In his most recent column, former Governor Robert Ehrlich Jr. fashioned a letter to his son. It began with the sentence, "I've been thinking a great deal about marijuana lately." Apparently, he has not thought enough since he missed the mark by a wide margin ("A letter to my son on marijuana," Feb. 16).

He mentioned that he had never used it himself, that being an illegal act until very recently in some states. But the tide is clearly turning, as he himself admits, so that's not a very convincing argument in the long term against its use. He brings up the tired myth of the "gateway drug," which has fallen into disfavor among those who actually take the time to do the research. But these are relatively minor errors.


Where he goes completely astray is when he recounts the lesson learned from his visits to jails and prisons and discovers what he sees as the common denominator that has led these people to incarceration — addiction. Here's where some additional thought would have helped.

The common denominator that has led these people to incarceration is not addiction, it is prohibition. Think of it. Tobacco is far more addictive than marijuana, not to mention that it is responsible for over 400,000 deaths in our country alone every year compared to marijuana's total of zero, yet no one is in jail for tobacco addiction.

Alcohol is far more addictive than marijuana but, having finally realized the futility of alcohol prohibition, no one is currently in jail for alcohol addiction. Somehow, we have forgotten that it is prohibition that fosters crime, requires tens of billions of dollars in expenditures in the effort to contain that crime, and causes incalculable damage to countless lives as a consequence, often due to needless incarceration.

No one denies that there should be restrictions governing the use of drugs such as tobacco, alcohol and marijuana. Keeping them away from minors, and not driving while impaired, are examples of such restrictions. And that these drugs in some cases result in addiction is understood. But the damage caused by the use of these drugs, except for the health costs of tobacco, are minuscule compared to the damage done by prohibition. A good Republican might well say, "We don't need the government telling us what drugs to use."

Sig Seidenman, Owings Mills


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