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           DEA Statement                         The Facts               

In August 1994, in an effort to                                          
identify compelling arguments                                            
against legalization, DEA                                                
sponsored a twoday                                                       
AntiLegalization Forum at                                                
Quantico, Virginia, for experts in                                       
the field. Several police chiefs,                                        
representatives from Government                                          
agencies and private sector                                              
authorities gave their time to                                           
this important task. The                                                 
participants were asked to refine                                        
the arguments that can be made                                           
against legalization and evaluate                                        
ways to address the legalization                                         
issue in an effective and                                                
meaningful way.                                                          

Three groups were formed to                                              
discuss various aspects of the                                           
legalization debate: Social/                                             
Economic issues, Health Effects,                                         
and Crime and Violence. All of the                                       
arguments espoused by legalization                                       
proponents impact on these three                                         
areas, and many of the claims                                            
outlined in this publication                                             
crosscut the topics discussed by                                         
the three groups. At the end of                                          
the twoday session, group leaders                                        
presented the recommendations of                                         
each group.                                                              

While individual groups arrived at                                       
specific conclusions, there were a                                       
number of general concerns and                                           
ideas raised by all participants:                                        

 Those speaking against            At one time, drug warriors were      
legalization needed to be positive  confident when they spoke about the  
and confident about that position.  drug war.  They relied on            
Legalization opponents must         inflammatory rhetoric and horror     
constantly ask just how many drug   stories to get everyone to believe   
addicts will be created under       drugs were bad and, therefore, the   
legalization, how the government    best approach to the problem would   
will support addicts' habits, and   be to put massive numbers of people  
who will pay for the social,        in prison.  Then, about 1989, the    
criminal and other costs of         tide began to turn.                  

 Legalization opponents often      This is an extraordinary statement   
have a hard time being heard.       considering the fact that they       
Although only a small minority of   parade every major drug bust before  
academics, social scientists and    the media.  The DEA has always had   
other public figures advocate       almost a media monopoly when         
legalization, the conference        compared to the voices of reform.    
participants felt that the                                               
legalization advocates made better                                       
use of the media in making their                                         
opinions known than the far larger                                       
group of legalization opponents. A                                       
current climate of frustration                                           
with crime, violence and drug                                            
abuse is fueling the legalization                                        
debate, and accomplishments in                                           
controlling drugs do not get much                                        
attention. The costs of the fight                                        
against drugs are generally not                                          
put in perspective, and the costs                                        
of inaction are never discussed.                                         
Nevertheless, conference                                                 
participants agreed that a                                               
positive, proactive campaign                                             
against legalization can be very                                         

 Legalization proponents are       Thank you.                           
formidable opponents. The group                                          
acknowledged that proponents of     The bit about public relations       
legalization are generally          firms is a flat out lie.  Nobody in  
wellprepared and credible people    the drug reform movement has the     
whose arguments, though             money to afford it.  The movement    
compelling, are faulty. Proponents  is made up almost entirely of        
effectively use lawyers and public  volunteers.                          
relations firms to espouse                                               
liberalization of drug policies.                                         

 Misperceptions drive the debate.  The costs of solving the drug        
The legalization debate is being    problem are not too high.  The       
driven by the perception that the   costs of solving the drug problem    
costs of solving the drug problem   are too high this way.  Everyone     
in America are far too high. The    agrees that we should devote         
group cited public mistrust of      significant resources to address     
government and a perception that    the problem.  We do not believe      
federal agencies attacking the      that the single most expensive and   
problem are fragmented and have no  least cost-effective approach --     
consensus about direction as        prison -- is the best approach.      
reasons that the legalization                                            
debate rings true with many         The DEA, as it has on many other     
people. There are also numerous     occasions, is distorting the truth   
misperceptions about the foreign    and outright lying about many        
experience relating to drug         aspects of the drug issue in order   
legalization and the system of      to advance its own interests.  The   
prescription for heroin. Forum      Dutch Government has already filed   
participants stressed the need to   an official protest against the      
get the real story on the British,  misstatements of the DEA in this     
Dutch and Swiss experiments out     booklet.                             
into the open.                                                           

 Americans are frustrated by the   Judge James P. Gray likes to ask     
drug problem. While an              audiences how many people believe    
overwhelming majority of the        the current drug war is working.     
American people are not convinced   On average, he says, about one or    
that legalization is a good         two percent will raise their hands.  
option, there is a sense of          It is pretty clear to most people   
frustration that we have spent so   that this drug war causes more       
much money on controlling drug      problems than it solves.             
trafficking and use, yet violence                                        
and crime continue. The group                                            
noted that most Americans                                                
erroneously think that                                                   
legalization advocates are only                                          
suggesting that marijuana be                                             
legalized, and are generally                                             
unaware of the dramatic impact                                           
that legalizing cocaine and heroin                                       
will have.                                                               

