DRCNet Response to the
Drug Enforcement Administration
Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization

Know What You're Getting Into Before Speaking Against Legalization

DEA Statement Response
Legalization can be a very complicated subject to discuss and it would be almost impossible for any individual to be completely prepared, current and credible on all the aspects of the legalization issue. Also, it's one thing to make your presentation effectively when you're the only speaker of the evening, quite another to come off looking good when equal time goes to someone speaking in favor of legalization--especially if that person is a pro at public debate. The DEA is clearly showing its fear of a public debate.   They note that it is "quite another thing" to come off looking good if there is an opponent with equal time to speak.  In other words, there isn't much hope of them making a good presentation unless they have no opposition -- which explains, in a nutshell, why they refuse to come to any debate.

We think it is shameful that the DEA would refuse to discuss their own policies in public.


No matter what the setting, we recommend couching your message in affirmative terms because legalization is about drugs and drugs are as controversial a topic as any facing the American people. Many times, even those listeners who have no sympathy for the idea of legalization might say, for instance, "Can't we do better somehow than we're doing now about our drug problems?" The answer is surely yes. Yes, we can do something better about our drug policies.   Is the DEA willing to consider any of those options, even for the purposes of discussion?  Absolutely not.  Therein lies the problem with our drug policy.
This question, by the way, provides an opportunity for you to remind all the people in the seats that they must help deal with the problem. It is your chance to ask them: Do you know about the demand reduction and prevention solutions at work in your community? In your neighborhood, in the schools, in job training and workplace settings, in jails and in treatment and prevention centers? What do you do now and what are you willing to do? How much are you prepared to spend to make it better? This diversion from the fundamental failures of our current policy will work only if there is no opposition.
The discussion can and usually will touch on several areas of scholarship: medical science, the behavioral and social sciences, law and criminal justice, economics, international matters, and historical and cross-cultural analysis. While it is not necessary to be a specialist in all the disciplines, it is wise to be knowledgeable and comfortable with some essential questions and answers. The very first thing which is notable about supporters of the drug war is their overwhelming ignorance of virtually every facet of the subject.  We invite everyone to ask the DEA agents if they have, in fact, read any of the major research which is on this web site.  We are still waiting to run across any DEA agent who even knew this research existed. 
Arguments in favor of legalization, as mentioned earlier, often draw overly broad conclusions from limited data or research, rely on hypothetical arguments and lean heavily on research that is outdated, discredited or "uncredited," meaning that it hasn't been subjected to rigorous review by the researcher's colleagues prior to publication. We have collected the largest studies of drug policy over the last 100 years, and we are putting the full text of them on the Internet for everyone to read.  See Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy.  To date, we haven't found anything of significance that supports the DEA's policies.  We invite the DEA to supply any research which they feel is better than the research we have already posted under Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy. If they will send it to us, or tell us what it is so we can locate a copy, we will post that research along with the rest. We have had this offer to all comers for several years now but, to date, no drug warrior has supplied a single page.
Not all discussions of legalization issues take place in formal or structured settings. Frequently, questions are raised in the course of presentations on other subjects, often in the context of discussions such as "Can we really stop the flow of drugs in the United States?" The answers you provide to these inquiries may be even more important and persuasive than your views offered in a debate setting because they are specific and direct and may occur in one-on-one situations. It is curious that the DEA would even bring this question up.   The answer to "Can we really stop the flow of drugs in the United States?" is emphatically NO.


Some Do's and Don'ts

DRCNet Response: This section is an obvious copy of the Do's and Don'ts in the Persuasive Strategies.  The DEA was getting their butts kicked in debates because of the Persuasive Strategies, so they simply copied some parts of them.

DEA Statement Response
Do insist that proponents define what they mean by legalization: what drugs will be legalized, age limits, who regulates, who distributes, etc. If the DEA seriously wants suggestions on this score they should read Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy.  But the fact is that they never show up for debates anyway, simply because they are afraid to honestly discuss their own policies in public.

We believe their failure to come before the American public and explain themselves is, in itself, a crime.

Don't assume the defensive position. Always remember the burden of proof is on the proponents of legalization. They are the ones suggesting that access to drugs be drastically increased. With the evidence now available in this online library, the burden of proof has shifted to the DEA to show any rational support for this policy in view of the overwhelming evidence compiled here. 

Reform advocates are not suggesting that access to drugs be drastically increased. In point of fact, children have more access to illegal drugs than the legal ones.  Reform advocates are often advocating specific reforms such as needle exchange, or less repressive policies against pain patients, which have nothing to do with general access to drugs at all -- but are fundamentally incompatible with the DEA's repressive policies.

