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Dear Editor,

The state Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services is using taxpayer money to fund the DART Coalition of the Institute of Prevention at Barnabas Health, to reduce drug and alcohol abuse in Ocean County.

While abuse of deadly drugs such as heroin and prescription pain killers pose a significant threat to public health and require steps to be taken to reduce harm, it is a travesty that taxpayer dollars being given to DART are being misdirected to baseless anti-marijuana political propaganda.

Marijuana is a safe, non-addictive, natural substance that provides a harmless alternative to alcohol and drugs in addition to numerous medical benefits.

There are many upstanding Ocean County citizens, taxpayers and voters (such as myself) who consume marijuana  - some of whom are medical users as I am. We are contributing members of the community and should be treated with respect and dignity.

There are many real issues with drug abuse in our communities and inaccurately portraying a safe substance like marijuana as being on par with heroin reduces the public perception of the seriousness of actual drug abuse.

DART should support efforts to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol to fight crime and keep pot smokers out of the black market. Some of the tax revenue from legal marijuana could be used for meaningful programs to reduce heroin abuse.

Eric Hafner

Toms River