John P. Walters is a man on a mission to save Americans from themselves. The
director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy told Congress he's
battling widespread "ignorance" about the dangers of marijuana, and about
the true
motives of those who would permit its use for medicinal purposes.
Legalization of the drug is their goal, he contends, which Mr. Walters
equates with
"giving up" on the problem of drug abuse.

Ignorant hicks we may be, but we know enough to be alarmed about zealots from
Washington using our tax dollars to promote ideological crusades.

The Bush administration's drug czar is seeking the power to cut off federal
drug enforcement money to local police in states where marijuana has been
decriminalized for medical use.

As of yesterday, that could include Maryland, where Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich
Jr. signed into law a bill that sharply reduces the penalty for marijuana
possession when the defendant is seeking relief from symptoms of cancer,
AIDS and
other devastating illnesses.

Mr. Walters, who waged a fierce last-minute lobbying effort against the
Maryland measure, also wants the authority to run advertising campaigns
similar legislation in other states.

This is frightening stuff from a career bureaucratic drug warrior who is not
a doctor yet claimed the Maryland legislature had been "conned" into
aggravating the state's addiction problems by a "cynical, cruel and immoral
effort to
use the sick and suffering" to legalize marijuana.

The federal government has no business using tax dollars to help wage such
lobbying campaigns, or to punish states that don't fall into line.

Mr. Walters' obsession with marijuana is also wrong-headed, says Del. Dan K.
Morhaim, a sponsor of the Maryland legislation and an emergency room physician
who has seen the drug wars from the front lines. Cocaine, heroin, alcohol,
tobacco - those are drugs that send people into the emergency room every
day, he

Marijuana, almost never. But pot does offer comfort, he said, when comfort is
all that doctors can provide.

Mr. Ehrlich, to his credit, gets it. He shrugged off pressure from the White
House and signed the bill.

Members of the House Government Reform Committee get it, too. Objections to
Mr. Walters' proposals by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings and other Democrats may well
put a stop to these misbegotten ideas.

Eight other states have medical marijuana laws, and more are pending. Most
Americans know that the danger of drugs lies elsewhere. Mr. Walters is wasting
his firepower on the wrong target.

Source: Baltimore Sun (MD)
Published: May 23, 2003
Copyright: 2003 The Baltimore Sun