The Des Moines Register, Thursday, May 1, 1999


Nothing soft about it

        A round of applause is due to legislators, as they move toward stricter penalties for the illegal distribution of marijuana.  Those who worry that tougher laws will make criminals out of our young citizens should temper their concern with reality.
        Police officers do not want to fill the jails with young offenders.  Indeed, one of our primary goals is to keep people from starting down the path of incarceration.  Drug education efforts and substance abuse programs are great assets in our crime-prevention toolbox.  We go so far as to staff elementary and secondary D.A.R.E. classes with police instructors.
        Unfortunately, we observe many role models treating drug abuse as a joke.  Marijuana, in particular, is scoffed at as "soft" drug that causes little harm and should be hailed for its medicinal qualities.  Our children are ill-served by movie and television stars, talk-show hosts and even parents who downplay the dangers of illicit drug use.
        Remember that the rule of law was primarily established as a guide toward acceptable conduct.  In most cases, when people are educated about the law, it is respected and no discipline is required.  The penalty phase only comes into play when the intent of the law is ignored or intentionally violated.

-- John L. Gray, chief of Police,
700 First Ave. S., Altoona.

The Des Moines Register
Thursday, May 1, 1999