The Truth About the War on Drugs
Updated: December 7, 2001

"We cannot go into tomorrow with the same formulas that are failing today. We must not blindly add to the body count and the terrible cost of the War on Drugs, only to learn from another Robert McNamara 30 years from now that what we've been doing is "wrong, terribly wrong." -- Walter Cronkite

Sometimes People Learn,
Sometimes They Don't

by David Borden, Executive Director,, 12/7/01

Sixty-eight years ago this week, on December 5, 1933, our nation corrected a historic mistake and repealed its disastrous experiment with Alcohol Prohibition. Sometimes people learn, sometimes they change course.

Sometimes they don't. Earlier this week, the DEA held a conference on terrorism and drugs -- coincidentally the same day as our hemp food protests in front of DEA offices around the country -- somehow they were able to spare several security officers to monitor our taste-test table, even though they knew from the last time that we weren't dangerous.

The conference was a minor news item, but if the news report gave an accurate characterization of what the DEA people were talking about -- which we don't know for sure, but it certainly sounds like them -- the thrust of what they discussed, and for which they will probably lobby, is for an effort to use the rearrangement of Afghanistan's governmental system as an opportunity to move against the nation's opium crop. They claim that doing so could raise the price of heroin in the US.

DEA, at least, never learns. Eradicating Afghanistan's opium will only shift the production to other regions, such as Burma -- or Latin America, where most US heroin actually originates now. Crop eradication has never reduced the long-term supply of any drug. Why not? Because people are paying money for it, a lot of money. Someone will grow it, someone will process it, someone will sell it, people who want it will get it. Not all the time, perhaps, but most of the time. Ultimately, the price drops again, sometimes even more. To believe that reducing or even wiping out Afghanistan's opium crop will have any significant long-term effect on the heroin supply takes an extraordinarily degree of foolishness or ignorance of economics and history.

And it is very clear that we need DEA's tens of billions for other things much more than a failed and futile drug war. Our nation is under attack by terrorists. Our economy is ailing. And all our other needs have not gone away in the meantime. It would have been perfectly reasonable, maybe even productive, for the DEA to spend a day talking about the targeted goal of disrupting drug trafficking organizations that have links to terrorist groups. After all, drugs aren't legal yet, therefore there is a black market which does supply some of terrorism's funding. But instead, they apparently focused on the unfocused, wasteful and impossible goal of taking on the opium industry as a whole.

Maybe Strom Thurmond can help. The 99-year-old Senator is more than old enough to remember Alcohol Prohibition, its failure, and the reduction of violence and corruption that followed its repeal. In fact, Prohibition was repealed on Thurmond's 31st birthday.

And Thurmond has shown an ability to learn: Back in 1964, when he switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party over the Democrats' support for civil rights, Thurmond was a segregationist. But now, he admits that he was wrong about that. He learned, he became a better person. Only someone who knew him well could say whether his initial opposition to desegregation was based on misguided conviction or on politics, or whether his conversion over the subsequent years reflected a personal enlightenment or was simply a shift to match the prevailing cultural and political winds.

But whatever the reason was for Strom Thurmond deciding to join modern civilization, he did it. He did ultimately change his position. Which means he may be capable of changing his mind on other long-entrenched views. And he does remember Alcohol Prohibition.

There probably is no one quite so old working at the DEA. And they have too much invested in their bureaucracies and the status quo, anyway, to do anything about this. But the same doesn't apply to a member of the Senate. Certainly not to a 99-year-old member of the Senate. Strom Thurmond would have nothing to lose by initiating a dialogue on drug prohibition.

Of course, I'm not holding my breath; after all, he didn't change his mind about segregation until after most other people had already figured it out. But one can hope. After all, it's no more unlikely than it would be for some of the other responsible parties in the drug war.


Why Did Police Arrest 734,498 Pot-smokers,
Instead of Tracking Murderous Terrorists?

WASHINGTON, DC -- American law enforcement is guilty of something close to "criminal neglect" for arresting 734,498 people for marijuana violations last year -- instead of investigating and stopping murderous terrorists, the Libertarian Party said today.

"Thousands of innocent Americans may be dead because law enforcement considered it more important to raid college frat parties and arrest people for smoking marijuana than to find and stop the deadly terrorist 'sleeper' cells that were plotting the greatest mass murder in American history," said Steve Dasbach, the party's national director.

"You just have to wonder: If the tens of thousands of law enforcement officers, the millions of man-hours, and the billions of dollars that were spent monitoring, investigating, arresting, charging, processing, jailing, and bringing to trial non-violent marijuana users had been used, instead, for anti-terrorist activities -- could the September 11 atrocity have been prevented?"

That question has become especially crucial now that the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has released new figures showing that marijuana arrests in 2000 hit an all-time record.

According to figures collected from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Report, police arrested an estimated 734,498 people for marijuana violations last year. That's up from the 704,812 Americans who were arrested in 1999 on marijuana-related charges.

Of the almost three-quarters of a million people arrested in 2000, approximately 88% -- or about 646,042 individuals -- were charged only with possession of marijuana.

The most chilling thing about those numbers, said Dasbach, is that every arrest for marijuana represents a "missed opportunity" for law enforcement.

"Local and state police, the FBI, and federal law enforcement agencies have only a finite amount of people, time, and money to investigate and stop crimes," he noted. "By directing so many of those resources to the War on Marijuana, law enforcement made the ill-advised decision that detecting murderous, fanatical terrorists was less important than arresting non-violent Americans who choose to use marijuana.

"The nearly 4,000 Americans who were killed in the World Trade Center, in the Pentagon, and aboard Flight 93 may have paid the price for that tragically misguided decision."

Of course, what law enforcement did last year can't be altered now, admitted Dasbach. However, such policies can be changed for the future.

"We can't bring back the thousands of Americans who were killed on September 11," he said. "And we can't bring back all the law enforcement resources that were squandered in the past. But we can learn from our mistakes -- and we can learn from the actions of other nations."

For example, noted Dasbach, Great Britain reclassified marijuana in October so it is no longer an arrestable offense.

"For the safety and security of our nation, it's time for the United States to follow the lead of Great Britain," he said. "Then, we could redirect law enforcement -- at the local, state, and federal levels -- to focus on preventing future barbarous acts of terrorism, instead of arresting marijuana-smokers who are no threat to anyone."

The Libertarian Party
2600 Virginia Avenue, NW, Suite 100
Washington DC 20037

17 May 2001 The New York Times


The federal government won a major legal victory Monday in its benighted efforts to prevent the use of marijuana to relieve the symptoms of pain, nausea or loss of appetite in desperately ill patients. But the Supreme Court's unanimous verdict against a California cooperative set up to supply marijuana to qualified patients need not terminate all efforts to help those who have no reasonable alternative treatment. The verdict simply shifts the onus to individual patients or to compassionate state governments to obtain marijuana for medical purposes and test the limits of federal intransigence.

Although marijuana is categorized as an illegal drug under federal drug control laws, California and eight other states have passed laws that give patients the right to obtain it for medical purposes. Federal authorities, concerned that such state laws are a loophole allowing people to secure illegal drugs, sued for an injunction against the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative to shut down its operations as a violation of federal law. In its ruling against the cooperative, the court, which has often championed states' rights, found reason to ignore the wishes of Californians. The cooperative had the backing of the Oakland city government and police and was clearly consistent with the wishes of California voters, 56 percent of whom approved medical use of marijuana in a 1996 referendum.

But the Supreme Court, in an 8-to-0 decision, ruled that Congress, by classifying marijuana as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, had determined that marijuana has "no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States." Thus the cooperative could not claim a medical defense for distributing it, even though highly respected medical groups, ranging from the Institute of Medicine to the California Medical Association, have seen a valid if limited role for marijuana in relieving the symptoms of patients who are not helped by pills containing an active ingredient of marijuana or by other treatments. Smoking marijuana, for example, can alleviate the nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy and the wasting syndrome associated with AIDS.

The decision left some wiggle room for future efforts to allow medical uses. Congress could make marijuana medically available through legislation, but that is not considered likely with Republican control of both houses. State governments could distribute the drug themselves, as two states are now considering, and hope that a Supreme Court that has favored states' rights in other contexts might rule for the states in this context as well. Or patients can take matters into their own hands and dare federal authorities to come after them for activities their own state authorities deem legal.

