mr. Perdue, who is very much opposed to this project. This expensive roadway will benefit no one but the carpet manufacturers in Dalton, Ga., who, by the way, contributed heavily to Mr. Barnes' election campaign.

Those of us who live in the counties mentioned in the article, particularly Forsyth County, object strongly to the suggestion that we voted Mr. Barnes out of office simply because he changed the state flag, which used to display prominently the Stars and Bars.

The counties surrounding Atlanta, especially the northern counties (Forsyth County still may be the "fastest growing county in the nation," but I haven't checked lately), have large populations of people who moved here from out of state and work in the technical and computer companies that have moved in large numbers to the northern end of Fulton County. These counties are no longer rural backwaters, but, as the article notes, "prosperous suburban counties." I would guess that a poll of the people in Cherokee, Forsyth and Gwinnett counties would show that what upset people about the flag issue was that the people in this state were not given the opportunity to vote, one way or the other, on changing the flag. Roy Barnes has shown this state that he doesn't care what we want on any issue. Evidently, it's his way or the highway.


SUSANN MCGEE

Cumming, Ga.

Arguments against states legalizing drugs

Jacob Sullum argues that states should be allowed to "experiment" with new drug policies because they supposedly have the right to do so under the Constitution ("A delicate balance on drug initiatives," Commentary, Monday).

Perhaps Mr. Sullum has not read the Constitution fully, because Article VI declares that treaties are the "supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, ." Surely, he ought to know that the United States is party to several international agreements that require it to enforce laws against illegal and addictive drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and heroin.

He also neglects to mention that marijuana is being singled out for ballot initiatives, separate from how all other proposed medications are handled, despite the fact that more than 1,000 federal studies have proved that inhaled marijuana is neither safe nor effective as pain relief. Would he approve of cigarettes being "medicalized" because some people claim they are effective for weight control or for calming nerves?

Also, Mr. Sullum completely avoids the issue of consumer safety, never mentioning that long ago, when snake-oil salesmen were peddling opium-laced "tonics" to innocent Americans who then became addicts, the government responded by creating the Food and Drug Administration to test products before they were marketed. Mr. Sullum has cast his lot with a new generation of snake-oil marketeers who are financed by a few wealthy individuals, such as George Soros, who hope to prevail in ballot scams after their products repeatedly failed the FDA's scientific approval process.

If marijuana is legalized through deceptive ballot referendums, the nation will spend billions more treating addicts and paying for the consequences of drug addiction: higher crime, higher health care costs, increased emergency room visits, spousal and child abuse, foster care, injuries, deaths from drugged drivers and lost economic productivity.

One would think libertarians, who like to claim drug abuse is a victimless crime, foremost would be alarmed that those costs will largely be borne by taxpayers and employers.

Last, Mr. Sullum should read a Washington Post expose from several years ago about the death of a seriously underweight baby named Chaulette, found in a crack house with raw and blistered skin from a soiled diaper with pounds of feces in it (a death caused by drug abuse, but conveniently attributed to sudden infant death syndrome), and ask himself why he wants to legalize deadly narcotics.


DAVID H. HEMENWAY

Alexandria, Va.

Who is deluded about marijuana?

To hear it from William Bennett ("Marijuana delusions," Commentary, Tuesday), the number of Americans "seeking" treatment for marijuana is rising. The former drug czar is deliberately misrepresenting government data in an effort to justify the war on some drugs.

Record numbers of Americans arrested for marijuana possession have been forced into treatment by the criminal justice system. The resulting distortion of treatment statistics is then used to make the claim that marijuana is "addictive."

There is a big difference between voluntary treatment and government-coerced treatment. Zero-tolerance drug laws do not distinguish between occasional use and chronic abuse. The coercion of Americans who prefer marijuana to martinis into taxpayer-funded treatment centers says a lot about U.S. government priorities, but absolutely nothing about the relative harm of marijuana. For an objective take on marijuana, look to Canada.

After months of research, the Canadian Senate recently concluded that marijuana is relatively harmless, marijuana prohibition contributes to organized crime and law-enforcement efforts have little impact on patterns of use.

In the words of Sen. Pierre Claude Nolin, "Scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that cannabis is substantially less harmful than alcohol and should be treated not as a criminal issue but as a social and public health issue."


ROBERT SHARPE

Program officer

Drug Policy Alliance

Washington

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