Drug Policy Alliance on Election 2004

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The Drug Policy Alliance's executive director, Ethan Nadelman, and director of national affairs, Bill Piper, hosted a Web chat about John Kerry and George Bush on the drug war on September 14. You can listen to it here.

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  1. Does anyone know if they going to make a transcript of it? I keep intending to listen to it but I would prefer to read it and can’t listen to it at work.

  2. I like the balanced approach they took to the 2 parties.

    They basically said that in the short term, there’s a little more sympathy among Democratic politicians for certain incremental measures. Don’t freak out, however, because they also pointed out that on various federalism and privacy issues of the drug war, some of the more libertarian Republicans are at least as good as the Democrats, and that some of the most ardent advocates for drug reform are actually libertarian economists traditionally associated with the right. They also more or less agreed that more significant reforms will have to come from a Republican or perhaps a more conservative Democrat.

    Overall, pretty balanced stuff.

  3. Klay-

    Do you have headphones? I put on my headphones and listened while writing code.

  4. Too many interruptions – and I prefer reading.

    I agree about libertarian Republicans but unfortuantely they do not seem to be strong within the Republicans Party and I do not hold much hope for Democrats who seem to want to have the war on drugs as proof they are strong on crime. Give me someone who advocates reform in government along the lines of cato, Milton Friedman, and reason for that matter.

  5. Klay,

    No one like that is going to win the presidential election.

    If you are a one-issue voter, Bush’s first term should make you an ABB. From sending Ashcroft to end California’s medicinal mj efforts, to the ads linking drug users with terrorists, he is almost a parody of what anti-drug war voters would want in an election.

  6. I continue to see our war on the war on drugs not being won by incrementalism. It’s going to be all or nothing–unconditional surrender! That’s why both Repugs and Demorats are a waste of our time.
    Either enough people realize they own their bodies or they realize that, if the First Amendment makes sense, namely that we can put what we like into our heads, then, surely we have the right to put what we like into our bodies.
    I’m convinced, if the Founders had foreseen the insanity of a war on drugs, the Second Amendment would have been about that rather than guns.

    It may be other than drug issues that finally get my points through Jane and John Q. Public’s thick skulls.

  7. Joe

    I am not a ABB. I think it is a mistake to support ABB. I think it is a mistake not to vote for someone because you think they have little chance of being elected and I think that is a waste of your vote. As long as we continue voting for Democrats and Republicans that disregard a smaller government and a more intrusive government – we are going to get a the same answer from them. Supporting the Democrats or Republicans and expecting them to change makes little or no sense to me. I will support Badnarik who probably has no chance but represents a call for smaller government. If there were a Republican like Goldwater of old or Ron Paul were running I would vote for them.

  8. Ruthless, incrementalism will not win the war on the War on Drugs. But it’s an important part.

    Our side has won a few small victories, most notably the cannabis clubs in certain states. What we have to do now is hold our position. The enemy is determined to drive us out, and is willing to hurl huge waves of his forces against our position to do so. All we have to do, for now, is stop them. Every time we do so (like the recent win in the courts against Ashcroft’s attempts to overturn medician mj bills), our prestige grows, while the drug warriors’ strength is sapped. After a few more rounds of them breaking themselves against our walls, the moment will be right for a counterattack against their weakend flanks. Then they’ll have to fall back, and we’ll have an even stronger, larger position. Beat off a couple more charges, counterattack again, consolidate new lines again.

    Right now, we’re in a “beat off their attacks” position, but the time is coming for another big push. Expand medical pot laws into the sunbelt and rust belt? Decriminalize personal amounts? Now that crime is down, maybe a big push for a large-scale amnesty/commutation?

  9. Incrementalism comes in 2 flavors.

    The sour flavor, the one I don’t like, is where you take a small step, and then another small step, and keep on taking more small steps.

    The sweeter flavor is where you take a small step, then a slightly larger step, then an even larger step, and eventually you’re sprinting.

    Right now the small steps are medical marijuana and replacing incarceration with rehab. The next steps, besides expanding these laws into more states, will be to pass more laws that decriminalize small amounts of pot. That will be a much bigger step because it will expand use from a handful of people to just about every adult.

    After that, we’ll probably have to tackle federal marijuana laws, since the feds are trying to thwart state-level reform. Outright repeal of marijuana prohibition at the federal level might not be possible, but certainly greater deference to state law.

    After a few more reforms, outright legalization of pot will probably be possible.