Five of the Supreme Court justices left hints that they might read federal law as prohibiting any medical use of marijuana in any setting outside a research project. But the other three signed a concurring opinion contending that this week's decision found only large-scale manufacture and distribution of marijuana illegal and did not address the issue of whether individual patients could obtain and use the drug for medical purposes. Either way, sick patients may now be forced to grow the plants themselves or buy marijuana from illegal dealers on the street, increasing the very trafficking that federal authorities say they want to shut down.

Federal agents could theoretically arrest patients who grow or use marijuana for treatment recommended by a physician, but under California law the state and local police could not. If any patients should actually be arrested, juries would seem unlikely to convict in a state where most people endorse the medical use of marijuana. Congress should be as wise.

May 13, 2001, The Denver Post

Time to Change Strategies
By Sheriff Bill Masters

Roni Bowers and her baby Charity were killed not by drug-dealing gangs or criminal thugs, but instead by government agents. They were "collateral damage" in the War on Drugs.

In late April, a United States spotter aircraft, flying with a Peruvian air force officer on board, thought a civilian plane might have been transporting drugs. However, the only cargo was a human one of Baptist missionaries and their children, including 7-month-old Charity and her mother.

After spotting the civilian aircraft, the U.S. jet contacted the Peruvian air force, which then scrambled fighters to shoot at the helpless civilians.

A bullet went through Roni and into her baby, killing them both instantly.

Witnessing this horror were Roni's husband, Jim, and their 6-year-old son, Cory, who were passengers on the plane. During the attack, the pilot of the civilian plane continued contact with civilian Peruvian air traffic controllers. According to press reports, he said repeatedly, "They are killing us! They are killing us!"

After the plane was strafed, the American pilot working for the Baptist church was able to crash the burning plane into a river. The injured pilot, together with Jim and Cory were able to escape the wreckage and float down the river grasping dislodged pieces of aircraft. One fighter plane continued to shoot at them. Reuters reported that the U.S. plane watched the incident from about a mile away.

We shouldn't be surprised that this occurred. Mad as hell maybe, but not surprised. After all, we are in a war, a War on Drugs. And during times of war innocent people get in the way.

This tragedy has played itself out scores of times in recent years. U.S. Marines shot and killed teenage goat herder Esequiel Hernandez in 1997 near his home in Texas, mistaking him for a drug runner.

Drug agents flew over 62-year-old Donald Scott's ranch and claimed they saw marijuana growing on his property. They raided his home, pushed his wife to the ground, and shot him to death. No drugs were found.

Police, acting on false information about a $30 drug deal, raided the home of 84-year-old, bed-ridden Anna Rae Dixon, and shot her with a 12-gauge shotgun, killing her instantly.

In Denver, Ismael Mena was killed in September 1999 after a cop filed a false search warrant affidavit and the SWAT team raided the wrong home. Reportedly the last word from the father of nine was a questioning "Policia?" as the dressed-in-black SWAT team stormed into his small room.

The list goes on and on. It includes children, mothers, fathers, elderly ladies and teenage goat herders. All "collateral damage," according to common military parlance.

The increasing militarization of the Drug War and our local police forces is a dangerous trend. Today most of the tactical and firearms training for "peace" officers comes straight out of military doctrine. The tactics taught are not of negotiations or individual bravery but of concentration of forces and firepower.

In our own state, the legislature has passed laws requiring the governor as "commander in chief" to use the soldiers of the Colorado National Guard for drug interdiction and enforcement.

To that end, the soldiers are providing "aviation assets and ground assistance units trained for the specific mission of cannabis suppression and eradication." They are available to local law enforcement in "narcotics-centered investigations with surveillance platforms, thermal imagery and night vision equipment, case support and intelligence analysis."

The soldiers are also training local officers at the County Sheriffs of Colorado facility in Douglas County on issues like "non-urban tactical operations" and "airmobile drug enforcement operations."

It is only a matter of time before our increasingly militarized tactics will result in more unintended deaths like those in Peru. I question whether it is worth it.

Policing and blaming Peru, Colombia or Mexico for our nation's drug problems is a little like blaming Saudi Arabia for traffic jams. This is a demand problem, not a supply problem.

We shut off the cocaine supply, then some people start cooking meth in their homes. We stop the meth and many will get high on Ecstasy, booze, the doctor's pills or whatever. Controlling the drug supply is like holding water in a fist, it just leaks out and goes on to something else.

Eventually, we will realize a fist won't work against what is fundamentally a spiritual problem.

Before we suffer more innocent deaths at the hands of those sworn to protect us, before we lose touch with our local peace officers, and before more children overdose because we haven't identified or addressed the demand problem, we must rethink the Drug War. We must change strategies.

Give Thanks
by Adam J. Smith, Associate Director
Drug Response Coordination Network

If neither you nor someone you love has had to decide between the relief of pain, the suppression of life- threatening nausea, or the loss of sight, and the prospect of risking arrest and conviction under state or federal marijuana laws, give thanks.

If neither you nor someone you love has had the experience of armed agents of the state kicking in your door, terrorizing your home's occupants and damaging your personal property, give thanks.

If neither you nor someone you love has contracted injection-related AIDS, or Hepatitis, because there was no legal source of clean needles for themselves or a present or past sexual partner or a parent, give thanks.

If neither you nor someone you love has been the victim of Prohibition-related violence or crime, give thanks.

If neither your child nor another child that you love has been lured by the siren song of the black market, or by gangs, or been shot at by a law enforcement agent for being in the wrong place at the wrong time (and for being the wrong color), or been saddled with a life-long criminal record for youthful experimentation, or been banished from school for possession of an aspirin, or been tried in court as an adult, give thanks.

If neither you nor someone you love has had property taken by the state without so much as being charged with an offense, give thanks.

If neither you nor someone you love has had to suffer the indignity of urinating in a cup, on demand, for the privilege of maintaining menial employment, give thanks.

If neither you nor someone you love has sought drug treatment and found that it was unavailable to those of modest means save through the processes of the criminal justice system, give thanks.

If you and everyone that you love can go through this list and be thankful for each and every entry, know that you are among a shrinking group of Americans who have managed to avoid some of the most common consequences of the War on Drugs. But know too, that your tax dollars, in ever- increasing amounts, are helping to make the number of citizens like you smaller each year. So give thanks. But remember too that there is work to be done.

Happy Thanksgiving.

6/9/99 The Week Online

Oaths and Allegiances
by David Borden, Executive Director
Drug Response Coordination Network

To "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies" and to "bear true faith and allegiance to the same" -- this, the Senators of our great nation do solemnly swear upon taking office.

Yet at least three bills with bipartisan support in the Senate right now would strike at the core of that most basic of Constitutionally protected freedoms, freedom of speech. The methamphetamine bill, the ecstasy bill, and equivalent provisions of the bankruptcy bill, would impose up to 10 years in federal prison on persons convicted of providing "information pertaining to... the manufacture, acquisition, or use of a controlled substance, with the intent that the teaching, demonstration, or information be used for, or in furtherance of, an activity that constitutes a crime."

It is language that can easily be concealed behind law and order rhetoric: "We want to make it a crime to help people manufacture and traffic in dangerous, illegal drugs." Yet the reality is that the bill goes much further than that. Anyone who discusses the medical value of marijuana, anyone whose web site links to needle exchange schedules or safer injecting techniques, or who helps ecstasy users stay alive by providing information on risk- reduction techniques they can use while taking ecstasy -- any of these compassionate and sensible measures could subject law- abiding Americans to the threat of their lives being ruined by the government.

Yes, law abiding, for the Constitution is the law of the land, above all other laws. It is those who promote and sponsor unconstitutional laws, who have disregarded rule of law in a more insidious, ultimately more destructive way than any common criminal. The members of Congress supporting this legislation may have spoken the words that make up their oath, but their words were empty, for they have shown greater allegiance to the failed and failing war on drugs than the Constitution of the United States.

Perhaps these laws won't stand the test of the courts. But does the right to speak freely truly hold in this country, when those exercising it must brave arrests and court hearings and all the attendant monetary and life costs, with no guarantee of success and the risk of lengthy incarceration if one fails?

Let us demand of our leaders their allegiance in more than words, but in actions.

