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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. · 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 effective. · 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.
WHAT MOTIVATES LEGALIZATION PROPONENTS?
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 consequences. 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 abuse.
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 concept. 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 "legalization." 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 prison. 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 sellers? 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 them. 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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