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REP. FRANK CRITICIZES PUNITIVE DRUG POLICIES

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It is impossible to keep drugs out of a free society like America, and the
nation's public policy must change to reflect that reality, said Rep. Barney
Frank '61 (D-Mass.) yesterday during a speech at the ARCO Forum.

Frank assailed the war on drugs, condemning the practice of mandatory
minimum sentencing.

"I think America's drug policy is the single most mistaken public policy we
have in America," he said. "The cure is indisputably worse than the
disease."

He termed America's efforts to combat drug use and trade wasteful, intrusive
and damaging to individuals and communities. He attacked conservatives for
continuing the fight while abandoning programs like welfare for their
inefficiency.

Frank also attacked the "harsh" penalties associated with the "victimless
crime" of drug use and the "corrosive effect" on law enforcement, which,
without a victim's assistance, often must resort to more intrusive measures.

According to Frank, immigrants convicted of low-level drug offenses face
deportation, while seizure laws allow the police to take property of those
suspected of being involved in drug transactions.

He said mandatory minimum sentencing has chilled the ability of judges to
use their discretion to fashion appropriate, individually-sensitive
decisions.

Frank also attacked the system of drug-enforcement as racially-biased,
saying that the mandatory minimum guidelines had stiffer sentences for drugs
often, according to Frank, used by minorities.

According to Frank, the illegality of medical marijuana use in many states
represents an "extraordinary" imposition on the doctor's prerogative to
prescribe appropriate medicine.

In the second part of his lecture, Frank proposed a series of possible
solutions, including ending jail terms for use or small scale transactions
of marijuana, legalizing medical marijuana, making the interdiction of drugs
a lower priority for police and ending mandatory minimum sentences.

He said the ideal solution would be to end the war on drugs and use the
money to create a drug treatment entitlement. But he did not come out in
favor of unrestricted legalization, fearing the possibility that an abrupt
legalization could further destabilize inner city communities.

Frank became the first openly gay U. S. representative when he announced his
homosexuality in 1987. A 20-year veteran of the U.S. House of
Representatives, he has been a fixture in Boston and Massachusetts politics
since 1967.

Frank was introduced by Weld Professor of Law Charles R. Nesson '60, the
director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, who termed him a
"voice of reason" on issues including military spending, Israel and gay
rights.

The event, organized by Dorothy S. Zinberg of the Kennedy School of
Government honored her husband, Dr. Norman E. Zinberg, a pioneering
researcher in the area of addiction and a founder of Harvard Medical
School's Division on Addictions.

Dr. Howard Shaffer of the Division on Addictions, who delivered a brief
dedication to Zinberg, termed Frank an "outspoken, honest and intellectually
gifted politician."
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Distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in
receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.
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MAP posted-by: Don Beck


Newshawk: Cannabis News - marijuana, hemp, and cannabis news
Pubdate: Wed, 13 Dec 2000
Source: Harvard Crimson (MA)
Copyright: 2000, The Harvard Crimson, Inc.
Contact: letters@thecrimson.com
Feedback: http://www.thecrimson.harvard.edu/internal/letters.asp
Website: The Harvard Crimson
Forum: http://www.thecrimson.harvard.edu/forum/
Author: Ross A. MacDonald, Contributing Writer