Email David Borden:

(c) 2000, Arianna Huffington. Distributed by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate

By Arianna Huffington

You won't find the latest good news about our war in the foreign-news section of the paper. That's because this war is being fought at home. But you won't find it in the domestic-news section, either. That's because the media are barely reporting anything outside the talking points of the presidential candidates. And George W. Bush and Al Gore would rather talk about drugs they did or didn't take than mention America's ongoing drug war -- unless to say that we need to get tougher. Elected officials are usually the last to agree with the little boy crying out that the emperor wears no clothes -- or, in this case, that the drug war has been a disaster. But yesterday's heresies are becoming today's wisdom.

"The most common reaction I get from my colleagues," Rep. Tom Campbell (R-Calif.), in the vanguard of drug-policy reform, told me, "is 'You're absolutely right, but, boy, I'm not going to take that risk.'" Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) is one who has decided to take the risk. "'A fanatic is someone who redoubles his efforts when he's forgotten his purpose,'" he told me, quoting Santayana. "We need to question policymakers' sanity when the purpose -- in this case protecting people's health -- is forgotten in favor of a fanatical pursuit of the drug war."

"We're on the cusp of this debate bursting wide open," said Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Lindesmith Center, a leading drug-policy institute. "Drug-policy reform is rapidly emerging as the movement for political and social justice of the new decade."

An overwhelming majority of Americans now feel that it's time to mobilize new thinking on our drug problem. According to a recent Zogby poll, 74 percent favor treatment over prison for those convicted of possession. And when given the chance to express their feelings at the ballot box, voters across the country -- the ground troops on the side of common sense -- have repeatedly shown their support for reforming drug policy. In Arizona, voters have twice approved a measure replacing mandatory incarceration with treatment, while ballot initiatives making marijuana available for medical use have been passed in California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Nevada, Colorado, Maine and Washington, D.C.

State legislatures are following suit. Hawaii recently became the first state to approve medical marijuana through the legislative process. And last year, Missouri passed a bill encouraging judges to sentence certain drug users to community service and treatment facilities rather than jail.

Indeed, it is at the state level that the critical mass for bipartisan drug reform is emerging. In November, Massachusetts and California ballots will have groundbreaking initiatives. The Massachusetts initiative requires that any properties forfeited in drug cases go to education or drug treatment rather than to police coffers -- a critically important reform if we are to end our distorted law-enforcement priorities. Meanwhile, in California, the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act requires that nonviolent drug offenders be sent to treatment rather than prison the first two times they're arrested. Its backers point out that the average cost of maintaining a prison inmate is $23,406 a year, while the average annual cost of a drug-treatment program is $4,300.

More evidence of this emerging critical mass comes, surprisingly, from a growing number of law-enforcement officials and judges. Although, on second thought, it's not that surprising since these front-line conscripts have seen the ravages of the war up close: overflowing prisons, devastated inner-city neighborhoods, the militarization of our nation's peace officers, ruined lives. "We look back now at things like judicial enforcement of the fugitive slave laws and wonder how we could have let that happen," a U.S. District Court judge told me. "I think many years from now people will look at our current drug laws that require very long, mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenders and think this is a comparable kind of injustice."

Even tough-on-crime conservatives like Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist are rethinking the mandatory minimum sentences fostered by the drug-war mind-set. Such sentences "impose unduly harsh punishment for first-time offenders," said Rehnquist, "and have led to an inordinate increase in the prison population."

Finally, families of those doing time for drugs have begun to organize. "The loved ones of the drug war's victims shouldn't be ashamed," said Nora Callahan, who in 1997 founded the November Coalition to give families of those serving draconian drug sentences a voice. "The government should be ashamed because our nation's drug laws are the real culprit." Families Against Mandatory Minimums, which now has branches in 21 states, was founded by Julie Stewart after her brother got five years in a federal prison for possessing three dozen marijuana plants.

College students have opened yet another front in the fight to end the drug war: battling against an outrageous provision in the 1998 Higher Education Act that disqualifies young people for federal aid for college if they've ever been convicted of marijuana possession but not if they've been convicted of rape, robbery or manslaughter. "It was this bill that got students active on the drug issue," said Kris Lotlikar, national director of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy. "They resent having their education dragged into drug-war politics."

"There is a growing acknowledgment," Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) told me, "that the drug war hasn't worked." Or as Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) put it: "The war on drugs is a total failure. It does more harm than good." Campbell, Nadler, Schakowsky and Paul are still in the minority -- a minority that includes some pretty high-profile pols, including New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura. But common sense finally seems to be gaining the edge on demagoguery and pandering. The government's war on drugs has become a war on its own citizens. It's heartening to see more and more people crying out that it's time to sue for peace.

Arianna Huffington's e-mail address is
Her new book, How to Overthrow the Government, is published by HarperCollins.


Arizona Pays $126,000 to Jail Armless Woman
for $20 Marijuana Violation

WASHINGTON, DC -- A decision by Arizona prosecutors to put a woman with no arms and only one leg in prison for a year for a minor marijuana violation -- at a cost to taxpayers of $126,000 -- shows how pitiless and immoral the War on Drugs has become, the Libertarian Party said today.

"Arizona prosecutors aren't content with inflicting cruel and unusual punishment on handicapped people; they apparently prefer their punishment to be ridiculously expensive, too," said Steve Dasbach, the party's national director.

"When you consider that for the cost of locking up one handicapped woman who sold $20 of marijuana, Arizona could have put four murderers in a maximum security prison for a year, you have to wonder who's committing the real crime."

This week, Deborah Lynn Quinn was placed in a "secure" medical unit by the Arizona Corrections Department. Her crime: Selling $20 of marijuana (four grams) to a police informant -- and then being caught with a small amount of marijuana in her home after being placed on probation.

Because she was born with no arms and only a partial left leg, Quinn, 39, can't be sent to a regular prison. So, the state will pay $126,000 -- or $345 a day -- to keep her imprisoned in a special medical unit.

By comparison, it costs the Arizona state government only $90 a day to keep a violent felon in a maximum security prison, and only $45-$50 a day to keep a typical inmate behind bars.

While the details and cost of Quinn's sentence may be unusual, her plight is all too common, said Dasbach.

"Deborah Lynn Quinn is attracting attention because she is handicapped, and because her situation is so tragic," he said. "But keep in mind: She was just one of 682,885 Americans arrested in 1998 on marijuana-related charges. And every one of those 682,885 Americans faced criminal charges, possible time in jail, lost employment, and shattered lives. The War on Drugs has handicapped their future as surely as the lack of arms and a leg has handicapped Deborah Lynn Quinn."

Even worse, said Dasbach, is the fact that more people were arrested nationwide that year for marijuana charges (682,885) than were arrested for murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault combined (676,020), according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report.

"Every one of those marijuana arrests meant less police time, less money, less court time, and fewer jail cells available to protect us from violent criminals," he said. "Does that make sense? And, likewise, does it really make sense for Arizona to spend $126,000 to keep a tragically handicapped woman behind bars for a year?"

In fact, the price tag for Quinn is so outrageous that at least one Corrections officer is lobbying for a reduced or alternative sentence. However, Mohave County Chief Deputy Attorney Jace Zack said the punishment was appropriate because "drug dealers [are] dangerous people."

But not as dangerous as crusading anti-drug zealots who don't care about compassion, decency, or common sense when waging their failed War on Drugs, said Dasbach.

"Deborah Lynn Quinn may have no arms," he said. "But the people who put her in prison have no heart."

The Libertarian Party
2600 Virginia Avenue, NW, Suite 100
Washington DC 20037

For additional information: George Getz, Press Secretary
Phone: (202) 333-0008 Ext. 222 E-Mail:

c.2000 The New York Times Magazine

Dope TV

The politicians and propagandists who wage our war on drugs have really outdone themselves. After bloating the prisons and creating a vast antidrug industrial complex, they have now bribed our TV networks to deliver prime-time audiences for indoctrination and even corralled many newspapers as do-good collaborators.

Not even during the Cold War, with our faith in democracy at stake, did federal authorities dare so to subsidize and subvert our media. Back then, Congress explicitly forbade the agencies promoting anti-communism _ notably the U.S. Information Agency, its Voice of America and even the CIA _ to aim their propaganda at Americans.

Why? Because everyone understood that the government's heavy hand on the scale of public opinion could distort the weight of any argument and diminish the public's freedom.

