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Where do we go from here?

by Clifford A. Schaffer

The tide has turned in the war against the War on Drugs. It is a tough fight, but those who support drug policy reform have begun to carry the day. There have been three major television specials on the issue in less than a year and the DEA openly admitted their arguments were in trouble when they called a special conference last August to try to find ways to argue against reform. They have been getting pretty well shellacked in every single debate over the last few years and the media has begun to seriously question the wisdom of the drug war. The drug warriors are in retreat and they know it.

The big question for those who support reform is: Where do we go from here? Activists from around the world have been discussing this on the Internet, and here are some of the answers.

The Internet

Rapid communication is critical to this movement. Activists from around the world have joined together on the Internet to discuss ideas and provide support for each other in a wide variety of ways. There are plans for a bigger and better presence on the Internet where news, research, and ideas will be available to anyone with a computer, and where people from around the world can work together. We need more people on the Internet. We also need someone in every city who is plugged in to the network and can distribute the news on a timely basis to those who are not yet on the Internet.


The Internet has also brought unity. The biggest single thrust of the DEA in their public relations campaign is that we lack unity. The DEA tells the public that those who support reform don't even agree among themselves on what they want and, therefore, they could never build a credible public policy. For many years it was true. We have a number of organizations and groups around the country who have always agreed on their opposition to the drug war but have usually worked alone to pursue their goals. As a result, we looked like a mob, rather than a team.

Through the internet, we have held lengthy on-line "meetings" where many of the leading activists and organizations have discussed where we agreed and disagreed, and how we could work together toward the goals we all shared. As the result of those meetings, we have formulated a basic statement of our objective and the principles which should be the basis for a better drug policy. They are:

Our Objective

Our objective is to bring drugs within the law.

Principles for a Solution.

We believe that a better drug policy should be based on three basic principles:

1) Decisions on the medical use of drugs should be the sole province of the medical profession in consultation with its patients.

2) Punishment should not be used to control private drug use.

3) We must have a consistent policy for all drugs of potential abuse.

We ask all interested people and groups around the nation to join us in a recognition of our common goals and present a united front to the world. We all agree that we need reform now. The first step toward reform is to press for open and honest discussion of the issue.

Better Public Relations

When it comes to funding for media, we are clearly outgunned by the drug warriors. But, over the last few years we have just as clearly beaten them with a better, more sensible message. We need a grass roots effort to educate the media at all levels. Keep track of your local newspaper, television, and radio stations and make sure that the old hysterical lies and half-truths of the drug war do not go unchallenged. We have proven that the media will come our way if they know the facts.


We all know people who are not members of the DPF but should be. Many of them are not members simply because no one has asked them to join, or they don't know the DPF is there. No one has told them that their support is important. We should all make a commitment to recruit at least one new member in the coming month. It's easy. All you need to do is ask them. When you leave the house tomorrow morning, carry a membership application and a stamped envelope addressed to the DPF. I will bet you find a new ally before noon.

The Next Step

We have already demonstrated that when the evidence is examined the drug warriors don't have a leg to stand on. They have lost every debate in the last few years because of the evidence, so the last thing they want now is a public discussion of the evidence. Their "anti-legalization" resolution even says so, in so many words. Even the mere discussion of possible alternatives, they say, will cause a massive increase in drug addiction.

We want to talk about alternatives. We want to review the evidence. We want openness, honesty, and objectivity in a public review of all we know about drug policy. We want to lay the cards on the table and let the chips fall where they may. The drug warriors do not. Therein lies the difference between us.

Our mission is to draw the drug warriors into a public debate. We must ask the media to ask them: "What's wrong with the truth? Why don't you want to read the evidence? Why won't you discuss it? If you are right, the evidence will surely show it." We have nothing to fear from the truth.


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