The Des Moines Register, Friday, March 1, 1996, Page 12A. Letters@desmoine.gannett.com, 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 today. 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 legalization. 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 now. 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.