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


Legalization and Decriminalization of Drugs Have Been a Dismal Failure in Other Nations.

DEA Statement Response
The experiences of a number of foreign countries including Great Britain, the Netherlands and Switzerland are often cited to demonstrate that other nations have successfully controlled drug use by providing areas where drug takers can obtain and use drugs. Recently, an MTV documentary on the drug issue highlighted coffeehouses in Amsterdam as a model for a controlled, successful environment in which young Europeans can enjoy marijuana.  
Legalization proponents cannot find encouragement in the fact that when drugs were once legal, cheap and available in the United States, the impact on society was such that laws were enacted to make drugs illegal. The DEA would like you to believe that some drugs were made illegal because of the most altruistic reasons.  This is patently untrue.  See, for example, the various histories of the drug laws under Historical References. See also, the first dozen chapters of the Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs.
They ignore our own history and point to Great Britain, the Netherlands and Switzerland as free and open societies where drug use is allowed with no adverse effects. We do no ignore our own history at all.  It is the DEA who would like to ignore the fact that these laws never were based on good sense, but were the products of racism and ignorance.  See, for example, the various histories of the drug laws under Historical References.
The Quantico experts believed it is important to shed light on the foreign experience with increased drug access and liberalized use policies, and explain that this experience has been negative. On the contrary, this experience has not been negative.  See, for example, Rx Drugs, as well as Drug Substitution and Maintenance Approaches.
England tried prescribing heroin but gave it up. Until the mid-1960s, British physicians were allowed to prescribe heroin to certain classes of addicts. For a description of these clinics see:

Narcotics Addiction and Control in Great Britain.

Supplying Heroin Legally to Addicts


After this experiment, according to James Q. Wilson in his 1990 article "Against the Legalization of Drugs," "a youthful drug culture emerged with a demand for drugs far different from that of the older addicts." In case Mr. Wilson is unaware of the facts, there was a massive worldwide drug culture during the 60s which had nothing at all to do with the heroin clinics in England.  Trying to blame the events of the 60s on the English heroin maintenance clinics is the worst kind of distortion of the facts.
The British system didn't work. Addiction levels rose, especially among teenagers, and many addicts chose to boycott the program and continued to get their heroin from pushers. It does work.  See, for example, the various articles on narcotics maintenance programs on the Lindesmith Center web site.
In 1983, England began switching over to methadone and stopped dispensing heroin from the clinics, and that caused even more addicts to depart in favor of the real thing. According to the late John Kaplan of Stanford University, the number of addicts increased fivefold. James Q. Wilson states that the British Government's experiment with controlled heroin distribution resulted in, at a minimum, a 30-fold increase in the number of addicts in ten years.  
The Netherlands, despite its controlled program, is having troubles. Under the so-called "expediency principle," Dutch prosecutors have wide discretion in prosecuting--or ignoring--persons in possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use. In practice, marijuana and hashish, for instance, are openly sold and consumed in coffee houses. The Dutch Government feels their policy is significantly better than the US policy.  See the many source documents from Europe on DrugText Europe and at http://www.trimbos.nl
The Amsterdam Municipal Health Service showed a rise in hard-core addicts in 1992, attributable to a significant rise in the local heroin supply which led to a price drop of as much as 75%.  
Switzerland has become a magnet for drug users the world over. One thing small European nations have learned is a little tolerance about drugs brings a lot of unwelcome visitors. Judge James P. Gray travelled to the Netherlands to personally ask the Dutch authorities what the greatest problems with their drug policy were.  They reported two problems.  The first, they said, was the fact that they had a number of drug tourists.  They didn't entirely know what to do about it (short of getting neighboring countries to adopt more sensible drug policies), but that they weren't about to change their policy because of it.

The second problem, they said, was that the US Government wouldn't leave them alone but wanted to interfere in their internal drug policies.  They said that wouldn't make them change their policies, either.

In 1987, Zurich permitted drug use and sales in a part of the city called the Platzspitz, dubbed "Needle Park." Five years later the experiment was curtailed after an influx of addicts and increased violence and deaths. In 1992, Zurich Municipal spokesman Andres Ohler told the New York Times that the number of regular drug users at the park had swelled from a few hundred in 1987 to 20,000 by 1992. After the Platzspitz closed, the price of heroin reportedly doubled. The Swiss Government admits that "Needle Park" was not the best approach to the problem.  They have since instituted heroin maintenance programs for addicts which are quite successful.  See the many reports on the Lindesmith Center web site.


DEA Statement Response
A number of European cities have taken the initiative of organizing a Conference for Cities Against the Legalization of Drugs. One of the aims of the conference is to adopt a resolution to enable towns that have not participated in the conference to support its work. This initiative was in direct response to the success of the Resolution for a Federal Commission on Drug Policy and the Frankfort Resolution in Europe.

It is interesting that the DEA says "cities" signed this document.  Obviously, it isn't a case where everyone in the city signed the document, or was even aware of it.  The DEA has not, to date, released a list of the individuals who signed it.

