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Potential For Harm Outweighs Benefit

Thu., Oct. 23, 1997

Supporters of Initiative 685 want you to think it’s about letting dying grandmothers smoke marijuana to relieve the miseries of chemotherapy.

In fact, the initiative’s part of a nationwide push to legalize street drugs and free prison inmates convicted of abusing them. The campaign is funded mostly by out-of-state eccentrics like New York billionaire George Soros, who opposes narcotics laws and is working to repeal them, one state at a time.

There are reasons for those laws. Drugs are a socially debilitating plague. Robberies, assaults and murders frequently stem from the human miseries of narcotics abuse. Adults who abuse drugs produce fractured families and children who are socially and physically damaged. Remember crack babies?

Sure, some folks favor a fine-tuning of drug laws to allow the medical use of marijuana. But changes ought to be drafted and debated with care, in the Legislature where public hearings can be held, consequences studied and amendments negotiated.

It would be nutty to let so important a section of the criminal code be rewritten by out-of-state eccentrics and rammed into law on the strength of a deceptive advertising campaign. How nutty? Consider:

Initiative 685 would require the immediate parole of those now in prison on drug possession charges.

Who’s better positioned to protect your safety, the initiative’s authors? Or are the police, prosecutors and judges who sent today’s inmates to prison, one by one, after considering their individual crimes? In case this point seems academic, ask yourself what would happen to public safety in Spokane if the state prison at Airway Heights suddenly freed all of its incarcerated junkies. Remember to lock your garage.

Initiative 685 provides that a seriously ill person may possess and use drugs such as LSD, heroin, cocaine and marijuana on the “recommendation” of a couple of physicians. What sort of unscrupulous medical clinics might this vague wording invite?

The initiative creates no mechanism to supply the drugs on which it smiles. Those desiring LSD for some sort of “therapy” would have to obtain it from a street dealer. Not to worry, though. The initiative’s backers say their next goal is to push for state government to produce the desired drugs, in a form purer than that available from local pushers. Why open any of these doors? Just vote no.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = COLUMN, EDITORIAL, ENDORSEMENT - Our View CREDIT = John Webster For the editorial board

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