Another try at legalizing marijuana

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Even though Nevada voters handed them a decisive defeat last year, the drug legalizers are at it again. Masquerading as "Nevadans for Responsible Law Enforcement," the potheads lost big-time in November 2002, when Nevadans voted against Question 9 - a marijuana legalization measure - by a 61 to 39 percent margin.

But now, they're back again with a costly television spot advocating drug legalization in our state. The ad is sponsored by the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, which spent $2 million on Question 9 last year. Using a split screen, the ubiquitous new spot shows a group of sad-looking Nevada teenagers on one side wearing T-shirts reading 67 percent (the percentage who have allegedly tried marijuana) and a group of smiling Dutch teenagers on the other wearing 28 percent T-shirts.

The message is that we should legalize marijuana in order to keep our teenagers happy and reduce drug use. And if you believe that, I have a nice piece of waterfront property for you in Washoe Valley.

Let's take a closer look at the MPP statistics. Although a 2001 study by the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy stated that "more than 67 percent of Nevada high school seniors reported using marijuana at least once in their lifetime," it added that only 26.6 percent of Nevada high school students were regular marijuana users (which is still too high). Assuming that the 28 percent figure for Dutch teenagers is correct, the comparison isn't so bad for Nevada.

Nevada State Medical Association Director Lawrence Matheis recently told Reno's alternative weekly, the News & Review, that the MPP was "disingenuous" when it chose to portray Question 9 as a medical marijuana measure in an effort to mislead Nevada voters. We weren't fooled, however, and most of us applauded Washoe County District Attorney Dick Gammick, when he urged the drug legalizers to "pack your baggies and go home. We don't need this stuff in Nevada." And we still don't.

When I wrote a column in opposition to Question 9 last year, its supporters accused me of not understanding that marijuana is a life-saving drug. But if that's true, why did the Nevada Legislature put the State Agriculture Department in charge of the medical marijuana program instead of the State Pharmacy Board? As Pharmacy Board Executive Secretary Keith McDonald told me at the time, "Obviously, marijuana isn't medicine. That's why they (the Legislature) gave it to the Agriculture Department."

The drug legalizers were even more upset when I listed the fatalities that marijuana-smoking drivers had caused in Nevada. Convicted drugged drivers included the retired California firefighter who crashed head-on into a van on I-80 east of Reno in May 2002, killing five members of a Utah family including four children; a 24-year-old Douglas County man who killed a 46-year-old mother of four in a high-speed, head-on collision in Gardnerville Ranchos in July 2001, and a 22-year-old Las Vegas stripper who ran off the road and killed six teenagers on a highway work detail in March 2000.

And to that list of marijuana-related highway fatalities we can now add the case of 39-year-old Jonathan Hyde, of Reno, who was allegedly high on drugs when his truck struck and killed 24-year-old newlywed Kelly Berry, of Virginia Foothills, as she walked with her husband near their home last August. Police allege that Hyde had five times the legal limit of marijuana and nearly twice the limit of methamphetamine in his blood when he was arrested. If convicted, he could face up to 50 years in prison.

I dare the MPP or anyone else to tell the victims of these horrific accidents that marijuana isn't a dangerous drug. Also, no one has yet supplied conclusive medical evidence that marijuana smoke cures anything. Nevertheless, those who believe they need THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana, for medical reasons can easily obtain a prescription for Marinol, which contains higher doses of THC than the typical "joint." That's why I believe the whole medical marijuana campaign was nothing more than an excuse to smoke dope in public. Although Nevadans fell for that scam in the 1990s, we don't have to compound the error by legalizing marijuana, which is a first step down the slippery slope of broader drug legalization.

So who pays for these expensive pro-drug TV campaigns? The largest single contributor is billionaire financier George Soros, a Hungarian-born socialist who was described by former Health and Human Services Secretary Joseph Califano as "the Daddy Warbucks of drug legalization." Soros, who hates President Bush and contributes millions of dollars to Howard Dean and other left-wing causes, has identified "capitalism and market values" as the main threats to world peace. Despite considerable evidence to the contrary, he probably thinks that legalizing dangerous drugs would help to achieve a more perfect world. Frankly, I think he's been smoking something.

"These people (Soros and his MPP allies) use ignorance and an overwhelming amount of money to influence the electorate," said White House drug czar John Walters during the 2002 election campaign. "(But) you don't hide behind money and refuse to talk and hire underlings and not stand up and speak for yourself." Therefore, I cordially invite MPP/Nevada spokesman Bruce Mirken to tell us what their real agenda is. I'm sure his answer would be both revealing and educational. How about it, Bruce? I can hardly wait.

Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, resides in Carson City.


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