 The debate must not take place    This is a curious statement.  The    
in the abstract. The debate on      DEA is saying that more than         
legalization must be brought down   two-thirds of the people they want   
from an abstract concept to a       to prosecute are gainfully           
common sense scenario. Audiences    employed, tax-paying adults.  One    
need to understand that 70 percent  would have to ask why the            
of drug users are employed, and     government would have any interest   
that the school bus driver who      in pursuing otherwise law-abiding    
drives your children to school      taxpayers.                           
could smoke marijuana; that the                                          
surgeon who operates on you may     As for people driving your bus, or   
have cocaine in his system; and     doing your surgery, there are laws   
that the driver in back of you may  and other sanctions in place         
be on speed. The debate needs to    against doing anything harmful to    
demonstrate graphically how the     others while intoxicated on          
common man will be impacted by      anything.  These laws would not      
drug legalization.                  change under any scenario.           
                                    Attempting to arrest everyone who    
                                    ever has a glass of wine is not an   
                                    effective approach to preventing     
                                    doctors from performing surgery      
                                    while drunk.  This is also true of   
                                    other drugs.                         


           DEA Statement                         The Facts               

Some of the media, certain          The more interesting study of        
quarters in academia and some       motives comes from analyzing the     
frustrated Americans see            motives of those who have supported  
legalization as an option which     these laws throughout history.  It   
should be discussed. The panel      is apparent from the history of      
discussed some of the factors       these laws that they were based on   
possibly motivating advocates of    racism, ignorance, and the           
legalization in order to            promotion of special interests.      
appreciate the complexity of the    Everyone should read the history of  
debate. The group noted that many   these laws to understand how we      
who advocate legalization are       came to be where we are today.       
attempting to "normalize" the                                            
behavior of drugtaking and that                                          
many are people who have tried                                           
drugs without significant adverse                                        

Others see potential profit in      And still others believe that        
legalizing drugs and still others   government should abandon policies   
simply believe that individual      which were based on ignorance,       
rights to take drugs should be      fraud, and racism from the very      
protected. The group also           beginning.  It also appeals to       
acknowledged that the legalization  people who think that government     
concept appeals to people who are   should not undertake to do anything  
looking for simple solutions to     that is patently impossible.         
the devastating problem of drug                                          


           DEA Statement                         The Facts               

There was consensus among the                                            
participants at the                                                      
AntiLegalization Forum, too, on                                          
the need to ask a number of                                              
questions of those proposing                                             
legalization. Too often, the                                             
specifics of how to implement a                                          
system for distribution and sale                                         
of legalized drugs are never                                             
discussed. Instead simplistic                                            
rhetoric is used to deflect                                              
serious consideration of the many                                        
questions that must be thought                                           
through before one can evaluate                                          
the ramifications of their                                               
proposals. This is the great                                             
weakness of the prolegalization                                          
position. Participants in the                                            
Forum suggested that the following                                       
questions be asked consistently in                                       
order to illustrate the                                                  
shallowness of the legalization                                          

Should all drugs be legalized ?     The question is not whether any      
                                    drugs should be "legalized" because  
                                    the DEA itself states further down   
                                    in this book that there is no real   
                                    definition of "legalization."  Is    
                                    alcohol legal?  In some senses it    
                                    is, and in others it is not.  The    
                                    same is true of many other drugs.    
                                    If the DEA is right, we will never   
                                    "legalize" any of these drugs, so    
                                    they miss the point to focus on      
                                    The real question is prison.  Right  
                                    now we are embarked on a course      
                                    which will incarcerate millions of   
                                    people who, in the view of many of   
                                    the prison wardens in this country,  
                                    don't need to be in prison.  We are  
                                    turning loose violent felons so we   
                                    can incarcerate more drug users.     
                                    With these laws, we have the         
                                    opportunity to imprison literally    
                                    millions of people.  We must decide  
                                    how many millions of people we are   
                                    going to put in prison to make this  
                                    policy work.                         
                                    As a personal matter, I don't much   
                                    like cigars.  I think they are       
                                    addictive, dangerous, smelly, and    
                                    disgusting. I cannot understand why  
                                    anyone would want to walk around     
                                    with one of those things stuck in    
                                    their face,  and I make my feelings  
                                    known to anyone who lights one up    
                                    in my presence.  At the same time,   
                                    I don't want to put George Burns in  
                                    No matter what policy we may         
                                    devise, or what name we may call     
                                    it, it is an undeniable truth that   
                                    putting people in prison does no     
                                    good at all.                         