That principle seems in urgent need of reinforcement. For it has been shown that the bait of a few million dollars was all it took to get our once fiercely independent broadcasters to submit to government tutelage and to lure many papers, including The New York Times, into taking government rewards for what appeared to be independent public service.

The furtive broadcast scheme was discovered by Daniel Forbes, a writer for, the Internet magazine, and covered with due concern by a few newspapers. In response, President Clinton and the television industry made light of their collusion and disclosed the lesser involvement of their newspaper critics. Just a bit of chummy cooperation in a good cause, they argued when their two years of secret dealing became known. (The Times, for its part, explained that it was rendering only advertising and circulation services, without affecting its news coverage or content.)

I would like to believe that the broadcasters' collaboration, though deplorable, had nothing to do with government's recent gifts to them of spectrum space worth about $70 billion and of regulations permitting unprecedented concentrations of station ownership.

And I know the newspapers think they merit praise, not blame, for disseminating socially useful messages. But it is odd that an industry usually quick to wrap itself in the First Amendment would so readily invite the government to read and influence the content of TV programs and accept government rewards for community service.

This sad bending of principle began in 1997, when Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, who heads the Office of National Drug Control Policy at the White House, was authorized by Congress to spend up to $1 billion over five years to buy television time and newspaper ads to agitate against drug use. To take the curse off this media subsidy, Congress insisted on paying only half-price; for every ad purchased, it wanted another run free of charge.

But when a booming economy made commercial time scarce and expensive, the networks longed for relief from their commitment to discounts. So they were told they could meet their obligation by another route. Rather than matching the government's paid ads one for one, the broadcasters were invited to plant antidrug messages in their prime-time dramas and sitcoms.

And newspapers were allowed to exchange ad space for things like teaching guides and pamphlets. (In the case of The Times, pamphlets were distributed with a sales pitch for school subscriptions).

In belatedly hinting at all these deals at a little-noticed congressional hearing last fall, McCaffrey never let on that his office had been turned into a full-blown script-review board. It decided which TV stories and newspaper programs were ``on message'' and "on strategy," which needed "guidance" and improvement and how much relief from matching ad time or space each message and activity was worth.

Without apparent hesitation, the networks showered the White House with scripts and tapes that could qualify for reward, including even unfinished scripts that could still be altered. Though their producers and writers were never told of the practice, almost all major shows were at some time offered for credit _ "The Simpsons," "Ally McBeal," "Law and Order," "The Drew Carey Show," "Beverly Hills 90210," "Cosby," "Home Improvement" and many more.

A show that portrayed parents confronting a joint-smoking child in ways the White House deemed effective could redeem the equivalent of two or three 30-second ads, worth at least $100,000. An even larger amount might be earned by showing a youth resisting peer pressure to take up cocaine.

And if a whole story line were judged helpful, well, then shows like "E.R." or "The Practice," to offer just two examples, recouped commercial time worth a million dollars or more.

Some network executives accepted the government's "guidance" to reshape a script. Some badgered unsuspecting writers to insert antidrug messages into their plots. One producer, John Tinker, recalls being urged to rush ahead with an antidrug script of "Chicago Hope" even though it had been kicking around unappreciated for years.

Several hundred newspapers and their Web sites also took in White House ads and matched them in different ways. Besides running a free ad for every paid one, The Times won credits for its schools pamphlets, which the White House checked "simply for accuracy."

The best proof that the arrangement was dangerously misguided is that it was long treated as secret. When the story broke, ABC announced that it had stopped participating after the government had asked it to submit all scripts in advance.

Calling this a "misconception," the White House promised to end all "previews" and to settle for post-broadcast "reviews." This may dispel the odor of censorship, but it leaves in place the payments of government payola for propaganda.

If that represents high-minded media service, why stop with antidrug scenarios? Why not pay the media for shielding young minds from sex and gunplay? And one day soon _ depending on which party controls the government purse _ why not subsidize scripts and ads that sanction, or discourage, abortion?

Clinton artfully distinguished the antidrug payola from any effort "to regulate content." And McCaffrey's spokesman said: "We do not clear scripts. ... Our objective is to provide a better understanding of the drug issue."

A much better use of public money would be to re-educate all concerned in the values of First Amendment independence. Our public officials obviously need reminding that they belong in front of the camera, not behind it. And our media executives should have learned long ago that those who feed at government honeypots inevitably get stuck.

(Max Frankel is the former Washington Bureau chief, editorial page editor and executive editor of The New York Times. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1973 and has been a correspondent in Eastern Europe, Moscow and the Caribbean. Frankel now writes the "Word & Image" column for The New York Times Magazine.)

12/19/99 Freematt's Alerts

Senate Passes Bill Making Marijuana Information On The Net Illegal

Washington, DC: In the waning hours of the last session of Congress the Senate passed an anti-methamphetamine bill (S.486), sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (Republican-Utah), that includes language making it a felony to "teach, demonstrate, or distribute any information pertaining to the manufacture of a controlled substance." This provision would make it a federal crime, for example, to provide to medical marijuana patients information on how to cultivate marijuana, even in those states where it is legal for patients to grow marijuana under state law.

If passed, websites ranging from major Internet booksellers such as and to NORML's own website could be in violation.

"Drug law reformers, civil libertarians and the general public need to recognize that Sen. Hatch's bill is a blatant attack on Americans' right to free speech," said Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director. "Citizens must act soon to amend or kill this terrible federal legislation." The House will look at their version of the bill (HR.2987) when it returns in late January. NORML asks citizens who disagree with this obvious violation of free speech to contact their members of Congress and urge them to oppose this bill.

From: Matthew Gaylor []
Sent: November 18, 1999
Subject: Talk About Screwed Up Priorities:

FBI Reports Marijuana Arrests Exceed Those For Violent Crime

The number of marijuana related arrests dropped slightly in 1998 to 682,885 from 1997's record high of 695,200, according to the latest FBI Uniform Crime Report released on Oct. 17. Eighty-eight percent of those arrests were for possession.

Forty-four percent of all drug arrests nationwide were for marijuana, and one out of every 25 criminal arrests in the U.S. were for marijuana possession.

There were 6,985 more arrests for marijuana offenses last year than for all violent crimes combined, including murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.

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Why are police arresting more dope smokers
than murderers, robbers, thugs, and rapists?

WASHINGTON, DC -- Police are more eager to arrest people for smoking marijuana than for murder, robbery, or rape, according to new figures from the FBI -- and that's a criminal misuse of law enforcement resources that puts innocent Americans at risk, the Libertarian Party charged today.

"This is astonishing: Police apparently would rather arrest a person with marijuana in his possession than a sadistic killer with blood on his hands," said Steve Dasbach, the party's national director. "We have to ask: What are these police smoking?"

According to the new FBI Uniform Crime Report, police arrested more people for non-violent marijuana offenses in 1998 than for murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault -- combined.

In all, 682,885 Americans were arrested last year on marijuana-related charges, while only 676,020 people were arrested for the crimes of murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.

Of those arrested for marijuana offenses, 88% were charged with mere possession.

"These figures are great news for murderers, rapists, and robbers, since police appear to be more interested in arresting someone for smoking marijuana than for committing a cold-blooded killing, a sadistic rape, or a brazen burglary spree," said Dasbach. "This is a clear case of public endangerment -- and a tragic waste of criminal justice resources.

"The fact is, every marijuana arrest means there is less police time, less law enforcement money, less court time, and fewer jail cells available to arrest, convict, and imprison violent criminals," he said. "Does that make any sense?"

According to another new study from the Marijuana Policy Project, there are 59,300 people in U.S. prisons and jails for marijuana offenses at any given time, and there have been nearly 3.5 million marijuana arrests since President Bill Clinton took office.

"The next time you hear about a vicious murder on the news, ask yourself: Could the police have prevented this crime if they hadn't devoted uncounted millions of dollars and man-hours to arresting those 3.5 million people on marijuana charges over the past six years?" said Dasbach.

"How many people are dead, or raped, or had their possessions stolen, or were savagely beaten because a local cop was booking a marijuana suspect instead of protecting innocent Americans from evil criminals? That's the real, human cost of these new FBI figures -- and the sad price we pay for the government's War on Marijuana."

The good news in the new FBI Uniform Crime Report is that violent crime is down, acknowledged Dasbach -- falling by 5% last year.