    Then the even bigger steps come: For other drugs, instead of first pushing for “medical use” or some other tiny step, outright repeal might be possible once people see that legal pot hasn’t brought about the end of civilization. Maybe an intermediate step toward that will be to end “Plan Colombia”, an insane piece of foreign policy that might some day blow up in our faces.

  10. thoreau, another flavor is one step forward; two steps backward.

  11. very good point, Ruthless. I still say the question is not incrementalism vs. revolutionary change. Rather, it’s lack of ambition vs. gradual escalation.

  12. I think Joe was channeling someone at 3:03. I’m not sure who (maybe MLK Jr. or maybe Patton) but he was definitely on a roll.

    Amen, brother!

  13. You want incrementalism? You want metaphors?
    The wur on durgs is a giant redwood.
    We have a double-edged ax.
    One edge is: Hey, you own your own bod. No kidding. It’s all yours, yours alone.

    The other edge is: The most important of the US Bill of Rights is the right to put whatever bullshit we wish into our heads. Very powerful and dangerous right that is! But it’s made us the powerful nation we are, over 200 plus years. Now mute the commercial to ponder this: Wouldn’t the Founders of this country have wanted to be sure we maintain the right to put whatever bullshit we wish into our bodies?

    The incrementalism is us chopping, chopping… first with one edge, then the other… until, one of these days, the redwood topples.

    Any mention of marijuana is because goldbrickers have blisters on their hands. They are pussies trying to avoid chopping, chopping.

  14. “After a few more reforms, outright legalization of pot will probably be possible.”

    Thoreau,

    No offense, but it seems to me that people who plot the “outright legalization” of pot are harming the cause. Even though i don’t really want to see pot legalized , i do admit that it’d be better than the authoritarian, “Big Brother knows best” policy we have going on here. However, legalized mj is nowhere near being a mainstream-supported idea in the US and i think we should content ourselves with decriminalization. Let all the mindless stoners move to holland if they wanna buy their weed at the store.

  15. “After a few more reforms, outright legalization of pot will probably be possible.”

    Thoreau,

    No offense, but it seems to me that people who plot the “outright legalization” of pot are harming the cause. Even though i don’t really want to see pot legalized , i do admit that it’d be better than the authoritarian, “Big Brother knows best” policy we have going on here. However, legalized mj is nowhere near being a mainstream-supported idea in the US and i think we should content ourselves with decriminalization. Let all the mindless stoners move to holland if they wanna buy their weed at the store.

  16. “After a few more reforms, outright legalization of pot will probably be possible.”

    Thoreau,

    No offense, but it seems to me that people who plot the “outright legalization” of pot are harming the cause. Even though i don’t really want to see pot legalized , i do admit that it’d be better than the authoritarian, “Big Brother knows best” policy we have going on here. It isn’t the government’s business what we do with our bodies, as long as we’re not hurting anyone else. However, legalized mj is nowhere near being a mainstream-supported idea in the US and i think we should content ourselves with decriminalization. Let all the mindless stoners move to holland if they wanna buy their weed at the store.

  17. andy, are you so nervous about “outright legalization,” you hit the “post” key three times?
    Mayhaps, if you were a “mindless stoner,” you could relax.
    I wouldn’t know personally–seriously–because I’m after the principal of the thing here.

  18. I know: principle, principle, principle.

  19. Andy, how glib to say the stoners should just move to Holland. You are missing the point. The prison-industrial complex that the war on people who use (some) drugs hads engendered is a moral abomination. Thousands of prosecutors — state and federal — spend their days locking up their fellow citizens in cages for the “crime” of using or selling subtances the govt dislikes.

    What anyone puts into their own body, and however they alter their own minds, is not the states’s business. (Usual caveats about driving and etc., when a non-sober person unreasonably puts others at risk.)

    It boggles my mind that these people sleep at night, knowing that because of their efforts and the laws they support, tens of thousands of non-violent people are separated from their families and wasting away in prison. It is simply obscene.

    Let them all go to Holland, indeed. (derisive snort)

    –Mona–

  20. I think Andy has raised an important issue: How the whole notion of “legalization” is often the biggest drawback to facilitating an honest discussion about the WOD.

    At even the most cursory mention of the word you get responses like:

    “Oh so you want to put methamphetamine vending machines in church basements is that it?”

    Immediately we are placed on the defensive while various government spokesman have a field day deriding “half-baked legalization schemes.”

    I think we need to stick with the simple contention that, like prohibition, these laws are unjust, almost impossible to enforce, and need to be repealed.

