Tougher laws can control drunken drivers

While The Sun did a commendable job reporting on anti-drunken driving bills introduced in Annapolis this year ("Safer roads focus of agenda," Feb. 14), it is also important to stress why this legislation is needed and should become Maryland law.

Drunken driving is on the rise in the Free State. In fact, in 2001, Maryland recorded the largest number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities (290) in more than a decade. That same year, 23,270 drivers in Maryland were arrested for driving while intoxicated.

Clearly there's more that we can and should do to stem the often blood-red tide of drunken driving that causes nearly half (44 percent) of all fatal car crashes on Maryland's roadways.

To that end, and under the banner of "the year of the closed loophole," kudos go to the lawmakers who together introduced bipartisan anti-drunken driving legislation that seeks to increase penalties for repeat and "super-drunk" drivers, rein in the use of probation before judgment for those arrested for drunken driving, and effectively address underage drinking.

In the last two years, Maryland lawmakers have rightly passed legislation lowering Maryland's legal blood alcohol concentration, increasing penalties for repeat offenders, barring open containers of alcohol in motor vehicles, and making the often alcohol-related crime of hit-and-run a felony in Maryland.

However, the fight against drunken driving in Maryland is only going to be won through the enforcement of more laws with teeth.

Kurt Gregory Erickson

McLean, Va.

The writer is legislative chairman of the Maryland Impaired Driving Coalition.

Patients deserve every protection

It is indeed time for the federal government to adopt more enlightened policies regarding medical marijuana ("Reefer madness," editorial, Feb. 9). But Marylanders should understand that they can act to protect patients without waiting for U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to see reason.

The recent conviction of Ed Rosenthal, who was authorized by the city of Oakland, Calif., to grow medical marijuana for patients, is appalling. But the Justice Department has focused almost entirely on large-scale medical marijuana cultivators such as Mr. Rosenthal, not individual patients and caregivers. And it has not sought to challenge any state medical marijuana law.

The Darrell Putman Medical Marijuana Research Act, now being considered by the Maryland General Assembly, does not authorize the sort of distribution program that Mr. Rosenthal was involved with or that the Justice Department targeted. It simply protects individual patients and their caregivers under state law.

And people battling cancer, AIDS and other terrible illnesses deserve all the protection Maryland can give them.

Bruce Mirken


The writer is director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project.

Catching small crabs squanders resource

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. will be following bad advice if he decides to allow bay crabbers to catch smaller crabs ("Ehrlich to ease limits on crabbing," Feb. 22).

If you catch a smaller female crab you reduce the opportunities she has to reproduce and increase the population. If you catch a smaller male crab it takes a larger number to fill a bushel. This same number of crabs, if allowed to grow for six months, would fill two bushels.

The arithmetic proves the governor's decision unwise. It also proves that the correct solution is to increase the minimum size crab we can catch.

Edmund A. Nelson


Don't dump snow on our sidewalks

We had a big snowstorm. And, sure, there aren't many places to put the snow when removing it from the travel lanes. But is it necessary to dump six feet of wet snow onto the very sidewalks that pedestrians, many of them children walking to school, use to keep a safe buffer between themselves and the aggressive and inattentive drivers who race along our streets?

Residents adjacent to sidewalks are responsible for clearing them of snow within 48 hours after a snowfall in Howard County. It's the law. But when the county compounds the problem by shoving three times the record snowfall onto those same sidewalks, are residents still to be held responsible for clearing them?

Both state and county snow removal crews need to stop piling more snow onto our sidewalks.

J. T. Merryman

Ellicott City

Attacking Iraq sends message to N. Korea

While the writer of the letter "North Korea poses greater threat" (Feb. 16) might be correct that North Korea poses a greater military threat than Iraq, there are compelling reasons to attack Saddam Hussein and remove his murderous regime first.

In contrast to North Korea's well-armed and trained million-man army, Iraq's military is more likely to be defeated with very little cost in U.S. casualties. And Iraq's defeat should demonstrate to North Korea that the United States is capable of action when its security is threatened.

Finally, while Iraq has porous borders with a number of neighboring countries willing to contribute to its food and other needs, only Russia and China are in a position to help North Korea.

North Korea can be contained. Iraq, as shown by its wars against Iran and Kuwait, is not in that category.

Nelson Marans

Silver Spring

Ignoring the lion lurking at our door?

Stopping to go after Saddam Hussein because we think he might have some weapons, while ignoring North Korea -- which we know is building nuclear bombs -- is a little like stopping to clip your kitten's nails when a mountain lion is scratching at your door.

George Gregoire


Use money to post bounty on Hussein

Instead of giving Turkey billions, let's offer the money directly to Iraq in exchange for Saddam Hussein ("Turkey nearly doubles demand for U.S. aid," Feb. 19).

I think that within two days of such an offer, the problem would be over, and everyone could come home.

Marvin Thalenberg


Eliminating hatred must be our priority

Suicide bombers and those who attacked the World Trade Center clearly demonstrate the extreme level of hate that exists within terrorist groups. If Iraq becomes the supplier of weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups, these groups surely will use these weapons out of hate.

While going to war with Iraq may lessen that country's ability to supply weapons of mass destruction, war will only delay their deployment.

Ultimately, we must be prepared to confront the extreme hate that faces us worldwide.

Those who count themselves as leaders must make the alleviation of hate a top priority.

James M. Hall


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