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VOICES FOR REFORM 

The reform movement is led by many of our nation's most highly regarded and well informed citizens.

Most of the below oppose prohibition, viewing it as a more disastrous repeat of the errors of alcohol Prohibition. Others simply call for major changes in the structure of the drug war, a conversion to what is generally called "harm reduction." 

See: Change

Official propaganda would have the public believe that those who support reform are radicals or are only interested in using drugs themselves. This is an effort to avoid open debate with clearly credible opponents who can point out inaccurate claims. 

The unofficial leader of opposition to prohibition for decades has been Milton Friedman, a Nobel prize winner in economics, and a senior research fellow with the Hoover Institution. [1] President G.W. Bush recently called him "a hero of freedom" and Alan Greenspan called him the most formidable economist of the past century. Friedman is now over 90 and has never used an illegal drug. He has lived through alcohol prohibition. 

Friedman is one of hundreds of world leaders who signed a Public Letter in the New York Times, the source of the quote on our home page, "We believe that the global war on drugs is now causing more harm than drug abuse itself." 

We offer the very abbreviated list below of various proponents for reform (some signed the letter) to emphasize that it is an insult to the American people to deprive them of the opportunity to hear more about why such people are so opposed to current policy and to hear their suggestions. 


* The Lancet 

Generally regarded as the foremost medical journal in the world for over a century. 

[See: Lancet's argument in favor of legalized marijuana.

* The Economist 

This magazine has long been respected as a conservative and thoughtful voice in its analyses of world events. 

* Drug Policy Project of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) 

FAS is sponsored by over 60 Nobel Prize winners. FAS favors major change but does not oppose prohibition itself. 

* Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy [PLNDP] 

PLNDP includes 37 of the nation's best- known physicians, including Lonnie Bristow, past president of the American Medical Association, Louis Sullivan, M.D., former Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) under President Bush, and David Lewis, director of the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University, Providence, R.I. 

"A critical new finding is that teen-age conduct problems typically precede substance abuse. The PLNDP-sponsored research found important steps that are not yet being taken to save our troubled children. These include targeting high risk youth; increased involvement and mentorship by an adult; a program reaching across a person's early years and through high-risk periods of puberty; and skill-enhancing programs for youth, rather than those based on punishment. Without building on these efforts, delinquency, drug abuse, criminal activity, suicide, risky sexual behaviors and psychiatric and health problems will continue to rise. " 

* International Coalition Of NGOs For Just And Effective Drug Policies 

"Our Coalition, composed by 114 NGOs [Non Governmental Organizations] from 28 countries across the world, represents, among others, millions of citizens who experience the day-to-day reality of the drug problem, and failing drug control policies, in their own lives." 

* Judges 

Many are quoted in "Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs" by former prosecutor Judge James P. Gray of the California Superior Court.

 www.drugpolicy.org/library/bookstore/judgegray.cfm

 Note: Former Rep. Tom Campbell, R-San Jose, is an outspoken critic of federal drug policies. Now dean of the University of California, Berkeley's Haas School of Business, Campbell says: "Judge Jim Gray ... I have the highest admiration for his integrity and his thoughtfulness in approaching this most difficult problem, and in his recognition that the present approach to America's drug problem is a tremendously costly failure." 

J. Lawrence Irving, U.S. District Judge: 

A Reagan appointee who resigned in 1990, rather than hear drug cases where mandatory sentencing laws mean a small-time drug dealer may receive a harsher sentence than someone convicted of murder. "I can't continue to give out sentences I feel in some instances are unconscionable." 

Robert Sweet, U.S. District Judge: 

Sweet argues that we must end prohibition and focus on "those conditions which result in drug use.... If we are not willing to become our brothers' keepers, then we will have to become our brothers' jailers." 

* Law enforcement officers 

Dr. Joseph McNamara: 

The retired police chief of Kansas City and San Jose, California, and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His doctoral dissertation at Harvard University was on the history of criminalizing drugs and its negative impact on the American police force. 