Who will determine which segments   Who determines the access to drugs   
of the population will have access  now?                                 
to legalized drugs?                 Under "legalization" it would be     
                                    the same people who do it for        
                                    alcohol and tobacco.                 

Will they be limited only to        Are they limited to people over      
people over eighteen ?              eighteen now?                        
                                    Every major proposal for reform      
                                    assumes that minors should not have  
                                    access to drugs.  This is one of     
                                    the major reasons that many people   
                                    would like to see reform, because a  
                                    more sensible policy would do a      
                                    better job of keeping drugs away     
                                    from children.                       

Will cocaine, heroin, LSD and PCP   Are they available now?  As the DEA  
be made available if people         itself admits, their efforts have    
request them?                       never had any major effect on        
                                    availability of drugs and it is      
                                    unlikely that they ever will affect  
                                    the drug market.                     

Who will sell drugs? The            Who sells them now?                  
Government? Private companies ?     You can't think of anyone who could  
                                    do a better job than the current     

And who is liable for damages       The rules for liability should be    
caused by drug use and the          consistent for all drugs.  If you    
activities of those taking drugs?   get hit by a drunk or stoned         
                                    driver, it doesn't matter to you     
                                    which chemical caused the problem.   
                                    The damage is done in either case,   
                                    and should be addressed the same     
                                    under law.                           

Who will collect the revenues       Who collects them now?               
generated by the drug sales?        We have funded the richest criminal  
                                    organizations in the history of the  
                                    world with this policy. It is time   
                                    to take the money out of their       
                                    hands with a more sensible policy.   

How will a black market for         The same way it is controlled for    
cheaper drugs be controlled ?       alcohol and tobacco.                 

Who will bear the costs to society  Under the current system the         
of increased drug use?              taxpayers bear the entire cost, and  
                                    this system uses the single most     
                                    expensive, least cost-effective      
                                    approach to the problem -- prison.   
                                    For the same money it takes to       
                                    catch, try, and convict one drug     
                                    offender and to hold them in prison  
                                    for five years, we can provide       
                                    treatment or education for more      
                                    than one hundred people.  Which do   
                                    you think is the better deal?        

How will absenteeism and loss of    It should be addressed the same way  
productivity be  addressed by       it is for alcohol, tobacco, or any   
business?                           similar problem.                     

Will the local drug situation in a  Who dictates where drugs are sold    
community dictate which drugs are   now?                                 
sold where?                         The community itself should dictate  
                                    these matters, as they do with       
                                    liquor and tobacco outlets.          

How will society care for and pay   First, there is no real evidence     
for the attendant social costs of   that drug use would increase under   
increased drug use, including       a more sensible policy.              
family disintegration and child     Society is paying these costs        
neglect?                            already.  Reform would seek to       
                                    reduce those costs by using          
                                    approaches which are more            
                                    cost-effective than prison.  Prison  
                                    does not do anything to address      
                                    these problems.                      

Will people still need              This is a separate issue and,        
prescriptions for currently         whichever way it goes, will not      
controlled medications, such as     make much difference to the          
antibiotics, if drugs are           fundamental problems of our current  
legalized ?                         drug policy.  Antibiotics are an     
                                    entirely different class of drug     
                                    with an entirely different set of    
                                    uses and associated problems.        
                                    Therefore, it would be appropriate   
                                    to have a different policy for       

Will legal drugs require            That depends on what you mean by     
prescriptions?                      "legal".  For example, both alcohol  
                                    and penicillin are "legal" but have  
                                    different requirements for           
                                    purchasing them.                     

Can anyone, regardless of physical  Who can purchase them now?           
or medical conditions purchase                                           
drugs?                              Can anyone, regardless of physical   
                                    or medical conditions purchase       
                                    alcohol or tobacco?  Alcohol and     
                                    tobacco are the big killers by a     
                                    wide margin. If we can manage to     
                                    find a workable policy for alcohol   
                                    and tobacco, then the other drugs    
                                    will be easy.                        

How can we deal with the influx of  We won't have to.  The rest of the   
people to the United States who     western world is going toward        
are seeking legal drugs?            "legalization" faster than we are.   

Can we begin a legalization pilot   Yes.  As the New York City Bar       
program in your neighborhood for    Association recommended, we should   
one year?                           allow states and communities to      
                                    determine their own approach to the  
                                    problem, as they do for alcohol, so  
                                    that we might have a number of       
                                    different programs from which to     
                                    draw ideas and information.  The     
                                    one thing we should not do is to     
                                    stay locked in to a single national  
                                    policy which -- by definition --     
                                    cannot work.                         

Should the distribution outlets be  Where are the distribution outlets   
located in the already              located now?                         
overburdened inner city?                                                 
                                    Matters affecting the inner city     
                                    should be decided by the people in   
                                    the inner city.                      


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