The War on Drugs is an expensive and dismal failure and counterproductive to the goal of minimizing youth drug use.

When it's a problem, it's a personal and/or a public health problem, NOT a concern of the Justice system

Begin by reforming marijuana laws.

Use of  illegal drugs has persisted for two decades in the face of the drug war, and of course, for centuries and millennia previously.

Rhetorical question: How do you control people's behavior and personal tastes in a free society? The answer: You don't; you can't; it's not possible. If you even try to control people's behavior, you are no longer free.

Witness the drug war. Drug screens presume by the employer the right to control worker's behavior off the job. Meanwhile the Oregon State Legislature in 1997 voted to criminalize the use of marijuana to 'send pot smokers a message' that their behavior was not only unacceptable but also subject to imprisonment.In just a few weeks more than a hundred thousand signitures werre collected to put a referendum on the 1998 ballot to challenge the legislature.

Now, I've traveled in countries in which government attitudes towards drugs are far more stern than in America. Where possession of eight ounces of marijuana brings an automatic death sentence. I've also been in countries where pot possession is essentially legal.

It doesn't seem to matter. Wherever you go regular cannabis smokers or wannabes account for an average 5 to 10% of the population. It's all a matter of personal taste. Marijuana use might increase marginally in a less repressive scenario but it will never reach the natural popularity of alcohol which by any rational standard is far worse.

What about the kids? I can sympathize with parents who fear the effects of drug use on their children. Their concern is real and passionate irrespective of what I believe to be inadequacy in their underlying logic. The only answer is parental responsibility; to teach and set an example. Jailing an otherwise responsible and law abiding adult for marijuana use is not going to 'protect' those children.

For a realistic view of legalizing marijuana look at the rate of tobacco use over the last few decades. In spite of huge sums of money spent on high powered advertising of a legal substance, not to mention subsidies to tobacco growers, use has been halved over the last 30 years. And it's still going down.

Considering the opprobrium likely to accompany marijuana regardless of it's legality, use is not going to change significantly. But society would.

The hundreds of millions of dollars we in Oregon are now spending on apprehending, prosecuting and incarcerating non-violent marijuana offenders, not to mention the hundreds of millions of dollars of revenues possible from taxing it, would amount to a windfall of resources for change and improvement and a social peace from the easing of hostilities in the drug war.

What it comes down to is personal choice and individual responsibility. I believe everybody should have the right to choose their own poison. If I want to destroy my life with alcohol or gambling, or uncontrolled eating until I weigh 500 pounds and can no longer function, society doesn't put me in jail to teach me a lesson or 'send me a message'.

Legalization of marijuana needs to be implemented without regard to society's attitude towards any other drugs. It needs to be clearly delinked in any case from potentially dangerous drugs like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

The greatest danger to youth from illegal drugs is the current lumping of marijuana with drugs that can cause serious problems. After the personal experience of marijuana and the realization that society's opposition to it is far out of proportion to it's dangers, the individual tends not to believe society's statements about drugs that really are dangerous. This also leads to a mistrust, skepticism and alienation towards government.

It's time for Oregon to lead the way with an intelligent, rational, adultdrug policy based on individual choice and responsibility. The experience of Holland, one of the world's safest, healthiest, richest and most enlightened countries proves without a doubt that individual responsibility is compatible with the most advanced social systems.

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