"The question is: How much faster would crime be dropping if police made murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault their top priority, instead of marijuana?" he asked. "In other words, how much safer would we be if police targeted dangerous criminals like Jeffrey Dahmer and the Son of Sam -- instead of harmless victims like Cheech and Chong?"

The Libertarian Party
2600 Virginia Avenue, NW, Suite 100
Washington DC 20037

For additional information: George Getz, Press Secretary
Phone: (202) 333-0008 Ext. 222 E-Mail:

10/23/98 The Week Online #64

Death, But No Justice in Houston
by Adam J. Smith, Associate Director
Drug Response Coordination Network

In Houston this week, a grand jury refused to indict six police officers who shot and killed Pedro Oregon Navarro, known to his friends as Jimmy Oregon, in the bathroom of his home after kicking in the door and entering without a warrant, searching for drugs. No drugs were found anywhere in the house, nor were drugs or alcohol found in Oregon's blood. Ballistics tests also confirmed that the officers were wrong in their belief that Oregon had fired upon them, and that the first shot was fired from the gun of one of the officers, as were the next twenty-nine. Oregon's gun, allegedly found near his body, had never been fired. He was 22 years old and the father of two small children.

The officers, part of an anti-gang task force, entered the home without a warrant, on a tip from a suspect in another case who was not registered with the city as an informant, without any corroborating evidence. Of the twelve shots  that hit Oregon, most were fired from above and behind the victim. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Entering a home by force is perhaps the most dangerous and intrusive part of the job of a police officer. One must embark upon such a task with the implicit understanding that anything at all, including an armed and dangerous  individual, might be waiting inside. It is for this reason that it is in the interest of both the police and the community at large that such intrusions happen as infrequently as possible, and for much of our nation's history, such entries were, in fact, the exception rather than the rule.

Enter the Drug War. Over the past three decades, the escalation of the drug war has made forced entry a regular part of police work. By its very nature, the black market and the use of drugs remain hidden, often behind the closed doors of private dwellings. There is rarely a complaining witness, and the word of an informant is often the only outward evidence of what are essentially consensual acts. In an effort to enforce an unenforceable prohibition, restrictions on "no-knock" entries have been loosened, and doors, often the wrong doors, are kicked in greater numbers year after year across America.

Jimmy Oregon had done nothing wrong. He was simply at home, his own home, when six armed men burst in and shot him to death. There were no indictments for murder, there will be no significant criminal charges, it was simply a case of the police doing their job and escalating the war in the midst of an insane and destructive Prohibition. The grand jurors, perhaps aware of the difficulties and the dangers inherent in trying to enforce that prohibition, declined to indict on anything save a single misdemeanor for illegal entry by one of the six officers involved.

Perhaps those grand jurors were right. Perhaps it is not the officers, but rather the drug war itself, which ought to be indicted. For we, as a nation have embraced a policy of domestic warfare. A policy that requires the state, armed with any information it can lay its hands upon, to kick in the doors of its citizens, guns drawn, prepared to kill. It is not a vision that our founders would have liked. It is not the America that they planned to build. We have become a nation at war with the shadows, shooting and killing and putting in cages anything that moves. Terrified and enraged by the prospect of what goes on behind closed doors, by the chaos we have created in our quest for order, by our inability to win the war.

There is no justice in Houston this week, where a grand jury has decided, essentially, that being gunned down in one's own home by agents of the state is simply a price to be paid for living in a time of Prohibition. And even if those officers were indicted, and tried and convicted for the murder of Pedro Oregon Navarro, there would be no justice still. Because as long as we as a society are at war with ourselves, as long as we insist upon escalation rather than reason, upon terror rather than compassion, upon guns and prisons rather than regulation and control, there will always be a next time. And a time after that.

But it is long past time for justice. And humanity. And peace. So for Jimmy Oregon and for thousands like him, for the health of our nation and the viability of our constitution, for our safety and our sanity and for the future we will hand to our children, it is time to stop kicking in doors. It is time to end the war.

Congress, Your Hypocrisy is Showing:
Plan to Drug-test Politicians is Killed

WASHINGTON, DC -- If federally mandated drug testing is such a good idea for high school students, public-housing residents, and bus drivers, why isn't it good enough for Congressmen?

That's what Libertarians are asking after the Republican House leadership quietly torpedoed an effort to mandate drug testing for every member of Congress.

"These Congressmen must be getting high on hypocrisy," said Libertarian Party National Director Ron Crickenberger.

"Why else would they wage a War on Drugs on the rest of us, but declare a drug-testing truce in the halls of Congress?"

Last week, Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) said the House was too "busy, busy, busy" to consider a proposal that would have required all 435 House members and their staffs to take random tests for illegal drug use.

Armey and other Republican leaders discreetly declined to set a date for a vote on the motion, effectively killing it for the year.

The decision to quash the drug-testing plan has Libertarians unsure whether to applaud Congressmen for their wisdom or jeer them for their hypocrisy, admitted Crickenberger. For example...

One of the reasons Congress was too "busy, busy, busy" to debate the drug-testing proposal was because it was "busy, busy, busy" passing new legislation to ratchet up the Drug War.

"So far this term, Congress passed a $17 billion drug war budget; approved stationing U.S. troops on our borders to fight drug smuggling; killed a bill that would have curbed asset forfeiture abuses; and voted to spend $2 billion for a five-year anti-drug advertising campaign," said Crickenberger. "In addition, Republican leaders vowed to launch a World War II-style blitzkrieg to wipe out drug abuse. Does this seem just a little hypocritical?"

Even more ironic: News reports indicated that many lawmakers had quietly opposed the measure because drug testing was "unnecessary and insulting" and "undignified."

"To those Congressmen, we say: Welcome to the Drug War," said Crickenberger. "Too bad 270 million other Americans will continue to endure those same unnecessary, insulting, and undignified violations of their Constitutional rights. Why is there one set of standards for politicians who make the laws, and another for ordinary Americans who suffer under them?"

Despite the draconian punishments that Congress has mandated for drug offenses, the proposed drug-testing measure would have merely required that any House member who tested positive be reported to the Ethics Committee.

"If Congressmen want to play Drug Warriors, shouldn't all the rules of the game apply to them?" asked Crickenberger. "If they tested positive for illegal drugs, shouldn't they be immediately arrested? Be subjected to mandatory-minimum jail terms? Face a death sentence if they are declared Drug Kingpins? Have their assets seized? If these harsh punishments are really needed to fight drugs, isn't it only fair that they apply to Congressmen, too?"

Finally, proponents of the drug-testing plan had argued that the House needs to "set a good example" for the nation, since so many Americans -- including air-traffic controllers, high school athletes, public-housing residents, and bus drivers -- are subject to government-required drug testing.

"Actually, the House set a good example by rejecting this plan," countered Crickenberger. "Now maybe it will set an even better example by protecting every other American from the horrors of the War on Drugs. After all, Congressmen finally summoned the courage to stand up for their own Constitutional rights. When will they start standing up for ours?"

The Libertarian Party
2600 Virginia Avenue, NW, Suite 100
Washington DC 20037

For additional information: George Getz, Press Secretary
Phone: (202) 333-0008 Ext. 222 E-Mail:

From Ignorance to Tyranny
by Adam J. Smith, Associate Director
Drug Response Coordination Network

A poll released this week by the National Constitution Center found that the vast majority of American young people, aged 13-17, are woefully uninformed about their government. This would be worrisome in any case, but in a representative democracy whose leaders have shown over the past several years a willingness to trade constitutional principles for political expediency, it could well portend disaster.

While nearly three of every four teens could identify Al Gore as the Vice President, the same percentage could not name even one right enumerated in the fifth amendment, and only two percent of the 600 teens queried could identify James Madison as the "father of the constitution" or William Rehnquist as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

The Constitution of the United States of America was written for the purpose of limiting the power of government and making it accountable to the governed. This notion, that the governed ought be concerned with, and in control of, the actions of government, was not predicated upon some set of circumstances particular to the time; in fact it was based upon a deep understanding of both human nature and power itself. And the truths that applied then have not changed in the intervening 200 years, nor are they likely to change in the thousand to come.

But no constitution, nor any written protection against tyranny no matter how old or how revered in the abstract, can ever protect the inalienable rights of men and women unless those men and women are watching closely over those given the privilege of power. And in order to be watchful, one must certainly understand that which is being watched. Not just for a single generation, but for time immemorial. It is therefore the sacred responsibility of each generation to teach its successors not only about the primacy of liberty and of the sacrifices made by their forefathers to achieve it, but about the mechanisms of government itself and of the terrifying ease with which that liberty, so hard won, can be lost again.

