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letter on "Less Than Zero"

Submitted by David Borden on
Nashville's "alternative weekly (the editor is a professed Republican!) recently printed an article about zero tolerance and one teenager's encounter with it. They called it "Less Than Zero," and you can read it at Here's the letter I wrote them on the subject:

Dear Scenesters,

Your story on a young girl's problems with “zero tolerance” brings to mind the old saw about marijuana being a drug that causes panic attacks and irrational behavior in people who hear about other people using it.

There certainly is a kind of national schizophrenia on the subject. While millions of perfectly functional Americans use marijuana regularly, as people all over the world have done for thousands of years, our government claims that marijuana is a dangerous plant that needs to be wiped from the face of the earth.

Meanwhile, evidence of its beneficial effects keeps mounting. From AIDS to Alzheimer's, from strokes to stress, scientists keep finding ways in which marijuana could benefit us—as long as it is transformed from a plant anyone can grow into an expensive pharmaceutical that won't get people “high.”

The government's irrational fear of people “getting high” has thoughtlessly victimized Candace MacIntyre. She should be glad she didn't get in the way of a police SWAT team storming the wrong house, as frequently happens. She might not have lived to tell the tale.

Our long-standing policies of repression and persecution have wrecked more lives than the substances they have failed to control. It's way past time for a new tack. Zero tolerance has failed, and should be tolerated no longer.

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