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Parents Meet in Nations Capital

Kevin Mckean
The Associated Press

Opponents of marijuana met here Friday to swap stories and map strategy for stalling the movement to decriminalize the drug.

"It's refreshing to come to a conference where the views one has are adhered to rather than the other way around, as it is at most conferences," Dr. Darold Treffert, a psychiatrist from Winnebago, Wis., told an audience at New York University.

Treffert was one of a dozen doctors, educators and health workers at a session on psychiatric and social aspects of the drug.

Organizers of the Second Annual Conference on Marijuana said it was expressly convened to call attention to what they describe as the many dangers of the drug.

Dr. Mitchell Rosenthal, president of Phoenix House Foundation, a drug rehabilitation group that co-sponsored the event, said there was no attempt to weight the scientific sessions Thursday either for or against marijuana. But in the social science sessions Friday, he said, "Perhaps the representations were a little bit skewed."

"We know two people can share a joint without bad side effects. Our big concern is the kids and the attitude in this country that marijuana is a totally safe alternative," said Robert Fuller, head of the American Council on Marijuana, the conference's other sponsor.

Treffert and other psychiatrists said marijuana interfered with the motivation of their patients -- particularly schizophrenics -- to improve.

Lee Dogoloff, director of the White House Office on Drug Abuse Policy, said he was concerned about the drug's use by drivers, whose reflexes may be impaired, and adolescents, who may use it to escape facing conflicts that must be resolved to grow up.

A General Motors Corp. scientist said marijuana hurt workers' productivity.

Sue Rusche, of Families in Action in Atlanta, described her efforts to use community pressure to combat the sale of drug paraphernalia to children.

One group not invited to paticipate in the conference panels was the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, a leading proponent of the drug. But several NORML officials turned up anyway.

"To the extent this conference improves the understanding of marijuana and its handling by kids and parents, I support it. But I'm afraid one of the things it's done is to reinforce the traditional scare tactics," said Richard Evans, an Amherst, Mass., attorney and NORML regional coordinator.

But Dogologff said he felt the conference was balanced. He said public attitudes have swung in recent years from regarding marijuana as very dangerous to quite benign.

"I would say both views are based on the same amount of information -- none."


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