But teaching citizens, much less teenagers, about the inherent corruptibility of power and the dangers of allowing it to operate outside of the strict supervision of the governed, is not in the interest of those doing the governing. And in case you are tempted to believe that I overstate the case, or that I misjudge the character of those whom we have elected, I invite you to try a little experiment. Call your elected official, your congressional representative will do nicely, and posit the following:

"Hello madam legislator, I am a member of your constituency and I am troubled about my child's education in the public school as it relates to the United States and its government. I am a patriotic American you see, with a long and proud family tradition of military service, and I want very much to know if you believe that our young men and women should be taught to trust, or to distrust our government?"

Listen closely to the answer that you get. Is it the same one that our founders would have given?

Our kids, the ones who cannot identify their constitutional rights, are growing up in an America where, thanks largely to the Drug War, such niceties are increasingly becoming irrelevant. Drug-sniffing dogs roam their schools; curfew laws forbid their appearance in public for all but a few hours between the end of the school day and the onset of night; doors are kicked in as a matter of course based upon the flimsiest of evidence obtained from the shadiest of characters; property is seized upon mere suspicion of wrongdoing; private, consensual conduct is widely banned; the military is deployed domestically; the chemical composition of one's urine or blood or hair is the business of the state; purveyors of the arts and of entertainment are beseeched by the government to parrot the accepted ideology; citizens who have never harmed a soul save themselves sit in cages for long years with no discretion allowed the sentencing judge; children are urged, directly and indirectly, to turn in their parents; patients are forbidden their choice of treatment, their doctors threatened, spied upon and harassed; juries are forbidden from learning that they have the right to disregard the law if they feel that the outcome under its dictates would offend justice; and politicians and bureaucrats continuously urge that we, the people, give them even greater power so that they might protect us from each other.

But who will protect us from them? The constitution is but a yellowing piece of paper without a citizenry engaged and informed enough to demand that its principles be adhered to. Look where we are. And look at the ignorance of large numbers of the generation to follow. Can we honestly say that things will get better?

If the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, is the legacy that we are leaving our children rich enough to afford it? Or have we squandered the fortunes won and left to us by generations before, leaving our progeny doomed to oppression and want?

Tyranny comes cheap. To earn it, one need only turn away.

Running Ads VS. Protecting Kids
by Adam J. Smith, Associate Director
Drug Response Coordination Network

This week, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, in conjunction with the Partnership for a Drug Free America, launched a $2 Billion anti-drug media campaign. Advertisements will run nationwide, on television, radio and the Internet. The ads will warn, threaten, cajole and plead with kids to stay away from the illicit drugs that we, after nearly eighty years of drug prohibition, have been unable to keep out of their reach.

The ads, insofar as they are truthful, will probably do no harm, though there is scant evidence that they will do much good, other than to convince American parents that their government is at least doing something. But the very presence of the ads begs the larger and more important question: Why are these dangerous substances so far outside of the control of responsible society that we cannot keep them out of the hands of kids? The answer is that drug prohibition, like alcohol prohibition before it, has failed our children, and failed them spectacularly. We have been here before. On February 9, 1925, nearly halfway through America's disastrous national experiment in alcohol prohibition, Colonel William L. Barker, Northern Division, Salvation Army, was asked by a Minnesota newspaper reporter about the impact of Prohibition. Col. Barker's response, which speaks to a vastly increased level of access by children to prohibited substances, is as relevant to the parents of today as it was to the parents of the time.

"Prohibition has diverted the energies of the Salvation Army from the drunkard in the gutter to the boys and girls in their teens," he said. "The work of the Army has completely changed in the past five years... Prohibition has so materially affected society that we have girls in our rescue homes who are 14 and 15 years old, while 10 years ago the youngest was in the early twenties." Today, we are faced with the shocking reality of twelve and thirteen year-olds using heroin, methamphetamine and LSD. And despite ever-increasing efforts to enforce prohibition, Michigan University's Monitoring The Future Survey shows that over the past twenty years, while America's incarce- rated population has grown nearly ten-fold, access by kids to these substances has either risen almost across the board. As for marijuana, the Michigan study shows that nearly 90% of twelfth graders say it is "easy" or "fairly easy" to obtain. And a survey, released in 1997 by the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, found that when asked which is easier to buy, nearly four times as many 12- 17 year-olds answered 'marijuana' as 'beer'.

Drug prohibition, far from a form of "drug control", is in reality the surrendering of control over dangerous and addictive substances into the hands of criminals. Envision a system under which licensed and highly regulated  professionals (such as pharmacists) sell well-labeled and reliably pure substances at small profit margins from limited numbers of outlets to adults with valid proof of age under penalty of losing their livelihood. Now consider the reality of our current prohibition, a system under which unknown numbers of individuals, cloaked in secrecy, realize obscene profits by selling unlabeled substances of unknown purity in school yards and on street corners to anyone, of any age who can be convinced to buy them. And kids, young kids, are advantageous customers as they are very unlikely to be either cops or informants.

In testimony on Capitol Hill last month, Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey bemoaned the presence of an insidious "elitist group" and their "devious" attempts to reform our nation's drug policy. He spoke of the "horrifying" prospect of "legalization", including "heroin being sold at the corner store to children with false identifications." But when was the last time that a child in this country, attempting to buy heroin, was asked for identification, false or otherwise, under the present system?

In the face of McCaffrey's blatant mischaracterization, there are a growing number of responsible Americans, people like Mayor Kurt Schmoke of Baltimore, Ronald Reagan's former Secretary of State George Schultz, journalistic icon Walter Cronkite, and millions of American parents, doctors, educators and others who are calling for a re-examination of the very premise of prohibition.

These dissenters are neither "devious" nor motivated by some desire to see the drug problem in this country get worse, especially as it relates to children. They simply understand that drug prohibition has not protected our kids any better than alcohol prohibition protected the youngsters of the nineteen twenties.

At the ceremony heralding the launch of the media campaign in Atlanta, President Clinton told students, "These ads are designed to knock America upside its head and get America's attention." But "knocking Americans upside the head" is exactly what the drug war has done for decades, with disastrous consequences. What is needed is rationality and a strategy that emphasizes taking control, not more violence, psychological or otherwise. And who decided that kids, at whom the ads are primarily targeted, will respond to being "knocked upside the head" by their elders? Better we should take the drugs off the streets and concentrate as a society on providing kids with meaningful opportunities to become engaged, to connect with their communities and with people worth emulating. Has Bill Clinton, baby-boomer darling, forgotten how powerful is the pull of youth to ignore or even actively oppose the threats and the moralizing of ones' parents' generation? Or is Clinton, together with the rest of the Drug War establishment, buried so deep in their own bullshit that they are unable or unwilling to recognize the blatant hypocrisy in the rhetoric they trumpet as gospel?

While it is certainly important to provide kids with information and warnings about the potential dangers of drug use, especially use at an early age, it is unlikely that the campaign will have much impact in an era of Prohibition. It is feel-good spending and election-year politics, diverting the public's attention from a record of failure that should shame even the most shameless politician. In the face of very real threats to the safety of our kids, such tactics ought to be repaid in spades on election night. If this is the best that our leaders can do, while junior high school students purchase heroin from the people to whom we have ceded the trade, then it is time for new leadership.

This week, politicians from across the political spectrum will cheer the launch of the government's newest and most sophisticated anti-drug media campaign. But as you watch those spiffy new Partnership ads, ask yourself why our leaders insist on clinging to a system which abandons our children to an uncontrollable black market. And why we, the adults, have been reduced to begging them to just say no.

Legal drugs kill 20 times more Americans than illegal drugs,
says embarrassing new study

WASHINGTON, DC -- Doctors kill far more people every year than drug pushers do -- a surprising fact that should make sensible Americans start to question the War on Drugs, the Libertarian Party said today.

Last week, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that properly prescribed legal drugs kill 106,000 Americans every year -- 20 times more than illegal drugs do.

"Are politicians going to declare a War on Medicine?" asked Steve Dasbach, Libertarian Party chairman. "Of course not. So why are we spending $17 billion on the War on Drugs, arresting millions of people, and restricting civil liberties -- all to try to solve a problem that's far less dangerous than modern medicine?"