Do maintain credibility. That is, if a point can't be refuted, admit it. If they take that seriously, it will be a long night for the DEA agent.  See the extensive information in this library.
Do stick to the point.  
Don't get bogged down in side issues, such as the needle exchange program, the medical use of marijuana, and the emerging issue of cultivation of hemp. These are not side issues at all, but problems central to the problems with our drug policy as a whole.  Needle exchange saves lives but is fundamentally inconsistent with prohibition.  Medical marijuana relieves human suffering, but is also inconsistent with the DEA's policy.  As for hemp, a significant industry was wiped out for no good purpose.
Do remind audiences that during the early part of the 20th Century, the United States struggled with the consequences of legalized drugs and concluded that the costs to society were far too great. The historical record is a valuable lesson to those contemplating legalization. The DEA is distorting the facts again.  For a good historical record of drugs in the United States see Historical References or The Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs.
Do insist that the debate be defined to allow questions to be asked of advocates. That's fine with us.  We just wish the DEA would show up.

Invitations: Handle With Care

DRCNet Response: Why should the DEA say "handle with care"?  Because they are getting their butts kicked in public discussions, pure and simple.

DEA Statement Response
When invitations to participate in discussions about the legalization of drugs or to make formal presentations are received, responses will need to be consistent and clear. One approach is to accept such invitations only as part of an interdisciplinary team, perhaps one law enforcement person, one medical-scientific person and one grassroots prevention person. But the inviting group may specify that it wants only one spokesman for the anti-legalization viewpoint and that there will be a legalization proponent speaking for the other side of the question. You may be asked to discuss the drug issue with no specific reference to the legalization issue. Be prepared anyway. Whether the format is one-on-one or team versus team, before you say yes you should insist on answers to some questions about ground rules. The answers to these questions should be requested and received in writing. We have faced such interdisciplinary teams on many occasions and welcome any forum where the subject can be openly and honestly discussed.  It is the DEA which always finds some excuse to be absent when there is any opposition at all.
What is the format for the discussion and how long will it be?
Who cares?  The more time the better, but just show up.
Who will be the pro-legalization speaker, if there is to be one?
They ask this because it is quite obvious that they know there are some opponents who will kick their butts in a New York minute.  We don't particularly care who comes for the DEA - bring the best.   Just show up.
What is this person's background? Has she or he published anything on the drug legalization question?
We will accept any opponent in any debate, any time.   Just show up.
Will speakers be permitted to interrupt one another?
This doesn't much matter to us either way -- just show up.
Will there be a moderator? Who? Is the moderator impartial?
An impartial moderator is always best -- but just show up.
Will there be questions from the audience?
We encourage questions from the audience.  The DEA does not.  Of course, we wish they would just show up for the debate under any circumstances.
Is a specific legalization proposal being forwarded and, if so, what is it? If there is no specific proposal being presented, what is the general purpose of the discussion?
Who cares?  Just show up.  If they are honest, on the right track, and have nothing to hide, then they should welcome the chance to crush the "legalizers".
Who will be in the audience? Will the speaker be permitted to invite others to attend? Invite all your friends -- please.  Just show up.
The answers to these questions will influence your decision to accept or decline the invitation. If you decide to go ahead, they should also affect planning for participation. If these questions cannot be answered or if the inviter is not willing to commit the answers to paper, the invitation should either be declined or all parties should be well aware that they are entering the unknown. Strangely enough, there is no set of answers to the above questions which will allow the DEA to show up for any public discussion.
Bear in mind that even a sponsoring group that is neutral may just be looking for a way to fill up a program. They may look on a legalization debate as entertainment--the rowdier the better. If that is so, and the proposed discussion is merely a device to get an overworked program chairman off the hook, or get the organization some publicity, you would probably be wise to reject the invitation. Your experience should be sufficient to enable you to decide whether the inviters are serious. If they are, they won't object to your list of questions, because the questions show that you are serious too. And they will give your suggestions for changes in format, if any, a respectful hearing.
In other words, DEA agents should use any excuse they can to keep from showing up to discuss the DEA's policies.  We wish the DEA would show up for some of them, at least. It gives us the definite impression that they are scared of us.


Travel back to the DRCNet Response to the DEA Home Page

Travel back to the DRCNet List of DEA Publications

Travel back to the List of Legalization Issues

Travel back to the Table of Contents