    The minute I see someone talking about taxation-legalization programs, it’s usually downhill from there…

  21. Warning! Rant:

    So Andy, do you believe everything you hear on the evening news? But seriously, I’m amazed at how many people have fallen for the “great evil” slander of drug use. It seems that even pro-legalization people have to talk about the principle or use some other excuse. It really shows the incredible strength of this paradigm.

    Here’s the deal:
    Drug use is neither moral nor immoral.
    Drug use can be beneficial, detrimental, or a combination of the two.
    Drugs are a technology, like any other. They have uses. They can contribute to our wealth and well being, as well as add new dangers to the human experience.

    If a basically responsible person chooses to get high occasionally, how is this fundamentally different than that person choosing to occasionally drive a car? Both can be dangerous–even fatal. Both can be pleasurable or painful. Both can be fun or boring. Both can be …

    Look at the big picture people! Open your fucking minds! Erase the social conditioning! They’ve planted lies into your brains! Basically, grow the fuck up!

    Come on! Am I the only person who saw nearly the entire country go insane about tobacco? I watched reasonable people get apoplectic about smoking. I thought the world had gone insane. If we treated all dangerous human actions like we treat drugs, not one of us would ever leave our homes. Actually, we’d all live in caves if we lived at all. I can’t imagine that we would have survived as a species of such total fucking cowards.

  22. Cletus,
    People who can’t distinguish between an argument for freedom and a pitch for promoting drug usage don’t have a mind to change.
    We can’t waste our time on them.

  23. You gotta hit voting fools in their pocketbooks the same way state governemtns did with legalizing gambling.

    “Vote for Marijuana legalization and the taxes will pay all senior citizen’s medicare copayments for 15 years!”

    “Marijuana taxes will pay for all car registrations for the next 20 years”

    “The money spent on funding a civil war in Columbia will now be used to buy every senior a rascle scooted if you vote for cocaine legalization”

    If logic doesn’t work, then buy their votes!

  24. Cletus-

    I see what you’re saying. It’s very easy to say something that will scare people away when discussing the problems with the war on drugs.

    However, your suggestion, of pointing out how these laws are immoral and need to be repealed, still seems to involve some sort of suggestion of legalization.

    One way or another, when discussing the failed drug war, you’ll have to get to the point of legalization. Because there are really only 2 options once you’ve made the point that the drug war is a failure:

    1) Fight it “smarter”. Of course, this has been tried for decades and has always failed.
    2) Stop fighting, and try to address the drug problem with something other than law enforcement.

    The second option, no matter how you frame it, means that we repeal prohibition.

    I usually stick with 2 arguments. The first is that the only real victories in the war on drugs happen when individuals make the choice to quit their habit and seek help, usually from a doctor and/or a 12-step program. I point out that 12-step programs, despite their problems (if you’ve never heard any criticism of 12 step programs, you need to talk to a family with a bunch of recovering addicts) are staffed by the world’s foremost experts on drug addiction: People who have already conquered the problem. The participants are there because they’ve made a conscious choice to reform, unlike prison, where people go against their will and where a seedy black market makes drugs available to them anyway.

    The second argument I make is that the black market has taken a bad situation (drug abuse) and made it worse by enabling some of the scummiest people on the planet to become incredibly wealthy. And it also fuels atrocious levels of violence, whether you’re talking about gang wars in our cities or civil wars in the Andes mountains. I always suggest that we need to take the drugs away from the gangsters and put them in the hands of somebody more responsible, just as we eventually took booze away from the mafia and put it in more responsible hands where it could be taxed and regulated.

    (Yes, I know, people here oppose taxing and regulating drugs. Well, I’ll take that situation over the current one any day. If it’s a choice between a tax versus incarcerating countless non-violent people, the tax and regulation is MUCH less statist than the current situation. I know, it isn’t ideal, but it’s a step in the right direction.)

  25. Mona,

    Did you read my post? I stated very clearly that the drug war was wrong. Of course it’s horrible that thousands of innocent people are separated from their families for merely growing or using a given substance, but i don’t think the answer is selling the shit on every corner, either.

    Bill,

    I don’t watch TV news (unless you count the Daily Show…). FYI, I used to be smoke a lot of weed myself. I know firsthand the harmful effects it has (damage from smoke, impairment of judgement, impairment of ability to operate heavy machinery, long-term detriments). I never said it was “wrong” to do drugs. I just don’t think they should be condoned (and profited from) by the state via legalization.