The study found that correctly prescribed medications claim 106,000 lives a year because of toxic reactions. By comparison, only 5,212 Americans die annually from illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration.

"This means that doctor-prescribed drugs kill 20 times more people every year than drugs peddled on street corners," said Dasbach. "Of course, more people take prescription medication than illegal drugs, so higher death totals are expected. But the point is that the health consequences of illegal drugs are vastly overstated by politicians -- apparently to justify the costly government program they call the War on Drugs."

In fact, Dasbach pointed out, the government admits that aspirin killed twice as many people last year as PCP and LSD combined!

"But don't expect a War on Aspirin," Dasbach said. "The government is less interested in protecting lives than in protecting the jobs of the government bureaucrats and law enforcement personnel who are on the Drug Prohibition payroll.

"For example, marijuana has caused no deaths, yet the government arrested 641,642 Americans last year on marijuana-related offenses, and is threatening to prosecute doctors who prescribe marijuana for victims of AIDS and cancer," he noted.

The fact is, the real health threat comes not from drugs, but from drug prohibition, Dasbach said.

"As Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman says, 5,000 Americans are killed every year solely due to Prohibition-spawned violence -- meaning that outlawing drugs kills as many Americans every year as the drugs themselves," he said.

Dasbach emphasized that the Libertarian Party doesn't condone drug use.

"Too many lives have been ruined by drugs, whether legal or illegal -- and we mourn a lost life, no matter what the cause," he said. "But when the government arbitrarily decides which drugs to outlaw, it transforms a personal tragedy into a national disaster and turns a medical problem into a moral crusade.

"Politicians who focus obsessively on the drug war -- while ignoring the fact that other medical problems are far more deadly -- have lost their grip on reality. As this new study makes clear, the War on Drugs has more to do with political posturing than with public health -- and that's why it's time to end it."

The Libertarian Party
2600 Virginia Avenue, NW, Suite 100
Washington DC 20037

For additional information: George Getz, Press Secretary
Phone: (202) 333-0008 Ext. 222 E-Mail:

Twenty-five Years of War
by Adam J. Smith, Associate Director
Drug Response Coordination Network

1998 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the War on Drugs, as declared by then-President Richard M. Nixon. It is ironic, of course, that the proclamation of this war, a war which has claimed innumerable casualties and which has cost the nation countless billions of dollars, was made at the same time that President Nixon was extricating America from her last embarrassing and unsuccessful war: Vietnam. Vietnam had been pointless. Bloody. Interminable. The people had spoken. We had suffered enough.

In the late sixties, as the body bags were piling up, the anti-war movement began to gain enough momentum to force the Johnson Administration into a defensive posture. So, in an effort to hold onto dwindling public support, and buoyed by body counts which were in reality meaningless, answers to the wrong questions, the administration escalated the hostilities and issued its now-famous opinion that there was "light at the end of the tunnel". It was, in fact, the beginning of the end of the war. But not the end envisioned by Johnson. Nor would Johnson be in power to see it.

Twenty-five years. For twenty-five years we have seen a near-continuous escalation of the present, pointless war. We have seen, as we saw in Vietnam, the expansion of the conflict across formerly unthinkable borders. What began as an effort to arrest away the problems of marijuana smoking, and the small but persistent heroin problem in some urban centers, is now a global enterprise.

American troops, along with the armed agents of numerous federal agencies, operate in and around nearly all of Central and Latin America. 2,000 more will soon be stationed in Panama. They are on the seas. And they are also, quietly, ironically, back in Asia, on a mission to protect the free world from the "red menace" of the poppy flower.

In Vietnam it quickly became apparent that the regime we were supporting was itself brutal and corrupt. Today the United Nations, born of a vision of world peace and human rights, prepares to pay millions of dollars to the Taleban, perhaps the most repressive and barbaric of all the world's ruling parties, in return for worthless promises. How happily we discard the lives and the futures of the women and children of Afghanistan. We send more money and military equipment into Colombia, even as that society disintegrates into anarchy and violence under the weight of our Prohibition, and peasants -- again, women and children - - are massacred and displaced. In the scope of the present war, these people, brown, indigenous, poor, do not even merit the calculus of statistics.

Twenty-five years ago, our nation had been nearly torn apart by the war in Vietnam. Generations set against each other, riots in the cities, four young students shot down on a campus in the heartland of America, and the nation stood in fear and in awe. That war, entered into and fought in the name of freedom and democracy, had very nearly destroyed them both.

Think back twenty-five years to the beginning of the current war. There were very few guns in our cities then, and certainly almost none in the hands of children. Marijuana abounded on college campuses, and even in many high schools. But heroin? Cocaine? They were mere rumors outside of the largest cities, and underground even there. Methamphetamine? Unheard of. Today not a place exists where these substances cannot be found. On the streets of our cities, large and small, they can be had by anyone, of any age, purer and cheaper with each passing year.

58,000 Americans were killed in the jungles of Southeast Asia. Tens of thousands more were maimed or injured. We could have lost 50,000 more, and we probably would have, had the nation not cried 'enough', and the outcome would not have changed. They were mostly young, many of them were poor, and in the end there was no good reason for their loss. Over the past twenty-five years tens of thousands of Americans have died in the violence of Prohibition on our streets, millions with no history of violence have been arrested, their lives disrupted, their futures darkened under the shadow of a criminal record. Some will spend the majority of their lives in cages. And still we escalate. We can jail a million more. And the drugs will not disappear.

Today we hear of record seizures, and slight fluctuations in the abhorrently high numbers of children using drugs, and 100,000 more cops, and billions more dollars spent in combat. And a president declares, "there is light at the end of the tunnel." And we look back... to another president who was asking the wrong questions... and escalating the conflict... and tearing the nation apart.

It is time to end the war. It is time to stand up. To make them stop. It's been twenty five years. We have all suffered enough.

Should pot-smokers get an arm cut off?
That's the latest GOP anti-drug proposal

[Please stop writing me letters accusing me of making up the following story. House Bill 196 submitted to the Mississippi House of Representatives in January, 1998, by State Representative Bobby Moak, District 53,  authorized "the removal of a body part in lieu of other sentences imposed by the court for violations of the Controlled Substances Law." The bill died in committee, but if you are as outraged as I am that such a bill could be introduced in the United States, I suggest you direct your anger toward Rep. Moak at or P.O. Box 242 Bogue Chitto, MS 39629-0242. His law office is located at 402 Monticello St. Bogue Chitto, MS 39629, and his home telephone number is (601)734-2566. He did it; I only reported it. I wouldn't make such a thing up. Who would believe it? -- Red Daly]

WASHINGTON, DC -- Republicans want to cut off your arm or leg if you use drugs. They want to quarantine you so you won't "infect" others. And they want to lock you in jail for life -- a jail sentence that's tougher than what convicted murderers get.

Those are just some of the "frantic and bizarre" anti-drug measures being proposed by Republicans around the country, the Libertarian Party noted today -- and shows just how barbaric politicians are willing to get to win the War on Drugs.

"Politicians have tried spending their way to victory and jailing their way to victory in the futile, 25-year-old War on Drugs," said Steve Dasbach, national chairman of the Libertarian Party. "Now they're so desperate that they are willing to amputate their way to victory."

Here is some of the legislation proposed by Republicans over the past few months:

* In Mississippi, a bill dubbed "Smoke a Joint, Lose a Limb" would punish marijuana smokers by amputating an arm or a leg. The legislation, submitted in January by Republican State Representative Bobby Moak, provides that the convicted person and the court "must agree on which body part shall be removed."

* In Kansas, a coalition of 38 Republican state legislators wants to impose life terms without parole for people convicted of growing marijuana plants -- even though first-degree murderers can be paroled after 25 years.

* Congressman John Linder (R-GA), Chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee, has proposed that drug users be quarantined at abandoned military bases so they don't "infect" others.

The problem with these proposals -- besides the fact that they're barbaric and unconstitutional -- is that, if implemented, they could lead to an America where one-third of the adult population is surgically tortured, or sent to jail for life, said Dasbach.

"Over 72.4 million Americans, or 34% of all adults, have used illicit drugs, according to the latest report from the U.S. Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration," he noted. "And 22.6 million people have used them in the last year alone.

