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[1] One example comes from David C. Lewis, MD and June E. Osborn, MD chair of Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy.

See: Voices for Reform

Lewis  is the director PLNDP and of the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University, Providence, R.I.

" For decades physicians have had no voice in U.S. drug policy. For many years before World War II, doctors were prosecuted and jailed for treating what the newspapers then called 'dope fiends.' American medicine was elbowed out of drug treatment. This exclusion crippled drug policy, because the huge medical component was almost ignored."


[2] In a study, commissioned by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the U.S.  Army, in 1994 RAND found that cocaine treatment is 23 times more cost-effective than trying to eradicate it in a foreign country. Not only is money wasted, but it produces  extremely damaging side effects.

See: Drug War Damage


[3] Misinformation from the government.

Hannah Arendt once wrote about the practice of lying by government officials:  "Lies are often much more plausible, more appealing to reason, than reality, since the liar has the great advantage of knowing beforehand what the audience wishes or expects to hear.  He has prepared his story for public consumption with a careful eye to making it credible, whereas reality has the disconcerting habit of confronting us with the unexpected for which we were not prepared."

-- cited in "Feeding the Gods of Unfreedom It's time to admit: We've lost the War on Drugs" by Will Campbell, CHRISTIAN CENTURY September 8-15, 1999
See: Marijuana Casebook  for specific examples.

Researchers Accuse Bush of Manipulating Science

More than 4,000 scientists, including 48 Nobel Prize winners and 127 members of the National Academy of Sciences, accused the Bush administration Thursday of distorting and suppressing science to suit its political goals.

"Across a broad range of policy areas, the administration has 
undermined the quality and independence of the scientific advisory system and the morale of the government's outstanding scientific personnel," the scientists said in a letter. 

-Los Angeles Times, 7-9-04 (extracts from article by E. Shogren)


[4] James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy of Rice University " Moving Beyond the 'War on Drugs' " 

DPFT was privileged to work closely with the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy of Rice University to help provide expert participants at their April 10-11, 2002 conference, Moving Beyond the "War on Drugs." 

This was the largest exchange of perspectives between defenders and critics of the drug war that has yet taken place. Unfortunately some federal officials chose not to participate and some were highly critical of the idea of even questioning the drug war. Asa Hutchinson, Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration [DEA], did make the opening speech in defense of current policy and former "drug czar" Lee Brown spoke later. Kevin Zeese of DPFT made the initial response. 

DPFT thanks Malcolm Gillis, former President of Rice University, Ambassador Edward Djerejian, founding Director of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy of Rice University and William Martin, Professor of Religion and Public Policy, at Rice University for their leadership in promoting thoughtful discussion of an emotional, controversial and critical issue. 

The conference covered two full days: http://www.rice.edu/webcast/speeches/20020410drugpolicy.html 

Participants included: 

Gina Amatangelo, former Fellow for International Drug Control Policy on Latin America, Bolivia 

Lee Brown, former U.S. "drug czar," ONDCP 

Peter Cohen, Center for Drug Research, University of Amsterdam 

Ernest Drucker, PhD, Montefiore Medical Center, NY [member, National Academy of Sciences] 

Ronald Earle, District Attorney, Travis County,TX 

Judge James P. Gray, Superior Court of California 

C. Stratton Hill, M.D., M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston 

Asa Hutchinson, Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration [DEA] 

Robert Kampia, Executive Director, Marijuana Policy Project 

Francois van der Linde, M.D., President of the Swiss Commission on Narcotic Drugs 

Ethan Nadelmann, Director, Drug Policy Alliance 

Eugene Oscapella, Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy, former chair: Drug Policy Group, Law Reform Commission of Canada 

Marsha Rosenbaum, PhD, Drug Policy Alliance [specialist in drug education] 

Deborah Small, Drug Policy Alliance [ specialist in racial impact of the drug war ] 

Sanho Tree, Institute for Global Communications [specialist in foreign impact of the drug war] 

Michael Trace, former UK deputy drug czar 

Alex Wodak, M.D., director of Alcohol and Drug Service, St. Vincent¹s Hospital [Sydney, Australia] 

Kevin Zeese, President, Common Sense for Drug Policy


[5]  Special Interests

The prison industry is only one of many such interests. "The Land of  the Free" has become the world's largest prison state; with about 5% of the world's population, America has about 25% of the world's prisoners. The growth has been fueled by the imprisonment of minor, non-violent drug offenders and the mandatory minimum sentences that treat them more harshly than murderers or rapists. There is a growing concern that many of these are not even guilty, convicted by the false testimony of "snitches" who pervade the system.  

The following excerpts are from  "America's Prison Habit" by Alan Elsner, Washington Post, 24 Jan 2004. Elsner is the author of the forthcoming book "Gates of Injustice: America's Prison Crisis."

"Since 1980 the U.S. prison and jail population has quadrupled in size to more than 2 million.

"Major companies such as Wackenhut Corrections Corp. and Corrections Corp. of America employ sophisticated lobbyists to protect and expand their market share. The law enforcement technology industry, which produces high-tech items such as the latest stab-proof vests, helmets, stun guns, shields, batons and chemical agents, does more than a billion dollars a year in business.

"With 2.2 million people engaged in catching criminals and putting and keeping them behind bars, 'corrections' has become one of the largest sectors of the U.S. economy, employing more people than the combined workforces of General Motors, Ford and Wal-Mart, the three biggest
corporate employers in the country.

"In the past two decades, hundreds of 'prison towns' have multiplied -- places that are dependent on prisons for their economic vitality.

"In fiscally distressed California, about 6 percent of the state budget goes to corrections. Yet no senior politician, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, has dared challenge the power of the 31,000-member California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which pours a third of the $22 million it collects each year in membership dues into political action committees. "

It is notable that the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, calling on its nonexistent medical expertise, was a major opponent of allowing the medical use of marijuana.

