Editor, Daily Nexus,

Kudos to Kristina Ackermann for an excellent overview of 2002 developments in marijuana law reform (Daily Nexus, “2002: The Year in Marijuana,” Jan. 14). It’s important to note that punitive marijuana laws have little, if any, deterrent value. The University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future Study reports that lifetime use of marijuana is higher in the U.S. than any European country, yet America is one of the few Western countries that uses its criminal justice system to punish citizens who prefer marijuana to martinis. Unlike alcohol, marijuana has never been shown to cause an overdose death, nor does it share the addictive properties of tobacco.

The short-term health effects of marijuana are inconsequential compared to the long-term effects of criminal records. Unfortunately, marijuana represents the counterculture to misguided reactionaries in Congress intent on legislating their version of morality. In subsidizing the prejudices of culture warriors, the U.S. government is inadvertently subsidizing organized crime. The drug war’s distortion of immutable laws of supply and demand make an easily grown weed literally worth its weight in gold.

The only clear winners in the war on some drugs are drug cartels and shameless tough-on-drugs politicians who’ve built careers on confusing drug prohibition’s collateral damage with a relatively harmless plant. The big losers in this battle are the American taxpayers who have been deluded into believing big government is the appropriate response to nontraditional consensual vices. Students interested in helping end the intergenerational culture war otherwise known as the war on some drugs should contact Students for Sensible Drug Policy at www.ssdp.org.

The results of a comparative study of European and U.S. rates of drug use can be found at: www.monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/espad_pr.pdf.