John L. Gray
Chief of Police
Arizona & California
Should marijuana be legalized?
Marijuana, posing as medicine for terminally ill patients suffering from AIDS, cancer, glaucoma and other painful disease, is touted as a natural way to bring relief. Somehow the legislative bodies of Arizona and California were convinced that legalization of a controlled substance would bring benefit to society at large.
The fact that not even one national health organization accepts marijuana as medicine and that there is no scientific evidence that it can ease or cure any disease, apparently escaped the lawmakers. The American Medical Association, the American Cancer Society and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society have all taken the position that marijuana is not safe or effective as medicine.
What we do know about marijuana is quite the opposite; it harms the immune system, it can destroy short-term memory, it impairs coordination and is more likely than tobacco to cause cancer. The use of marijuana for any reason endangers public health and safety.
Supporters of legalization will refer to this country's failed attempt at alcohol prohibition. They say it is just a matter of time until legislators and law enforcers admit defeat. A reasoned response will take into account the difficulty of bringing a halt to any type of illegal activity whether marijuana use or cruising through a stop sign. The fact that some people will routinely disobey traffic laws, regardless of the amount of enforcement or arrests, does not lead us to take down stop signs or give up speed limits. The answer to illicit substance abuse can only be a blend of drug enforcement, drug education and drug treatment.
National statistics show that anti-drug efforts are working. Casual drug use in this country has been reduced by 50% in the last 15 years. In the 1990's, cocaine use was down by two-thirds. The blip in the battlefield, unfortunately, is the area of teenage drug abuse which has doubled in the past four years. The passage of the Arizona and California initiatives has sent a terrible message to our young people that marijuana just may be good medicine. These two states have positioned themselves in direct conflict with national drug policy. The passage of their laws must be seen for what it is ... the first step in a state-by-state effort to legalize drugs.
Law enforcement leaders have always tried to keep an eye on the horizon for approaching threats to our citizens and our government. The successes obtained through consistent drug policy, education and treatment must not be surrendered. We extend our gratitude to parents, teachers, the school system and the community for the support we have received in the DARE program. Our special thanks go to the children who participate and learn. We appreciate the community's confidence in our expanded drug interdictions. We pledge to continue our efforts to maintain a safe environment for Altoona's citizens, businesses and visitors.
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