William Bratton, former New York Police Commissioner 

Patrick Murphy, former Police Commissioner of New York City 

Richard Guillen, Chief of Police, Española, NM 

Dr. George Napper, Jr., Chief of Police (Ret), Atlanta Georgia

Jerry Oliver, Chief of Police, Detroit 

Also see Law Enforcement Against Prohibition [LEAP] at www.leap.cc and an article opposing prohibition by the former head of the Scotland Yard Drug Squad, Edward Ellison

* Media icons 

Among the most prominent are William F. Buckley, Walter Cronkite, Hugh Downs, John Stossel, Cynthia Tucker, Molly Ivins, Paul Craig Roberts, Christopher Hitchens, Gwynne Dyer, Scott Burns and Jack Anderson. They all oppose prohibition.  

Walter Cronkite, 1995  - 

"It seems to this reporter that the time has come for President Clinton to do what President Hoover did when (alcohol) prohibition was tearing  the nation apart:  appoint a bipartisan commission of distinguished citizens

...a blue ribbon panel to reappraise our drug policy right down to its very core with a commission with full investigative authority and   the prestige and power to override bureaucratic concerns and political considerations.  

Such a commission could help us focus our thinking,  escape the clichés of the drug war in favor of scientific fact, more rationally analyze the real scope of the problem, answer the questions that bedevil us, and present a comprehensive drug policy for the future..."

* Religious leaders 

Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative

Walter Wink has been a leading writer about the drug policy problem for many years. 

Also see: Drug War Sermon 

* Nobel Laureates 

Gary Becker (Economics) 

Nicolaus Bloembergen (Physics) 

Val L. Fitch (Physics) 

Milton Friedman (Economics) 

Robert E. Lucas, Jr. (Economics) 

Ferad Murad (Medicine) 

Richard E. Smalley (Chemistry) 

* Experts 

Dr. J. Thomas Ungerleider, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry, UCLA; Presidential Appointee (Nixon), National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse 

Hamilton Beazley, Former President of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. 

Dr. Jeremiah A. Barondess, President, New York Academy of Medicine 

Ernest Drucker, Professor of Epidemiology & Social Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Member of the National Academy of Sciences 

John Edsall, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry, Harvard University; Member of the National Academy of Sciences 

Dr. Alfred G. Gilman, Chairman, Department of Pharmacology, University of Texas 

Alex Inkeles, Sociologist, Senior Fellow Emeritus Hoover Institution, Stanford University 

Donal E. J. McNamara, Former President American Society of Criminology 

Allan Rosenfield, Dean, Columbia School of Public Health 

Saul P. Steinberg, Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Public Health, Cornell University 

Andrew Weil, Clinical Professor of Internal Medicine, University of Arizona; Author of "Spontaneous Healing" and "Natural Health, Natural Healing"

Public Letter 

The New York Times, June 6, 1998 

Mr. Kofi Annan 

Secretary General 

United Nations 

New York, New York 

United States 

Dear Secretary General, 

On the occasion of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in New York on June 8-10, 1998, we seek your leadership in stimulating a frank and honest evaluation of global drug control efforts. 

We are all deeply concerned about the threat that drugs pose to our children, our fellow citizens and our societies. There is no choice but to work together, both within our countries and across borders, to reduce the harms associated with drugs. The United Nations has a legitimate and important role to play in this regard -- but only if it is willing to ask and address tough questions about the success or failure of its efforts. 

We believe that the global war on drugs is now causing more harm than drug abuse itself. 

Every decade the United Nations adopts new international conventions, focused largely on criminalization and punishment, that restrict the ability of individual nations to devise effective solutions to local drug problems. Every year governments enact more punitive and costly drug control measures. Every day politicians endorse harsher new drug war strategies. 

What is the result ? U.N. agencies estimate the annual revenue generated by the illegal drug industry at $400 billion, or the equivalent of roughly eight per cent of total international trade. This industry has empowered organized criminals, corrupted governments at all levels, eroded internal security, stimulated violence, and distorted both economic markets and moral values. These are the consequences not of drug use per se, but of decades of failed and futile drug war policies. 

In many parts of the world, drug war politics impede public health efforts to stem the spread of HIV, hepatitis and other infectious diseases. Human rights are violated, environmental assaults perpetrated and prisons inundated with hundreds of thousands of drug law violators. Scarce resources better expended on health, education and economic development are squandered on ever more expensive interdiction efforts. Realistic proposals to reduce drug-related crime, disease and death are abandoned in favor of rhetorical proposals to create drug-free societies. 

Persisting in our current policies will only result in more drug abuse, more empowerment of drug markets and criminals, and more disease and suffering. Too often those who call for open debate, rigorous analysis of current policies, and serious consideration of alternatives are accused of "surrendering." But the true surrender is when fear and inertia combine to shut off debate, suppress critical analysis, and dismiss all alternatives to current policies. 

