The real question: Why do people use drugs?

In response to your Dec. 16 Opinion piece "A weed by any other name smells the same": Yes, it would be great if the world offered so many exciting, positive experiences that people didn't feel the need to take drugs such as marijuana to dull their senses and shield them from the stresses of modern life.

But, unfortunately, it doesn't. The older generation has its prescription medication, alcohol, and endless TV soap operas. Today, kids smoke joints because it's illegal, it doesn't cause violence as does alcohol, and it doesn't lead to hangovers.

If you want a truly effective way to minimize drug usage, focus on why people take them. The common motivating factor is to escape from pain. Relieve the pain, replace it with something more positive and uplifting - like family love; a sense of achievement; a world where trust, honor, and freedom have real meaning - and the battle will be won.

A good start might be to eliminate the hypocrisy of having a state-supported tobacco industry and a high-profile, high-profit alcohol industry, while cracking down on an otherwise useful plant like hemp.
Christopher Arlaud
Ramløse, Denmark

In response to "A weed by any other name smells the same": Discourse about marijuana policy far too often relies on rhetoric rather than science.

While it's predictable that Jim McDonough, director of the Florida Office of Drug Control, would criticize the recent RAND study discounting marijuana's alleged "gateway" effect, the fact remains that, according to a recent National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, for every 104 Americans who have tried marijuana there is one regular user of cocaine, and less than one of heroin.

In addition, according to a study by the Institute of Medicine in 1999, fewer than 1 in 10 marijuana users ever becomes a regular user (compared with 15 percent of alcohol users and a whopping 32 percent of tobacco smokers), and most voluntarily cease their use after 30 years of age. Clearly, for the overwhelming majority of marijuana smokers, pot is a "terminus" rather than a gateway.

Perhaps even more important, among the minority of marijuana smokers who do graduate to harder substances, it is marijuana prohibition rather than the use of marijuana itself that often serves as a doorway to the world of hard drugs. The more users become integrated in an environment where, apart from marijuana, hard drugs can also be obtained, the greater the chances they will experiment with harder substances.

If Mr. McDonough truly wished to address the association between marijuana and the use of other drugs, he would support policies separating marijuana from the criminal black market. According to a recent Time Magazine/CNN poll, 72 percent of Americans support marijuana decriminalization for responsible adults.

Common sense dictates that our leaders begin listening to them, and move toward a policy based on science instead of hyperbole.
Paul Armentano
WashingtonSenior Policy Analyst

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) Foundation

Arms threats transcend "axis of evil"

Regarding your Dec. 18 article "Arms threats now on three fronts": Inevitably, smart people around the world, including some who don't like the US, will develop weapons of mass destruction. Then the US will have more than an "axis of evil" to worry about. Addressing issues such as economic justice for citizens of all nations, so that they are less inclined to threaten our country and way of life, promises more lasting solutions.
Daniel E. White
Kihei, Hawaii

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