Reformers' Resolution


The original signers of the Hoover Resolution, which calls for a reexamination of national drug policy, seemed to be the usual suspects: 21 critics of the war on drugs, including such familiar names as Milton Friedman, Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, and former Secretary of State George Schultz.

But since February the resolution has attracted support from a wide range of people, many of them not previously identified with the reform movement. Signers include more than a dozen state and federal judges, several state legislators, four police chiefs, and the mayors of San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, and Upland, California.

The Hoover Resolution criticizes the attempt "to resolve drug abuse problems through the criminal justice system" and calls for "medical and social solutions" instead. It asks the president and Congress to appoint "an objective commission…to recommend revision of the drug laws…in order to reduce the harm our current policies are causing."

Clifford Schaffer, the California computer consultant who helped organize the resolution, says it is designed to attract a broad coalition of people who don't like the current approach to drug policy. By emphasizing "harm reduction" and calling for an objective study, the resolution has attracted support from black leaders, including two ministers from L.A.'s First AME Church, and others who are wary of legalization.

The idea of a drug-policy commission is catching on. In September the California Legislature approved a bill introduced by Assemblyman John Vasconcellos (D-San Jose), one of the Hoover Resolution's signers, that would create a 25-member California Task Force to Prevent Drug and Alcohol Abuse, charged with studying drug abuse, compiling research on prevention programs, and measuring "the costs of the various components of the current war on drugs." Gov. Pete Wilson was expected to veto the bill.

Also in September, U.S. Rep. Don Edwards (D-Calif.) introduced a bill to establish a 13-member Commission on National Drug Policy that would analyze both the current approach and possible reforms. "We have already tried what is politically popular, and the result has been ruined lives, devastated communities, and overcrowded prisons," Edwards said. "Now it is time to focus on policies that will work."