Criminalizing pot is still a bad idea

Letter to the Editor

Posted: Sunday, April 23, 2006

I don't use drugs so the recriminalization of marijuana doesn't interfere with my recreational activities. The recriminalization of marijuana, however, is a bad idea. It steals money from education, roads, infrastructure and all other uses of state money for the common good. Conservatively it takes $40,000 a year to keep a person in prison, That's $40,000 that's not available for other state services. And for what reason? On the off chance that their use of marijuana might lead to the use of more socially unacceptable drugs. This is a popular theory but it is not supported by the facts. In 2002 a Rand Corp. study concluded "statistically, for every 104 Americans who have tried marijuana, there is only one regular user of cocaine, and less than one user of heroin. For the overwhelming majority of marijuana smokers, pot is clearly a 'terminus' rather than a gateway."

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The persons sent to jail will primarily be young people, locked in jail with many harden criminals and all the problems of a jail culture. Years ago a young man stayed at my home for a brief time. Every night he screamed in his sleep. He had been hitchhiking through Texas and got busted for having a joint on him. Thrown in jail, he had been gang-raped repeatedly. (Yes, that's the dirty underside of jail that isn't exposed to "decent people," and there isn't a prison in this world that doesn't have this problem.) I wonder if he really deserved to have his life destroyed like that, to save him from the slim possibility that he might go on to harder drugs.

So what are we going to spend $40,000 a year to accomplish. In fact the cost could be higher. Alaska's prisons are already over crowded. We're paying to send prisoners out of state and paying to operate the governor's jet to take them there. For what purpose? So that we feel good about combating drugs when we are not even dealing with the real drug problem. For goodness sake, for that same $40,000 we could provide rehabilitation services for multiple persons. But of course, politicians can't posture as being tough on crime by providing rehabilitation. So we'll spend millions of dollars ineffectively, not actually address the drug problem, really destroy the lives of some young people and take money from the real needs of Alaska so the politicians can pretend they are doing something. What a waste.

Becky Bear


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