The Des Moines Register, Friday, March 1, 1996, Page 12A., fax: 515-286-2504

The Register's Readers Say

Legal drugs: What about the children?

     Thank you to Karol Crosbie ("Who Will Protect Children from 
Legalized Drugs?" Feb. 21) for putting into words the thoughts I 
have every time I read an article or opinion piece proposing the 
legalization of marijuana, cocaine, heroine or other currently 
illegal drugs.
     Crosbie is right - legalizing these drugs will reduce their 
cost and make them more available to young people.  Legalization 
of these drugs for adult use would in all likelihood increase 
their use among adults (there are people who refrain from illegal 
activities because they view themselves as law-abiding persons).
     Increased public use of drugs by adults will make drug use 
an "adult" thing to do (I can see the TV sitcoms rushing to 
rewrite the story lines now) and being "grown up" is an 
enticement for many young people who use cigarettes and alcohol 
     Let's not take a chance on what legalization of drugs will 
do to our children and society.
                                  -- Ann Burns,
                     315 S. Niagara, Maquoketa.

     Karol Crosbie's comparison of liquor consumption during 
Prohibition was more opinion than fact.  How did she arrive at 
0.173 gallons during Prohibition?  Dandelion and other wines and 
beer were brewed in many homes that bought the same products in 
stores before Prohibition.  No person can have any reliable 
statistic on what was used.  No one who did not live at that time 
can have any idea of what it was like.  People drank canned heat, 
lemon extract, anything that contained alcohol.  Bootleggers 
flourished in every town, and they sure didn't refrain from 
selling to minors.
                         -- John Verbrugge Jr.,
                                     Swea City. 

     Karol Crosbie asks "who will protect children from illegal 
drugs?"  The answer is so simple, I am sure that you will wonder 
why you had not thought of it before: I will protect my children 
and you will protect your children.
     It is not the government's responsibility to protect your 
children; it is your responsibility.  So teach your children 
well.  Teach them to think.  Teach them to learn, teach them to 
act responsibly and to accept the responsibility for their 
actions.  Teach them to respect the rights of all living things.
     With a good education and solid ethical foundation, our 
children will protect themselves from harmful drugs, as well as 
from overly zealous legislators.
                             -- Alan J. Palmer,
               2801 N.W. Polk City Dr., Ankeny.

     One of the problems in drug-policy discussions is that we 
lump all illegal drugs together as if they all posed the same 
potential for abuse.  Another problem is that we are only given 
two choices: (1) complete prohibition, or (2) complete 
     Since Karol Crosbie thinks (and I agree) that alcohol is 
such a problem for youth, perhaps we should take a look at some 
possible remedies.  Should we criminalize the possession of 
alcohol?  If not, then Crosbie's concerns about legalizing other 
substances seem hollow.
     One possible solution would be to consider our laws 
regarding distribution of alcohol to minors.  The penalty for the 
first offense of providing alcohol to a minor is a $100 fine, a 
second offense is $250, a third is $500 and all subsequent 
offenses are a maximum $ 1,000.  Alcohol is possibly the most 
dangerous drug, and giving it to a minor won't even get
you any jail time.
     This is in stark contrast to our treatment of illegal drugs.  
Simple possession of marijuana can get you up to six months in a 
county jail and up to a $1,000 fine for the first offense.  
Giving marijuana to a minor can get you locked up for up to 10 
years and a fine of $10,000.
     Maybe we need a new drug policy that includes all drugs and 
rates them according to their abuse potential.  Under such a 
system, all drugs might be legal for consenting adults.  However, 
it might be illegal to provide any drug to a minor with the 
penalties being consistent with the abuse potential of the drug 
in question.
                              -- Carl E. Olsen,
           recorder, Libertarian Party of Iowa,
               1116 E. Seneca Ave., Des Moines.

It doesn't mean you could buy 'coke' at Hy-Vee

     Karol Crosbie ("Who Will Protect Children from Legalized 
Drugs?") totally misstates the issue.  The argument is not about 
legalizing drugs.  It is, "should they be decriminalized?"
     Crosbie is the only person who, when discussing 
decriminalizing drugs, assumes that to do so will make them 
available at the neighborhood Hy-Vee, gas station or ATM.  I have 
yet to hear any responsible proponent of "decriminalizing" drugs 
suggest that they should be available to the general public.
     By "decriminalizing" drugs, they are made available only to 
addicts who, if unable to obtain them from controlled state 
sources, instead would be stealing your stereo or mugging you to 
get the money to buy them.  That is exactly what is happening 
     There is a fear that by decriminalizing drugs, you might see 
an initial increase in use.  That is a possibility.  There 
probably are some people who might decide that when drugs are 
decriminalized it would be the perfect time to start mainlining 
heroin or snorting cocaine.
     But, on second reflection, is this really likely?  What's to 
stop you, I or anyone from starting to use them right now?  Lack 
of availability?  The market system has made them too available.  
And, there's even a helpful pusher to instruct you on how to get 
started and give you a generous discount until you're hooked.
     The reason you don't use drugs is the same reason I don't.  
And, It's not lack of availability.  We understand that drugs are 
very dangerous.  Spending your day in a drug-induced stupor isn't 
conducive to a good family life or career.
     Education is certainly a very large part of the answer.  But 
to keep our children from using drugs basically means that we 
have to stop those who would push drugs at them from doing so.  
Putting them in jail doesn't work.  There are too many 
replacements.  We accomplish this by taking the enormous profit 
out of selling drugs.  We put them out of business.
     The police will be the first to tell you there is no way 
they can prevent illegal drugs from pouring into Des Moines or 
any other city given the enormous profits.  For every busted 
dealer there are many more willing to take his place.
     So what's to do?  Decriminalization?  I'm not sure that's 
the complete answer.  There are some problems with that too.  But 
let's keep the debate to the point.  Decriminalizing doesn't mean 
that these drugs will be available at your local supermarket.
     Those of you who are adamantly against even thinking about 
decriminalization must like the way things are today.  Rest 
assured that you're not the only ones who feel that way.  The 
pushers are with you on that issue.
                     -- Robert J. Bridge, M.D.,
                             3017 Jordan Grove,
                               West Des Moines.