"Imagine an America where 72 million citizens had been brutalized with the loss of a limb, or thrown in jail for life, or dragged off to abandoned military bases and quarantined like lepers -- simply for the crime of smoking marijuana," Dasbach said. "That's the kind of America that these drug warriors say they want."

These new anti-drug proposals have Libertarians questioning the mental stability of the politicians who advocate them, said Dasbach.

"What could possess otherwise sane, educated adults to try to incarcerate, quarantine, and amputate their way to victory?" he asked. "It's called drug war hysteria -- and it's spreading among politicians like wildfire."

What's the cause of this affliction? It's obvious, said Dasbach: Drug prohibition has failed, but politicians refuse to admit it.

"President Nixon launched the drug war 25 years ago," he said. "And after hundreds of billions of dollars wasted and millions of Americans incarcerated, the government stubbornly insists that there's a light at the end of the drug war tunnel."

But clearly, these new frantic and bizarre legislative proposals are a symptom of failure, not a sign of success, Dasbach said.

"The only cure for this disease, and the only way to protect individuals from the barbarism of politicians, is to end drug prohibition," he said. "No American should be put in jeopardy of life - -- or limb -- simply because politicians insist on waging an unwinnable war on 72 million Americans."

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The Drug War and Our Children
by Adam J. Smith, Associate Director
Drug Response Coordination Network

On December 20, the University of Michigan released its annual "Household Survey" on teenage drug use and attitudes. True to recent trends, the numbers reveal, at best, no significant decline in teen drug use, along with a continued decline in age of onset. In other words, teens have begun drug-using behavior at younger ages than ever before. In addition, the study shows that once again, nearly 90% of teens will report that drugs are either "easy" or "fairly easy" to obtain.

Government officials, from the President, to his "Drug Czar" Barry McCaffrey, to his Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, will decry the statistics. They'll talk about the need for family involvement and mentoring, which is good, they'll talk about their upcoming anti-drug ad campaign, which is probably harmless, they'll talk about a nation's commitment to it's children, which is politically savvy, but once again, they'll fail to address the major problem: The Drug War, justified in the names of "68 million young Americans" is a sham. Far from protecting children, it is putting them in harm's way.

The numbers show, for instance, that a small but not insignificant number of American eighth graders have used heroin in the past year. From our knowledge of kids and the drug scene we can deduce that probably ten times that number were offered the drug during that time. Why are ten to fifteen percent of our 13 year-olds being offered heroin? Perhaps it is because someone has an economic interest in selling it to them. Rather than a system under which these substances are sold by licensed and strictly regulated outlets (clinics, staffed by medical professionals or pharmacologists for instance) and under which we can set strict guidelines as to the age of buyers and the potency and purity of the product, we have a system under which there are virtually no controls. The stuff is sold everywhere, by anyone, usually by people desperate for the money for their own fix. The purity of the substances, and the adulterants used in them (two of the prime causes of accidental overdoses, especially among young, inexperienced users) is anyone's guess. Children, who are far less likely to turn out to be undercover cops, are among the most desirable of clients.

Then there are the kids who get lured into the drug trade. Whether it's the easy money, the sought-after acceptance of older toughs whom Prohibition has turned into modern-day "gangstas" and folk heroes, or to gain entry into a gang which the child feels is imperative to his own safety on the streets (another situation largely attributable to Prohibition), our children are finding employment in the black market. And even those not lured by these siren songs are forced to live in a "culture of Prohibition" in which violence is an accepted norm, the police are seen as an invading (and increasingly violent and corrupt) army, respect for the law is nearly non-existent, and drugs are "easy" to get.

Why is a system, the results of which are diametrically opposed to its stated purpose (the protection of children), allowed to continue? Why are our children being used to justify their own endangerment? Why is anyone with the temerity to question the status quo called "pro-drug" and worse by the Drug War's staunchest proponents? In a word, the answer is money. All of those billions of dollars being spent to "protect our children" are going somewhere, and mostly they are going into the hands of a small but influential group of industries who are profiting mightily on the status quo. Construction companies scurrying to keep up with the demand for new prisons, corrections companies getting rich off of the privatization of incarceration, defense contractors supplying arms to American and foreign military and police forces for counter-narcotics operations, private drug treatment companies whose rolls are full of court-mandated clients, and on and on.

These industries, and the people who profit from them, put plenty of money into the coffers of political parties and their candidates. (In 1996, for example, the largest single contributor to statewide election campaigns in California, a state with a shockingly high incarceration rate, was the California Prison Guards Association.) The politicians, in turn, demand that America "protect its children" by the perpetuation and expansion of the very system which has given our eighth graders easy access to heroin.

The War on Drugs as a measure of protection for children? This is The Big Lie written large across the landscape of American politics. Currently, one in three African American males between 18 and 29 are under the "supervision" of the criminal justice system, many, if not most, for drug-related offenses. What of their children? What of the neighborhood kids who look up to them? What of the children of the women who make up the enormous recent increase in female inmate populations, often, as FAMM reports, due to mandatory minimum sentences and only the most peripheral connection to the activities of a drug-dealing boyfriend or spouse? What of the seventeen year-old boy, the captain of his high school soccer team, who was shot by federal agents in Queens last month for having the misfortune to have been carrying a candy bar in a shiny, metallic wrapper, through his own neighborhood, which had been declared a "high intensity drug trafficking area"? And what of every other child who lives in such an area? And why have we let the drug trade loose, unregulated and out of control, on their streets in the first place? To protect them?

If 90% of the nation's teenagers find it "easy" to obtain illegal drugs, it is likely that they have GREATER access to these substances than anyone else. The fact is that if the parents of America's teens wanted to buy drugs, the vast majority would have to ask their own kids to "cop" for them. Perversely, it would be difficult to envision a system under which teens could more easily obtain dangerous and addictive substances. We have put temptation directly in front of them, and have given economic incentive to their tempters.

The War on Drugs is worse than ineffective in the battle to protect America's children. It is counter-productive. It is harmful. And, insofar as Prohibition and its defenders are driven by enormous profits and political contributions, it is evil and sick. Remember that this week when the President starts talking.

Quotes to Consider:

When they took the 5th Amendment, I didn't speak up because I wasn't a criminal.
When they took the 4th Amendment, I didn't speak up because I didn't deal drugs.
When they took the 2nd Amendment, I didn't speak up because I don't own a gun.
When they took the 1st Amendment, I couldn't speak up.

"When was the last time your doctor told you to go home, light up some leaves and suck the smoke down your throat?" - William Bennett, former Drug Czar, 10/29, talking about medical marijuana
A 1995 poll of American oncologists found that 44% admitted having recommended smoked marijuana to at least one patient. The real question is: when was the last time a seriously ill patient went to Bill Bennett for medical advice?

"Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now. Thus in France the emetic was once forbidden as a medicine, and the potato as an article of food. Government is just as fallible, too, when it fixes systems in physics. Galileo was sent to the Inquisition for affirming that the earth was a sphere; the government had declared it to be as flat as a trencher, and Galileo was obliged to abjure his error. ... Reason and experiment have been indulged, and error has fled before them. It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself." Notes on the State of Virginia (1787), Thomas Jefferson

"What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist."
- Salman Rushdie (whose criticism of Islam inspired Muslim leaders to put a price on his head and condemn him to death.)

"Laws do not persuade just because they threaten." - Seneca, 65 CE

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
- Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759.

"Ninety-eight percent of the adults in this country are decent, hardworking, honest Americans. It's the other lousy two percent that get all the publicity. But then, we elected them." - Lily Tomlin

"Relying on the government to protect your privacy is like asking a peeping tom to install your window blinds."
- John Perry Barlow, EFF co-founder, Decrypting the Puzzle Palace

"California legislators consider 10 to 15 letters and faxes to be a strong showing of support for a bill (in a state of 31 million!)" - Jim Warren, GovAccess Internet newsletter, 08/04/94

"My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular." - Adlai Stevenson

"A government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away." - Barry Goldwater

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, support by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
- Amendment IV, United States Constitution
(Amazingly, the US House of Representatives voted this language down when it was inserted in a 1995 bill by a crafty legislator, to replace unconstitutional language proposed by another. Apparently, few in the House recognized this as the Fourth Amendment. One Representative even whined that it gutted the whole bill.)

Democracy is not a spectator sport.

Speak up while you can!

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