DRCNet Response to the
Drug Enforcement Administration
Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization
|When DEA asked law enforcement executives, community leaders
and prevention advocates exactly what they want and need to address legalization
questions, the answers were clear. They said,"It is essential that the facts
regarding the true implications of the legalization issue be made known. Help us to
explain this complex issue to our families, friends and fellow citizens. Put it in words
everyone can understand. And give us the support we need to continue to make the case
until it doesn't have to be made anymore."
|We certainly agree with getting the facts out. That is why all this information is here. We have made repeated requests to the DEA and everyone who agrees with them to provide evidence for this library which would support drug prohibition. To date, we haven't received a single page. It seems the DEA really just doesn't want to talk about it. We have to wonder why.
|Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization is the first
step in helping to deliver the credible, consistent message about the risks and costs of
the legalization of drugs to people in terms that make sense to them. The
anti-legalization message is effective when communicated by representatives of the Federal
Government, but takes on even more credibility when it comes from those in the community
who can put the legalization debate in local perspective.
|We invite all such representatives to better educate themselves on the issues by reading the materials on this site. I suggest they start with The Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs.
|DEA will undertake the ongoing work of responding to your
inquiries, updating and expanding the guide as necessary and evaluating its usefulness and
impact. We invite you to provide your views on this publication. We hope Speaking Out
will be used in several ways. For local law enforcement executives, community leaders,
prevention advocates and others, it should serve, first, as an open invitation to join in
making the affirmative case against legalization. Second, it provides background and
practical answers to the most commonly asked questions about the legalization of drugs.
| We provided our views and the DEA did respond. We
pointed out that the original title, "How to Hold Your Own in a Drug Legalization
Debate" seemed to assume they would get their butts kicked and the best they could
hope to do was "hold their own".
This book didn't help much. They still get beat, as any inspection of the online debate forums will quickly show.
|There are a few things to remember when discussing the
First, according to reliable public opinion polls, the majority of the American people and lawmakers agree that drugs should not be legalized.
| This should be no surprise to anyone because there has
been a dedicated campaign of misinformation, disinformation, and outright fraud for
decades, this book being only the latest example. We will demonstrate the misinformation
of the DEA in this booklet right here. For a historical perspective on that campaign,
refer to The Drug Hang-Up by Rufus King (available at most local libraries); or Smoke and Mirrors, by Dan Baum, or; Agency of Fear
(coming soon), or; Themes in Chemical Prohibition,
or; The History of the Non-Medical Use of Drugs
by Professor Charles Whitebread.
|Second, when discussing legalization, it is important that
all available information and experiences be brought into the open. This can be
accomplished by asking the tough questions. Some of these questions are listed below.
Insist that any discussion be based on a specific definition of how legalization should be
implemented, not an abstract theory.
|We agree with bringing all information into the open -- that's why this web site is here. However, we don't think the DEA really agrees. If they want specific definitions of how legalization could be implemented, they should refer to Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy.
|Third, don't lose faith. This is a long and difficult effort
we are undertaking to get our issues on the table and be heard. Eventually, the climate
will change and pro-legalization arguments will again be out of fashion. While the debate
appears to be cyclical, having more resonance in certain circumstances, we must continue
to impress upon audiences, and ultimately the American people, that legalization would be
a devastating defeat to the commitment that so many have made to living free, healthy and
unfettered in our nation.
|With the current results of the debate, it is little wonder that they might be losing faith.
|In August 1994, in an effort to identify compelling arguments
against legalization, DEA sponsored a two-day Anti-Legalization 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 s outlined in this publication cross-cut the topics discussed by the three groups.
At the end of the two-day session, group leaders presented the recommendations of each
While individual groups arrived at specific conclusions, there were a number of general concerns and ideas raised by all participants:
|Those speaking against legalization need to be positive and
confident about that position. Legalization opponents must constantly ask just how many
drug addicts will be created under legalization, how the government will support addicts'
habits, and who will pay for the social, criminal and other costs of legalization.
|Legalization opponents often have a hard time being heard.
