The drug legalizers are at it again |

The drug legalizers are at it again

Guy W. Farmer

To paraphrase ex-President Ronald Reagan, There they go again! Not satisfied with their victory on “medical” marijuana, the drug legalizers are sponsoring another initiative petition on the November ballot to remove criminal penalties for marijuana possession in Nevada.

At first glance, the new initiative is innocuous enough. But upon closer inspection, it raises some serious questions about the motives of the measure’s proponents. Because, in my opinion, the decriminalization of marijuana could well be the first step toward legalization of much more dangerous drugs such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine (“crank”), which is a plague throughout Nevada.

The Associated Press reported last month that the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project — hiding behind something called “Nevadans for Responsible Law Enforcement” — spent more than $300,000 to collect nearly 110,000 signatures from Nevada voters on a petition to legalize possession of up to three grams of marijuana. In order to become law, the measure would have to be approved by voters this fall, and again in 2004. Nevadans should carefully consider the possible consequences of such a decision before going to the polls in November.

Marijuana Policy Project spokesman Billy Rogers told the AP that most Nevadans don’t think people should be arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana. “Three ounces is quite a bit,” countered Lt. Stan Olsen, a lobbyist for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. “If we legalize it (marijuana), what’s next?” That’s what I’d like to know.

The drug legalizers contend that marijuana is benign and may actually have medical properties despite the lack of scientific data to support their point of view. But if marijuana is medicine, why did the Nevada Legislature put the State Agriculture Department, rather than the Pharmacy Board, in charge of the medical marijuana program? “Obviously, marijuana isn’t medicine,” Pharmacy Board Executive Secretary Keith McDonald told me last week. “That’s why they gave it to the Agriculture Department.”

As for the assertion that marijuana is harmless, let’s examine the facts. Drivers in three recent fatal traffic accidents in Nevada were marijuana smokers. To refresh your memories, here are the details:

n Police say retired California firefighter Stephen Scharosch was drunk and had twice the legal limit of marijuana residue in his system when he drove the wrong way on I-80 east of Reno on May 13, crashing head-on into a van and killing five members of a Utah family, including four young children. He has pleaded innocent and will go to trial on vehicular homicide charges.

n Michael Ball, 24, of Gardnerville, was high on marijuana when his car struck and killed a 46-year-old mother of four, Tamara Dykes, in a high-speed, head-on crash in Gardnerville Ranchos last July. Ball was convicted of driving under the influence of a controlled substance and sentenced to an eight to 20-year term in state prison.

n And Las Vegas stripper Jessica Williams, 22, had smoked marijuana before her van ran into a median and killed six teenagers in March, 2000. She was convicted of having drugs in her system during the horrific accident and was sentenced to 18 to 48 years in prison.

So, as I was saying, there’s no scientific evidence to classify marijuana as medicine. Although the main active ingredient in the weed, THC, may help to relieve nausea and induce weight gain in cancer and AIDS patients, pot smoking hasn’t been proven to be a safe or effective THC delivery system. According to scientific studies, marijuana smoke contains more than 200 chemicals, many of which produce psychoactive reactions, cause lung damage and — in cancer and AIDS patients — increase the risk of pneumonia and weaken the immune system. Besides, THC is available in the prescription drug Marinol.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that President Clinton’s Drug Czar, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, argues that “medical marijuana is a stalking horse for drug legalization.” And remember that he worked for the president who didn’t inhale.

Drug legalizers receive major funding from three elderly billionaires: Peter Lewis, John Sperling and George Soros, described by former U.S. Health, Education and Welfare Secretary Joseph Califano as “the Daddy Warbucks of Drug Legalization.” Between them, the billionaires contributed more than $1.2 million in 1996 to California’s Proposition 215, which allows pot to be grown and smoked for “any illness for which marijuana provides relief,” including ingrown toenails. The U.S. Supreme Court dealt them a setback two years ago, however, by prohibiting the mass distribution of medical marijuana through California’s so-called cannabis clubs.

Carson City Justice of the Peace John Tatro, who has dealt with hundreds of drug addicts during his seven-plus years on the bench, says that about half of the people arrested for methamphetamine also test positive for marijuana. “They use meth to get ‘up’ and marijuana to come down,” he told me. “And the vast majority of marijuana users who undergo evaluations by professional counselors are found to have more serious drug problems.” Judge Tatro also sees “too many 40-year-olds who still live with Mom and contribute nothing to society” because of their lifelong marijuana addictions. How sad!

That’s what’s at stake as yet another drug legalization measure appears on the Nevada general election ballot this November. This time, let’s just say no to the drug legalizers.

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