November 19, 2001
Mr. and Mrs. Jon Petersen
Dear Jon and Marianne:
Thank you for contacting me regarding the illegality of drug use and H.R. 2592, the "States' Rights to Medical Marijuana Act." I appreciate hearing from you. First, I would like to thank you for your letter. Obviously, you have given this subject much thought. I appreciate your interest in such an important issue. As you may know, H.R. 2592 would provide for the medical use of marijuana in accordance with the laws of the various states. It was introduced by Representative Barney Frank on July 23, 2001 and was subsequently sent to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health.
However, I must inform you that I cannot support the legalization of drugs for medical use at this time. Although there is the potential for some positive gains, I believe that the negatives of drug legalization would be much worse. In an ideal world where every individual behaved rationally, perhaps decriminalization of dangerous drugs might work. Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world. Every individual in our society is inextricably linked to the whole, so the notion of a completely "victimless" crime is becoming increasingly harder to defend.
While many argue that law enforcement has been ineffective in stemming the tide of drug use, I believe that simply surrendering to the problem is not a lasting solution. Part of the solution must be "de-glamorizing" the drug culture within American society. We must recognize that for too long, our society has considered addictive behaviors chic and stylish, and that such attitudes have fed the demand for drug abuse. When we consider decriminalization, I fear that we neglect certain characteristics about narcotics use that mitigate against its characterization as a victimless crime. For instance, the only purpose of drug use is to "get high." It is therefore logical to assume that, as doses taken fail to sustain the original thrill of drug taking, dosages must be increased, or more powerful drugs must be tried.
Studies indicate that marijuana users are very likely to consider experimenting with other, more lethal kinds of narcotics, such as heroin or cocaine. Moreover, use of drugs such as heroin or cocaine almost always leads to increasing dosages as the user develops a tolerance for the drug. Thus, this kind of drug use increasingly takes over the lives of users, rendering them ever less able to support themselves economically, and potentially harming close friends and relatives.
While decriminalization of drugs may initially reduce the cost of the drug to the user, it does not address the problem of how drug users will avoid becoming increasingly dependent on drugs as the primary focus of their lives.
Decriminalizing or legalizing drugs may also lead to the creation of a permanent class of drug users who will find it increasingly impossible to support themselves, and thus will rely on the state for welfare, disability payments, or unemployment insurance. Their medical problems will increase, draining our already strained county hospitals and the health care programs. Thus, innocent taxpayers will be forced to subsidize the dazed and lethargic lifestyle of substance abusers. Preventing drug users from operating motor vehicles will also become an increasing problem as drug use becomes more tolerated and acceptable.
Quite frankly, the only real solution to drug abuse will be found in the home, with parents instilling sound values into their children, including self respect and responsibility. Our schools can help supplement this teaching, but can never be an effective substitute for it.
Until that time, I believe our government must make it very clear that drug abuse is unacceptable behavior, because it does have an impact on others, costing them money, time, or their lives. Drug users hurt more than themselves. They hurt their families, their employers, and innocent bystanders.
Therefore, coupled with the de-glamorization of drugs, we must strictly enforce the laws relating to narcotics use. When drug users recognize that they will pay a very steep price for continuing in their habits, perhaps then they will seek the treatment and rehabilitation necessary to resist drug use. Additionally, we must take action to stop the flow of narcotics into the United States from overseas. We should not permit our nation to become the dumping ground for drugs produced by international criminal cartels.
Again, thank you for sharing your views on such an important issue. Should you have any further questions on this or any other federal matter of importance to you, please do not hesitate to contact me.
On a separate note, as you know, anthrax was recently discovered in mail sent to the U.S. Capitol Complex. In response to this, all mail delivery to the Capitol has ceased, and it is not known when it will resume. Furthermore, due to the anthrax threat, my staff and I did not have access to our offices in Washington for one week. Be assured, however, that the work of government is continuing and your input and views continue to be important to me. Thank you for your patience, as this response may have been delayed.