July 17, 2008

The Dope on the DEA

Regarding Bill Steigerwald's column about the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's 35th birthday ("35 years of drug war failure," July 13 and PghTrib.com), the primary hiring criterion for DEA agents is ignorance.

The emphasis on "drug-free" backgrounds ensures that those least knowledgeable about the use and effects of illegal drugs are charged with enforcing laws against them.

There is a good reason millions of Americans prefer marijuana to martinis.

Anyone who has experimented with both drugs knows that alcohol is far more dangerous. Alcohol drinkers who overindulge risk painful hangovers, loss of control over bodily functions, even death.

Compared to legal drugs like alcohol and prescription narcotics, marijuana is relatively harmless. It is not possible to consume enough marijuana to die from an overdose. Not even aspirin can make the same claim.

Marijuana can be harmful if abused, but criminal records are inappropriate as health interventions and ineffective as deterrents. The drug war is a cultural inquisition, not a public health campaign.

Robert Sharpe

Washington, D.C.

The writer is a policy analyst for Common Sense for Drug Policy.

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