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John Hughes

GOP candidates need to debate legalizing marijuana

As GOP candidates debate values, I have not heard them address legalizing marijuana. The words of a narcotics agent ring in my ears: 'I can’t say every pot smoker goes on to get hooked on the hard stuff. But I can say every addict I know on the hard stuff got started on pot.'

By John Hughes / March 2, 2012

Members of the California El Dorado County sheriff's department prepare to hook approximately 300 pounds of marijuana plants to a helicopter at a marijuana garden in a remote area of El Dorado County in August 2009. The US Justice Department says it will enforce federal marijuana laws in California and other states.

Randall Benton, The Sacramento Bee, AP, file

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In the current debates among GOP presidential contenders about “values,” I have not heard any discussion about the legalization of marijuana. I think there should be.

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Last year, Rep. Ron Paul (R) of Texas introduced a bill with Rep. Barney Frank (D) of Massachusetts to decriminalize marijuana and hand regulation to the states. Fortunately, it went nowhere – but legalization advocates persist. Americans need to hear more from the other candidates about their views on this.

When I worked as a foreign correspondent in Asia for the Monitor, I recommended to my editors that we pay serious attention to international narcotics traffic.

I had seen a fair amount of drug abuse by American soldiers in Vietnam and was aware of drug trafficking in Laos and Thailand and other Asian countries. My editors agreed, even though it would cost considerable time and money. Their judgment was justified when the Overseas Press Club of America gave the published series the prize for best foreign reporting.

The project took me around the world for five months, visiting not only Asian lands but nations in the Middle East, Latin America, Europe, and Africa. I met dealers in marijuana, opium, heroin, and victims of a traffic that sickened me.

The words of a narcotics agent came back to me when singer Tony Bennett recently supported the legalization of drugs at a pre-Grammy gala where various Hollywood personalities were depicted smoking pot on TV.

The agent’s words were: “I can’t say every pot smoker goes on to get hooked on the hard stuff. But I can say every addict I know on the hard stuff got started on pot.”

Some 16 states and the District of Columbia already allow marijuana use for medical purposes. In both Washington and Colorado there are serious moves to make recreational use of pot legal.

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