The purpose of the conference is to increase cooperation between cities, to provide inspiration and hope for areas with particularly difficult drug problems. The signatories to the resolution will affirm their decision to fight against the spread of drugs.  

StockholmSTOCKHOLM * 28TH APRIL1994

DEA Statement Response
Zurich authorities moved many addicts to a new site, a nearby abandoned railway station, a few blocks north of Needle Park. Here, addicts receive clean needles and are allowed to inject heroin and consume other drugs. Writing in Drug Abuse Update in 1994, Sue Rusche, executive director of National Families in Action, gave this description of what passersby can see if they look down from the Kornhaus Bridge:  
"Most people think shots are bloodless events. A nurse inserts a needle, injects a medicine and you're on your way. But here, bright red blood streams down arms, necks, legs, feet and groins as addicts inject themselves. Festering red and purple sores filled with pus, old blood and filthy scabs stretch from wrist to elbow, ankle to knee."  
n February 1995, authorities decided they'd had enough and closed the railway station as an addicts' hangout.  
Some facts which help to confirm the observations of the forum participants may be used in debates:  
In April, 1994, a number of European cities signed a resolution titled "European Cities Against Drugs," commonly known as the Stockholm resolution (see page 23). It states: "The demands to legalize illicit drugs should be seen against the background of current problems, which have led to a feeling of helplessness. For many, the only way to cope is to try to administer the current situation. But the answer does not lie in making harmful drugs more accessible, cheaper and socially acceptable. Attempts to do this have not proved successful. We believe that legalizing drugs will, in the long term, increase our problems. By making them legal, society will signal that it has resigned to the acceptance of drug abuse. The signatories to this resolution therefore want to make their position clear by rejecting the proposals to legalize illicit drugs." The point that is most interesting about this resolution is the point that the signers (whoever they may be) are opposed to "legalization".  As the DEA points out in this very booklet, under Definitions, there really isn't a good definition of "legalization" -- it could mean any number of different policies -- so it seems rather silly to make a statement that they are opposed to it.
Pointing to the appropriate international treaties which require nations to "protect children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs," the signatories state that they "reject all demands for legalizing illicit drugs... We request that our Governments respect and with determination apply those conventions and agreements regarding drugs which they have signed." Again, they "reject all demands for legalizing illicit drugs" when, in fact, even the DEA says there is no good definition for "legalizing". As usual, there is no consideration of any alternatives, whether or not someone might call them "legalization."
The cities signing this resolution include: Berlin, Stockholm, Budapest, Dublin, Gdansk (Poland), Gothenburg (Sweden), Helsinki, Paris, Lugano (Switzerland), Madrid, Malmo (Sweden), Moscow, Oslo, Prague, London, Reykjavik (Iceland), Riga (Latvia), St. Petersburg (Russia), Tallinn (Estonia), Valletta (Malta) and Warsaw. It is notable that the DEA says that "cities" signed this resolution, rather than naming individuals. Obviously, an entire city didn't sign this resolution.
A study by the Rotterdam Municipal Council shows that the number of young cocaine users there has risen substantially. About 3.3% of all Rotterdam residents 15 to 19 years of age use cocaine, according to the study. The Dutch Government has lodged an official protest over the DEA's false statements in this booklet.  The full text of this letter is shown below.  They characterize the DEA's statements as "totally irresponsible".


Violent crime is also a major problem in the Netherlands. A 1992 study of crime victims in twenty mostly European countries ranks the Netherlands as the number one country in Europe for assaults and threats. Official text of Dutch protest against the DEA book.

Monday 9 Jan 1995, The Hague

Her Majesty's Minister of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands drs. Hans van Mierlo has officially
annouced the following answer in writing to parliamentary questions by the MP Thom De Graaf of the (his own) liberal party.

The Minister will point out to the American Authorities that Dutch Drug policy is falsely represented in a manual of the American Drug Battle Agency, DEA.

The manual mentions that the police in The Netherlands is instructed not to take action against street trade in what ever kind of drugs.That is not true.

In many municipalities in The Netherlands the policing and prosecution of street traders of drugs has a high priority and special cell space is reserved for that purpose.

Furthermore, according to the DEA a research of the entire Rotterdam population of fifteen years and older shows that 3.3 % of this population uses cocaine.

In the research referred to by the DEA 3.3 % of the Rotterdam population from fifteen to nineteen years of age mentioned that they had used cocaine (prevalence).

It is totally irresponsible to state that all of these people are cocaine users and ridiculous to relate the figures to the total Rotterdam population.

Further data in the manual are not all wrong but stripped of their context and therefore easily misinterpreted.

The mistakes made will be discussed with the American Authorities by The Minister of Foreign Affairs.

translated by mario lap.
International Foundation for Drug Policy and Human Rights.

The Dutch Criminal Intelligence Service reported 104 gun-related deaths in the Netherlands in 1992, compared to 73 in 1991. Almost all involved drug disputes. Robberies also increased in each of the four years since 1988.  
The Netherlands, smaller than West Virginia, has more than 50 clinics supplying methadone to heroin addicts, and drug violators make up a large percentage of prisoners in the Dutch prison system.  



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