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With regard to Robert Herold's commentary on the legalization of marijuana in the July 5 edition of The Inlander, some of us might be excused if we don't know whether to laugh or cry.


On the one hand, Herold's views might be no more than the droll product of the lazy, hazy days of summer, when rigorous thinking is sometimes suspended and we are inclined to behave in a playful manner.


On the other hand, what is worrisome is that he might actually be serious when he implies that Spokane's methamphetamine problem is the result of puritanical strictures placed on the sale of marijuana.


I can see it now: folks taking very large health and legal risks to brew up a batch of meth thinking to themselves, "We wouldn't have to do this if we could only buy pot legally."


And what are we to make of the puritanical Supreme Court? Certainly Herold does not accuse the usual minority of frowning on pleasure. And why wouldn't Justice Thomas, with his alleged preferences in rental films, be the swing vote on the marijuana issue? Or does he draw the pleasure line at pot?


As for his reference to Andrew Sullivan, his life in the balance because of AIDS, taking the medicinal variety of THC because "the real stuff" is illegal and beyond reach, is Herold talking about contemporary American society?


Were Herold not so puritanical himself or otherwise inhibited by a decent sense of moral and legal obligation, he could have his young son or daughter buy some of the real stuff at school, or he himself would begin gardening and send the poor fellow a medicinal supply through the U.S. Postal Service.


For the actual fact is that marijuana has long been de facto legal in this society. Those so inclined to its use testify that it is far easier for even juveniles to obtain than alcohol or perhaps tobacco. Nor does one have to travel far in this puritanical region to discover farmers who have decided that marijuana has a better futures price than alfalfa or wheat.


I don't know whether the so-called "legalization of marijuana" would be good or bad for society. But I do know that an intelligent discussion of the subject would necessitate construction of a legalization model so that we could actually assess the operational details of what legalization would mean.


Would it, for instance, be sold to anyone? Anywhere or just in state stores? Could you grow it in your garden? How would you regulate the "hard" stuff out of the market? Would there be an illegal market of really potent stuff to combat? Or would "designer pot" be permitted -- perhaps marketed by R. J. Reynolds Co. -- complete with a second-hand high. And would it be correct to assume, as Herold does, that "the police could get on with more pressing matters"? Would the enforcement problem go away or simply be displaced?


What this discussion needs is a commitment, first, to the empirical world. Rant and cant will not accomplish anything. Nor will the mindless promotion of what has become conventional avant-garde wisdom on the issue. One might begin by exploring the RAND Corporation's literature on drugs and the legalization issue -- where one study finds that legalization increases use while lax enforcement does not. But this is taking the matter seriously.


Perhaps Herold is playing with us and intends nothing more than a good laugh. One can only hope that he does not really want to be taken at his word.





Shane E. Mahoney


Spokane, Wash.





Gail Howard's incredulous letter to the editor in The Inlander of July 5 is a foray into the absurd. Her letter is at the heart of darkness, it is a mean-spirited vitriolic attack on working people, families and their children.


Howard would have us believe that lower-income working people simply get what they deserve. She would also have us believe that people themselves are at fault for not being prosperous -- that is like blaming Christ for the Inquisition.


Howard, however, fails to mention that those at the top take from those at the lower end of the financial scale. Low wages in our area are scandalously pandemic, yet she attacks people for wanting what they deserve, that is, a fair wage.


Howard's letter sounds like that of a modern Marie Antoinette. The 'let them eat cake' pooh-bah is insensitive and evidences a complete lack of understanding of the nature of things. She would like for The Inlander's readers to share her beliefs that people who insist on a livable wage are unrealistic, and that people "deserve what they get." She writes they "should shut up." These statements are bloated with propaganda, arrogance and contempt.


Howard further writes, "[But] the public must understand that it needs to put forth effort to get ahead." And she thinks people should work part time. The fact is many people in jobs that pay unfair wage do work part time at multiple jobs.


Finally, Howard alleges that The Inlander perpetuates "this nonsense that somehow people deserve something for existing on this planet." Contrariwise, working men and women in our area do not want something for nothing. They want what they deserve: a fair wage for a day of work.





Ben Holstrom


Greenacres, Wash.

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