Although only a small minority of academics, social scientists and other public figures
advocate legalization, the conference participants felt that the legalization advocates
make 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
|This is a remarkable statement, considering the fact that the DEA trumpets every major drug bust in the media and seldom fails to take advantage of an opportunity to sensationalize the drug problem. Historically, the record is quite clear that the narcotics agents have dominated the media -- at many times to the complete elimination of any opposition. The age of the Internet has changed that. With the ability to post large amounts of information, the tide of the debate has shifted dramatically.
|Legalization proponents are formidable opponents.
|Thank you. We think so, too.
|The group acknowledged that proponents of legalization are generally well-prepared and credible people whose arguments, though compelling, are faulty.
|We invite the DEA to present whatever evidence they may have that would contradict the evidence already on this site. So far, they have declined to make any contributions.
|Proponents effectively use lawyers and public relations firms
to espouse liberalization of drug policies.
|I have been in this work for several years and I don't know of any public relations firms doing any significant work in this area.
|Misperceptions drive the debate. The legalization debate is being driven by the perception that the costs of solving the drug problem in America are far too high. The group cited public mistrust of government and a perception that federal agencies attacking the problem are fragmented and have no consensus about direction as reasons that the legalization debate rings true with many people.
| The costs of solving the drug problem are not too high.
The costs of solving the drug problem are too high this way. Everyone agrees that we
should devote significant resources to address the problem. We do not believe that the
single most expensive and least cost-effective approach -- prison -- is the best approach.
|There are also numerous misperceptions about the foreign
experience relating to drug legalization and the system of prescription for heroin. Forum
participants stressed the need to get the real story on the British, Dutch and Swiss
experiments out into the open.
|We agree with getting the real story out on the British,
Dutch, and Swiss experiments.
You find information on them right here:
|Americans are frustrated by the drug problem. While an
overwhelming majority of the American people are not convinced that legalization is a good
option, there is a sense of frustration that we have spent so much money on controlling
drug 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.
|Judge James P. Gray likes to ask audiences how many people believe that this drug policy is working. Typically, only about one or two percent raise their hands. It is quite clear that our current drug policy has serious problems and that we must begin to address them. The attitude of the DEA toward discussing reform is one of the major obstacles to a better policy.
| This is a curious statement. The DEA is saying that
more than two-thirds of the people they want to prosecute are gainfully employed,
tax-paying adults. One would have to ask why the government would have any interest in
pursuing otherwise law-abiding taxpayers.
As for people driving your bus, or doing your surgery, there are laws and other sanctions in place against doing anything harmful to others while intoxicated on anything. These laws would not 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.
Reprinted with permission from Tribune Media Services
Response to the cartoon: This presents one of the silliest arguments of the legalization debate. In the first place, the recreational use of drugs is not the same as murder, any more than drinking a beer is the same as murder. In the second place, if we had 13 million murderers (at a minimum estimate) we would have to find some other way to deal with the problem simply because the criminal justice system could never handle the load. In this respect, it is not a matter of what you want to do, it is a matter of what you can do -- and we simply don't have the resources to jail all the drug users, even if it was a good idea.
|Some of the media, certain quarters in academia and some frustrated Americans see legalization as an option which should be discussed.
|Given the current state of our drug policy, all options should be discussed openly and honestly.
|The panel discussed some of the factors possibly motivating advocates of legalization in order to appreciate the complexity of the debate. The group noted that many who advocate legalization are attempting to "normalize" the behavior of drug-taking and that many are people who have tried drugs without significant adverse consequences.
|By the DEA's own statements, above, apparently 70 percent of the drug users (or more) tried drugs without significant adverse consequences.
|Others see potential profit in legalizing drugs and still
others simply believe that individual rights to take drugs should be protected. The group
also acknowledged that the legalization concept appeals to people who are looking for
simple solutions to the devastating problem of drug abuse.
|I don't know anyone who supports legalization because they think they will make a profit from it. As for individual rights, the drug war is the single biggest threat to those rights. As for simple solutions, we think the drug war is the most simple-minded solution of all.
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