Letters to the Editor

Marijuana use not smoke screen

To the editor:
        Regarding the Nov. 27 letter from Altoona Police Chief John L. Gray ("Against legalizing drugs"), I would like to correct some errors.  Chief Gray is mistaken about the location of the recent vote on medical marijuana.  The vote was not in the state of New York, it was in the state of Washington.  Also, it was not really a vote on medical marijuana.  The Washington initiative also included the medical use of substances such as LSD and PCP.
        The Washington initiative was clearly too radical for the voters.  The inclusion of substances such as LSD and PCP in the Washington initiative clearly destroyed any chance of passage the initiative might have had.  Even though the initiative was crippled by the inclusion of other illegal substances, it still got over 40% of the votes cast.
        Chief Gray is also in error when he accuses proponents of medical marijuana of wanting to legalize illegal drugs for entertainment purposes.  The voters in Washington just proved that they make a distinction between medical use of marijuana and other illegal substances.  If medical marijuana is a smoke screen for a scheme to sell angel dust and methamphetamine to kids, then why aren't we hearing arguments that medical use of cocaine and morphine is a smoke screen for selling crack and heroin to kids?
        The sad fact is that distortions such as those made by Chief Gray deprive medical patients of what an administrative law judge for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration called, "one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man."  Final Ruling, DEA Docket No. 86-22, Sept. 6, 1988.  More recently, medical marijuana was endorsed as a medicine by the New England Journal of Medicine (Jan. 30, 1997).  If anyone is responsible for creating a decrease in the perception of risk, it is the opponents of medical marijuana who have exaggerated the risks.  Credibility is an important tool in the fight against drug abuse.
        Perhaps the most revealing thing about Chief Gray's letter is his praise of the intelligence that went to crafting Iowa's drug law.   Iowa's drug law has classified marijuana as a medicine since 1979.  If Chief Gray really means it when he says that police officials are ready and willing to fullfil their sworn duty to uphold the law, then he needs to take a moment to read the law and find out what it says.

Carl E. Olsen
Des Moines

The Altoona Herald - Mitchellville Index
Thursday, December 4, 1997, Page 4A
Post Office Box 427
Altoona, Iowa 50009
Phone 515-967-4224
Fax 515-967-0553