    Ruthless,

    “People who can’t distinguish between an argument for freedom and a pitch for promoting drug usage don’t have a mind to change.
    We can’t waste our time on them.”

    Are you referring to me? I never said thoreau was “promoting drug usage”. I just questioned what would be the proper way to get that “freedom” of which you speak.

    Thoreau,

    I hear where you’re coming from, but is government regulation really the answer?
    I propose getting rid of all penalties for use and sale and ONLY punishing those who use violence as a trick of their trade or who harm others as a result of their drug use (i.e. a stoned motorist), while not explicitly giving government control of the drug trade.

  26. Thoreau:

    I certainly wish that there were more treatment options available to the public. I have some real problems with the whole “disease model” that is central to 12-step doctrine—although I agree with you that it is an excellent avenue for addicts to come together and share cognitive strategies for avoiding drug use.

    Read this piece I wrote some time ago and you’ll see that the future of drug treatment and 12-step methods may not be as benign as many believe:

    http://www.drugwar.com/cheadshrinking.shtm

  27. My posts here assume we are in agreement on the end and are discussing “strateragy.”

    I’m suggesting it’s not worth our energery to worry about those incapable of not conflating issues.

    E. G.:
    A. The war on drugs is a disaster.
    B. Drug treatment programs are a different issue.

    A. Public schools could make an instant, huge improvement, if attendance were not mandatory.
    B. What to do with kids permanently kicked out of school is a different issue.

    A. Make up your own
    B. Different issue.

  28. Andy-

    I don’t really WANT regulation and taxation of drugs, but a move in that direction would be a move AWAY from prohibition. It would be much more benign and less authoritarian than the current approach, and hence a step toward a freer society.

    Cletus-

    Don’t have time right now to read your article, but you won’t hear me defending the current state of drug treatment as being the ideal. I think 12 step programs have a lot of problems. (Many people in those programs are addicted to caffeine, nicotine, meetings, and whining, for instance. And it’s absolutely absurd to hospitalize every kid who’s ever smoked a joint, as would be necessary if we sentenced every single drug user to rehab.)

    However, 12 step programs still do a lot of good for some people. And, if it’s a choice between putting somebody in a cage with to be raped and/or beaten by the other inmates, or sending him to a meeting, well, that’s the easiest choice in the world.

    Besides, I think our gov’t should follow many of the 12 steps. For instance, the first thing they should do is admit that prohibition is a problem. They should also accept that the assistance of a higher authority, i.e. the Constitution, instead of basing everything on their knee-jerk urge to regulate. They should make amends to everybody they’ve harmed in the drug war. etc. etc.

  29. Thoreau:

    I think we’re in agreement about the drawbacks of 12-step treatment. What I find particularly troubling is the prevailing anti-intellectualism in 12-step circles.

    Every time I write an article that even remotely criticizes their methods I receive a flurry of hate mail from “recovered” addicts who refuse to debate the merits of my arguments but would rather accuse me of “sending millions to jail, institutions, or death”…

    “However, 12 step programs still do a lot of good for some people. And, if it’s a choice between putting somebody in a cage with to be raped and/or beaten by the other inmates, or sending him to a meeting, well, that’s the easiest choice in the world”…

    Again we’re in agreement—and I think THAT’s the biggest tragedy of the drug war. I’d like something better than the “one size fits all” approach we now use, but it could be worse.

    I hate to keep plugging my own stuff but I wrote a post the other week on my blog about a Recovery program in Russia and it sounds like something out of an Arthur Koestler novel!

    “Besides, I think our gov’t should follow many of the 12 steps. For instance, the first thing they should do is admit that prohibition is a problem. They should also accept that the assistance of a higher authority, i.e. the Constitution, instead of basing everything on their knee-jerk urge to regulate. They should make amends to everybody they’ve harmed in the drug war. etc. etc.”

    LOL! It would never happen.

    A slick government lawyer would refuse to do so on the grounds that “engaging in public controversy” violates one of the “12 Traditions”!

    🙂

    BTW, if you research the 12-step issue you’ll find that many covert steppers are in Congress, serve on the Judiciary, are in the media, and in other powerful positions which is why prohibition has received so much tacit support over the years.

    Many addicts truly believe that their addiction wasn’t caused by a lack of willpower but was a failure of the state to keep this “cunning” substance away from them. It’s a disturbing abdication of personal responsibility that fuels a lot of drug war rhetoric.