For more, see: Follow The Money      

[6] Failure: There is a general awareness that the drug war has failed but little appreciation for the depths of that failure.

About 62% of our young have already tried an illegal drug by age 22. This figure is so astonishingly high, especially in the context of a nation where about 50% of us say we have not used alcohol in the past month, that the drug war has totally failed in its primary objective. Anyone who really wants the drugs gets them already. It's hard to imagine a system that could do worse.

Jack Lawn was in charge of trying to stop the supply of illegal drugs for five years under President Reagan and now says that the budget for law enforcement should be cut by 90% because it is a waste of money and talent. [a] Indeed, the relentless economic realities that prohibition unleashes
dictate that the illegal drug trade [IDT] respond with surplus production that makes drugs even more available to the critical populations, adolescents and addicts.

Volney Brown, the nation's leading prosecutor of drug dealers (1,100 in 18 months) under President Richard Nixon regards the effort as futile. [b] Other analysts have stressed that this actually increases the likelihood that the young will be drawn into sales.  This is only one of many ways that the drug war has operated to the detriment of our young.

See: Drug Dealers and Children

"My job is to chase flies through the dark all over South America." 

- DEA agent, cited by former prosecutor, Vincent Bugliosi

For more information, See: Drug War Failure

[a] Lawn appeared on FRONTLINE and The Charie Rose Show with Robert Stutman, a fellow former high official in the DEA.

[b] Volney Brown is a retired  Federal Magistrate Judge.   Once, at massive taxpayer expense, he managed to  lock up all of the 76 major drug dealers in Phoenix  in one night and kept them in prison;  within 8 days they had all been replaced.

[7] Drug War Damage

One of DPFT's deepest concerns is that those who become "collateral damage" in the drug war are forgotten in the public mind and in the decision making process. It is why we chose the grave of Esequiel Hernandez as an important image for the home page.

Please see: Drug War Damage


[8] "A BRIGHT AND SHINING LIE; The War On Drugs"  St. Louis Post-Dispatch, editorial on 09 Feb 2001

"The parallels between America's war in Vietnam and its war on drugs become clearer every day.  In both conflicts, political considerations forced the adoption of a strategy that could not succeed. 

The question we have to ask as a nation is whether it is worth it to use the tactics of war to fight our own people."


[9] For a more detailed agenda, see Change 

Four Possible Routes To Change 

Not all reformers favor any one path. Most that we cite believe that prohibition is a self-defeating strategy, but others may favor only some of the changes described below. Any step, however small, that makes progress is worth doing. 

See: Marijuana Casebook 

* A major shift in the power structure that bears primary responsibility for policy decisions and for providing information to the public. 

A major step would be to devolve power from the federal government to states and local authorities consistent with our traditional view of the states as the laboratories of democracy and make them responsible for their own funding, making them more accountable to voters. 

At the federal level the shift would be from political domination to an enhanced role for independent science. A National Commission On Marijuana and Drug Policy would give us a better foundation to build on. 

You can help make that happen. See: Petition 

* Redefining our priorities to emphasize treatment, education and voluntary prevention. Drug abuse is primarily a public health problem and not primarily a law enforcement problem. Ultimately, success must rely on encouraging voluntary decisions rooted in personal responsibility. 

Currently the federal government spends about 2/3 of the drug war budget on law enforcement, the least effective tool, and one with costly side effects. In most states the figure is more like 90%. We can begin to reverse our spending ratio to favor things that work. 

There are dozens of ways to improve. See Immediate Action as an example. More possibilities are covered at:





* The legalization of marijuana.  Marijuana is the critical drug since it accounts for well over half of illegal drug use and consumes a similar portion of drug war resources.

The public will have to decide whether experts like the world's leading medical journal, The Lancet, or public officials are more likely to be misrepresenting the truth. The Lancet, in various editorials over the past 10 years, has said:

"The desire to take mood-altering substances is an enduring feature of human societies worldwide and even the most draconian legislation has failed to extinguish this desire -- for every substance banned another will be discovered, and all are likely to have  some ill-effect on health. This should be borne in mind by social legislators who, disapproving of other people's indulgences, seek to make them illegal. Such legislation does not get rid of the problem; it merely shifts it elsewhere."

"It would be reasonable to judge cannabis less of a threat to health than alcohol or tobacco. On the medical evidence available, moderate indulgence in cannabis has little ill-effect on health."

"Sooner or later politicians will have to stop running scared and address the evidence:  cannabis per se is not a hazard to society but driving it further underground may well be."

This route would leave the current basic structure in place and make all other elements more effective. It would also be a very low risk, reversible test of the accuracy of the rhetoric of two competing points of view.

See: Marijuana

*  The end of prohibition as a strategy.

"The major beneficiaries from drug prohibition are the drug lords, who can maintain a cartel that they would be unable to maintain without current government policy."

- Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize, Economics

The arguments for ending prohibition are not about encouraging drug use but about eliminating the IDT with it's drug lords and drug dealers and the oppressive climate of crime, violence and corruption they bring with them.

It's about regaining more control of the drug supply, control which is surrendered by prohibition and which has made illegal drugs more available to our young than legal alcohol.

Proponents of strictly regulated sales to adults believe that we could more successfully deal with drug abuse if we did not have to fight the equivalent of thousands of Al Capones  at the same time, and that we would spare hundreds of millions from the misery the IDT inflicts.

Indeed, many would argue that a drug policy based on prohibiting some drugs is no more logical or helpful than attempting to solve traffic problems by making some models of cars illegal.

Only a thoughtful analysis, a balance sheet  based on accurate assessments, and open discussion can weigh these arguments properly.

See: Legalize Drugs ? At what Cost ?


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