Mr. Secretary General, we appeal to you to initiate a truly open and honest dialogue regarding the future of global drug control policies - one in which fear, prejudice and punitive prohibitions yield to common sense, science, public health and human rights.

 Sincerely,


 Across the fold were the names and titles of over 350 persons, many of them past Presidents, cabinet ministers, and Nobel Laureates from around the world. 

Premier; Judge; Professor; Member, European Parliament; Senator; Fellow of the Royal Society; Dean; Minister; Research Director; Police President; Editor-in-Chief; Chairman and many more, many repeatedly - are printed. 

For more information See: www.drugpolicy.org/global/ungass/letter/index.cfm 

For signatories See: www.drugpolicy.org/global/ungass/sigs1/

* Leaders of social organizations 

Robert L. Bernstein, Founding Chair, Human Rights Watch

Hamilton Fish, President, Public Concern Foundation 

Ira Glasser, Executive Director, The American Civil Liberties Union 

Faye Wattleton, Former Executive Director, Planned Parenthood 

Kweisi Mfume, President and CEO of the NAACP 

George E. Bushnell Jr., Former ABA president 

* Business Leaders 

Richard Dennis, President, Dennis Trading Group 

William K. Glikbarg, President, OGO Investments 

Vartan Gregorian, President, Carnegie Corporation of New York 

Peter Lewis, Chairman, CEO, The Progressive Corporation 

Walter Loewenstern, Jr., Co-Founder ROLM Corporation 

George Soros, Chairman, Soros Fund Management 

"I am rather sensitive to Orwellian doublespeak because I grew up with it in Hungary, first under Nazi and later under Communist rule."

 John Sperling, Chairman and CEO, Apollo Group, Inc. 

Jann S. Wenner, Chairman, Wenner Media, Inc. 

* High Officials 

Charles [Bob] Schuster, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse under Presidents Reagan and Bush

Joycelyn Elders, Former U.S. Surgeon General 

Nicholas Katzenbach, Former US Attorney General 

Elliot Richardson, Former US Attorney General 

George Shultz, Former US Secretary of State 

Javier Perez de Cuellar, Former Secretary General of the United Nations 

Oscar Arias, Former President of Costa Rica 

Lidya Gueiler Tejada, Former President of Bolivia 

Belisario Betancur, Former President of Columbia

Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, Former President of Nicaragua 

Jorge Batlle, President of Uruguay 

"Why don't we just legalize the drugs?' 

Erling Olsen, Former Minister of Justice, Denmark 

Michele Barzach, Former Minister of Health, France 

Sabine Leutheuser - Schnarrenberger, Former Justice Minister, Germany 

Haim Cohn, Former Deputy President of the Israel Supreme Court 

Andreas van Agt, Former Prime Minister of the Netherlands 

We can only mention a few - although you can see hundreds of signatories to the Public Letter quoted on our home page - but we do want the public to have a sense of who they are and why a proper discussion must weigh their arguments. 

We emphasize that many of these are people who have often been at the center of trying making the drug war work. They tend to be older, insulated from retaliation by their stature or by their retirement. Most federal judges don't have to worry about election at any time and are also free to speak their minds. 

We suggest this gives them credibility that we cannot extend to those who have to consider the impact on their careers of coming out of the closet with their feelings about the drug war. 

We also suggest that any time the reader is subjected to another of those unchallenged drug war rallies - at schools, service organizations, business organizations, television, etc. - that it is a disservice to the public if there is no opportunity then, or at another time, for the same audience to have a chance to hear the other side. 


 [1] Milton Friedman has vigorously opposed the drug war for decades. Friedman has correctly predicted the failure of the drug war from the first. The impossibility of stopping supply is an economic inevitability associated with the prohibition of any popuar drug. He has laid this out in a piece titled, "The Drug War as a Socialist Enterprise." 

"What happens to a law has little relation, in general, to the intentions of the people who wrote it. As I predicted in 1972, drug prohibition has not reduced the number of addicts appreciably if at all and has promoted crime and corruption." 

Later government estimates were to show addiction actually increased, but Friedman's economic objections are secondary; "My main objection to the drug war is on moral grounds." 

See: There's No Justice in the War on Drugs 

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