Editor's note: This column was originally published in The Gazette,
the daily newspaper of the University of Western Ontario, on Oct.
18.

Gazette readers, for all of their virtues, are a fairly contained
group. Most students, some professors and a few alumni comprise the
small list of people who get the distinct pleasure of reading our
little publication four times a week. I say little, because, in the
grand scheme of media and influence, The Gazette is a small fish in a
much larger pond.

With this in mind, I was more then a little surprised when I received
letters last week from across North America. From California and
Colorado, New Jersey and Illinois, the letters filled my inbox, asking
to have their 300 words printed in our small paper. What topic inspired
grown people to send their letters across four time zones in the hopes
of having them printed? Surely, we must have done something
outrageously wrong if people from two countries were taking notice!

No, it was our third page story entitled "Free Mary Jane," about the
recent Canadian Senate report on decriminalizing marijuana that
solicited all the letters.

You see, unlike most public policy issues, there is an established
portion of the population that feel fairly strongly about the issue of
decriminalization or depenalization of marijuana. Unlike outdated
stereotypes about pro-marijuana forces -- protesters passing their bong
and beating drums at small rallies -- these citizens have decided to
take the high road of civic engagement.

Understanding that their cause had enough merit to warrant an
examination from the Canadian Senate Committee (if that's saying
anything), some pro-legalization forces have applied the methods used
by other interest groups who are trying to change government policy.

Following the path of these letters, the writers clearly found our
article on a number of drug Web sites that pull down drug news of any
kind. Interested parties can then read the drug stories to see how
issues are developing internationally. The sites offer tips on how to
write successful letters to the editor so that surfers of such sites
can attempt to bring their own message to others.

I received one letter from a Mr. Robert Sharpe, M.P.A. at the Drug
Policy Alliance in Washington D.C.. His letter, indicative of most of
the others, was intelligently written in the hopes of making readers
see that marijuana users were not lawless, inarticulate outcasts, but
tax paying, law abiding citizens who felt this was the second
prohibition.

Whatever your position is on the marijuana issue, its time as a fringe
issue has come and gone. It's now coming to the national and
international forefront, in no small part because of people like Alan
and Eleanor Randell who wrote all the way from Victoria, B.C. to say
that you can't overdose on THC.

It's Friday at Western. Before the day is through, I'm sure more than a
few students will be in agreement with the Randell's sentiments.

By Tait Simpson
Pubdate: Fri, 18 Oct 2002
Source: Gazette, The (London, CN ON Edu)
Column: Between Lines
Copyright: 2002 The Gazette
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/2548