  30. Many addicts truly believe that their addiction wasn’t caused by a lack of willpower but was a failure of the state to keep this “cunning” substance away from them. It’s a disturbing abdication of personal responsibility that fuels a lot of drug war rhetoric.

    Indeed, for many people 12 step programs fail to cure the worst of their problems: A lack of personal responsibility, and an inability to maintain healthy relationships with their family. A person who used to spend all of his time drinking in bars and now spends all of his time in meetings is still detached from his children, even if he’s no longer ruining his liver or killing brain cells.

    Still, let’s not try to counter the all-rosy public image of 12 step programs with a suggestion that it’s all dark. It’s a mixed bag. Overall, I’d say that even at their worst, 12 step programs at least help people break a very destructive habit. They might replace that habit with another bad habit, but the new habit is not as destructive as the original. And at their best, well, 12 step programs really have wrought tremendously positive changes in some peoples’ lives.

    I’d prefer to move away from the notion that there’s only 1 way to cure addiction (well, 12 ways, I guess), but I would never join the people who bash these programs without acknowledging the good they do.

  31. Cletus, Shannon, JDM, Lonewacko, all these folks have blogs. Do you guys make money out of posting your ideas?

    If so, how cool are you guys!?!

    Do other folks on this board? Am I the only amature?

  32. “I’d prefer to move away from the notion that there’s only 1 way to cure addiction (well, 12 ways, I guess), but I would never join the people who bash these programs without acknowledging the good they do.”

    I agree—in many respects the anti-12-Step camp can be just as unyielding and dogmatic.

    I still think “12-Step Horror Stories” was a book that needed to be published. I stand by the belief that freedom is threatened when any individual or organization is considered above reproach.

  33. Native NYer:

    I can’t speak for Shannon or JDM but I’m a working stiff myself.

    I do freelance journalism/blogging in my spare time—I get paid for the former but the latter is just for fun.

  34. The JDM with the blog will be happy for you to know that I am not him. I’m just some random guy. Although there used to be at least one other poster here who used JDM as a screen name.

  35. JDM,
    I hope you weren’t refering to me! I think we discussed the similarities of our monikers in the past.

    I have seen incrementalism being the best approach so far. Take for instance Seattle’s I-75, or the law that makes pot possession the lowest enforced priority for SPD. Many of the opponents of the law are now more open minded about after a year. Some even now find it beneficial, like city attorney Tom Carr.

    The biggest victory for I-75 since it took effect is how big the decrease in arrests have been and the streets aren’t filled with pot smoking scum, lazy and wasted pothead teens, and burned out hippies with “in your face” pot smoking as the opponents said would happen. In fact, that was the key, the hysteria of all those kids and adults who would waste themselves on pot if it became tolerated hasn’t come to fruition. This, in itself, should lead to the next step, decriminalization. Once people see that gov’t claims of drug wasted zombies roving the streets is just some half baked scare tactic, they will loosen up on some drug prohibition (Hopefully).

  36. “FYI, I used to be smoke a lot of weed myself. I know firsthand the harmful effects it has (damage from smoke, impairment of judgment, impairment of ability to operate heavy machinery, long-term detriments). I never said it was “wrong” to do drugs. I just don’t think they should be condoned (and profited from) by the state via legalization.”

    Andy,

    What we do to our bodies is our own business. No offense, but you sound like a statist. You speak as if the state is our parent who can control our behavior for our own good. Marijuana was legal. There was no need for the state to “condone” it. The state took away the freedom of adults to use marijuana as they see fit. Read the constitution. The federal government never had any right to regulate marijuana, except when it crossed state lines. But the control freaks in congress decided that the Constitution was inconvenient, so they made up some lies (in the usual manner) and violated every American’s constitutional rights in the process. Drug regulation is just one of the many examples of the usurpation of power by the federal government. When will it end? If drugs were legalized, this would not be the government condoning drug use, it would simply be the government returning one little bit of our liberty. You want drugs controlled because they can potentially harm people. Can you name a single human activity that doesn’t have the same potential? Hell, why don’t we just have the government watch us shit and wipe our asses, because if we do it wrong, we might get hemorrhoids? I’m so sick and tired of control freaks. Mind your own fucking business people! Trying to control others should be a crime unless that control is to prevent people from harming others (directly).

  37. Bill,
    You have “outed” Andy as one, like our President, whose brain has been fried one time too many.

    Andy,
    Some career advice: Run for political office: the bucks to mental acuity ratio favors you.

    I, and most of us here, will defend to the death your right to do what you have done done to yourself.

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