We Must Get Serious About Stopping Drugs

Readers write

November 11, 1990

From: Arnold M. Bernstein

Havre de Grace

Reading this week's Harford County Sun, my eyes fell on an article cheerfully describing a program to offer fast-food discounts to students carrying a card bearing the number of a drug counseling hot line, and then, a few pages away, was a discussion of another hopeful program advising sixth-graders on how they might gracefully decline offers of drugs without social embarrassment.

Suddenly I was outraged by the grotesque disparity between the silly, piddling proposals that are being made and the enormity of the drug problem that is destroying so many young people. For God's sake, can't we do something serious about this?

Our young people are being ravaged be a fatal, crippling -- and contagious -- disease. Isn't drug use already called a "disease"? Don't we use the disease model to formulate humane policies for dealing with drug users?

Well, what would we do if one-fourth of the high school students had tuberculosis? Tell them how to decline kissing a sick classmate without hurting anyone's feelings? Offer them french fries if they agree to cough into their handkerchiefs? No, we would do what we have done in the past -- we would test all of them, identify the carriers and refer them for treatment!

Of course being identified as a carrier of a dangerous disease carries a certain social stigma; it is unpleasant, maybe punishing. And this is the sticking point in all such discussions -- am I suggesting that we violate the sacred principles of the Constitution, proposing that we search without warrants or punish without trials? No, you don't test for and treat diseases as punishment. The unhappy side of being identified as a carrier is just another of the many misfortunes borne by the sick. There are greater misfortunes ahead for those who go untreated and still greater, totally needless misfortunes, for all of those who should not ever have been exposed at all.

It is a curious perversion of constitutional principles that, because drug use is not only a disease, but also a crime, the authorities must somehow shy away from obvious, effective means of identifying and treating it. It's like saying that because it is more serious we must do less about it! It should not be necessary to point out that constitutional safeguards were framed to protect political dissent, not promote egregious, destructive behavior which, in its own way, threatens all of public life, including the Constitution.

I'm tired of seeing people try to exorcise this demon with charm and cajolery, and I'm disgusted with all of the academic, constitutional hair-splitting about whether an 11-year-old's civil liberties might be violated if we try to find out if he's killing himself and his classmates with drugs. It's time to do something!

LEGISLATORS LOBBIED SCHAEFER ON PUMP

From: Marge Woodward

Fallston

On Sunday, Oct. 21, you ran an article referencing the governor's involvement in preventing the compressor station from being located in the Upper Crossroads area of Harford County. I would like to the record straight as to the individuals involved in persuading the governor to contact Columbia Gas Transmission Inc.

Delegate Joe Lutz, Delegate Eileen Rehrmann and Sen. William Amoss were the three members of the state legislature who represented the community to both the Department of the Environment and the governor.

Your article mentioned other county officials being involved. For your information, county officials are precluded from being involved in any zoning-related matter.

Once again, I'd like to give credit where credit is due, and that credit belongs to Delegates Lutz and Rehrmann and Senator Amoss, who have been involved and worked with George Thoupos and the community from the beginning on this issue.

NO PUMPING STATION MEANS BAY IS FOULED

From: Nancy Harmon

Bel Air

In these days of environmental awareness, I was brought to my knees with nausea by the knowledge of inadvertent pollution I placed into the Chesapeake Bay.

I enjoyed my first chartered overnight sailing excursion, into the freshwater Sassafrass River, on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay. I returned to the marina and found that the sewage and wastewater holding tank had not been used. This was not by our choice. Many boats sailing from Tidewater Marina in Havre de Grace bypass the sewage holding tank because the marina does not have a pumping station. This means the boats with holding tanks from Havre de Grace put their sewage into the Chesapeake Bay.

I know I am not the only person who is concerned about raw sewage in our bay or who picks up other people's trash or cares about the chemicals that are being used in our foods. There seems to be a contradiction in this scenario, in that people who want the bay to remain an attractive recreational asset to provide income and entertainment; these people are also willing to place their waste products into it.

I was informed that federal guidelines state that all newer boats are required to have a holding tank, but the use of the holding tank is at the owner's discretion. The owner's discretion should be to use a marina that provides complete service for themselves and the Chesapeake Bay. A clean environment starts with each of us in the integrity of the choices we make.

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