"We smoked more than once, more than a few times, we smoked a lot. We smoked in his car, in his house, we smoked in his parents' house, in my house… we smoked on weekends. We smoked a lot… [T]he perpetuation of… silence over time has allowed us to go on jailing kids… who are much younger and less equipped to deal with life than Al Gore was when we were using drugs together."
--John C. Warnecke on his relationship with Al Gore and on U.S. drug policy

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January 20, 2000
The Week Online

Bio Alleges Gore Used Marijuana Regularly for Years -- Newsweek Kills Story
A DRCNet Exclusive by Adam J. Smith

A DRCNet Exclusive
By Adam J. Smith

The Week Online with DRCNet (stopthedrugwar.org) has learned that Newsweek Magazine decided late Friday to postpone publication of an excerpt of a Gore biography featuring eyewitness accounts of Al Gore's regular and continued drug use over a period of years. The drug use covers a period of Gore's life from his days at Harvard up until the very week he declared his candidacy for Congress in 1976, sources told The Week Online. The book, by Bill Turque of Newsweek's Washington bureau, quotes both named and unnamed sources, including John Warnecke, son of John Carl Warnecke – architect of the John F. Kennedy grave site, and a long-time friend of the Gores. An exclusive interview with Mr. Warnecke follows this story.

The excerpt had been scheduled to run in Newsweek's January 18th issue, just days before the start of the Democratic primaries. A previous excerpt from the book appeared in the December 6 issue. In that excerpt, which covered Gore's Vietnam experience, Tipper Gore was said to have spent considerable time, distraught with worry for her husband's safety, at Warnecke's house while Gore was overseas.

The Gore biography, to be published by Houghton-Mifflin, was itself originally scheduled for a January release, but that too has been delayed until March 23. A spokesman for Houghton-Mifflin told The Week Online that the delay was "normal."

Al Gore has previously admitted using marijuana, but those admissions fall well short of the type of regular, even chronic use described by Warnecke. Warnecke also says that Gore used marijuana regularly for at least four years after the Vice-President claims to have stopped.

On November 7, 1987, in the wake of Douglas H. Ginsburg's failed Supreme Court nomination, Gore told the Bergen County Record that he had smoked marijuana in college and in the army but had not used it in the past fifteen years. The New York Times reported on November 8, 1987:

Mr. Gore said he last used marijuana when he was 24. He said he first tried the drug at the end of his junior year at Harvard and used it again at the beginning of his senior year the next fall. He also said he used the drug "once or twice" while off-duty in an Army tour at Bien Hoa, Vietnam; on several occasions while he was in graduate school at Vanderbilt University and when he was an employee of a Nashville newspaper (The Nashville Tennessean). On November 11, 1987, Gore was quoted in UPI, saying "We have to be honest and candid and open in dealing with the (drug) problem."

Mr. Turque refused to comment to The Week Online. Roy Burnett, a spokesman for Newsweek, acknowledged that the magazine was preparing to run a new excerpt from the book "in the coming weeks." Asked whether there in fact had been a delay, and if so, the reasons behind it, Burnett would say only that it is Newsweek's policy not to discuss its editorial practices.

Gore, as part of the Clinton Administration, has presided over a drug war policy that has led to the arrest and incarceration of record numbers of non-violent drug offenders. In 1998, according to the Justice Department, there were 682,885 Americans arrested on marijuana charges, 88% of whom were arrested for possession. A recent study by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (www.cjcj.org) reported that the incarcerated population of the U.S. will reach two million on or around February 15, 2000. Of those, more than half are non-violent offenders according to CJCJ.

On February 8, 1999, Vice President Gore personally presented the administration's Drug Control Strategy at a Washington, DC press conference. During his remarks, Gore spoke about the "spiritual problem" of drug abuse and about the need for more positive opportunities for young people. Despite this, however, the strategy allocates approximately 2/3 of the federal drug budget on enforcement, with less than one third to be spent on treatment and education combined.

At that press conference, Gore, perhaps inadvertently, pointed out the very problem inherent in a class of political leaders who prosecute a failing drug war while hiding their own experiences with illicit drugs, and the message that sends to young people.

"And if young people… feel there's phoniness and hypocrisy and corruption and immorality," Gore said, "then they are much more vulnerable to the drug dealers, to the peers who tempt them with messages that are part of a larger entity of evil."

John C. Warnecke
Exclusive to The Week Online

By Adam J. Smith

John C. Warnecke worked as a reporter for the Nashville Tennessean and was a close personal friend of the Gores. Warnecke is the son of John Carl Warnecke, architect for the John F. Kennedy gravesite. The Week Online spoke with Mr. Warnecke by phone this week.

The Week Online: Mr. Warnecke, Vice President Gore has said that he used marijuana 'on several occasions' and 'not since he was twenty-four.' But you say that you have first-hand knowledge that his use was more extensive than he has previously admitted?

John C. Warnecke: Yes, I do. I have first hand knowledge that he has not told the truth about his drug use. Al Gore and I smoked regularly, as buddies. Marijuana, hash. I was his regular supplier. I didn't deal dope, I just gave it to him. We smoked more than once, more than a few times, we smoked a lot. We smoked in his car, in his house, we smoked in his parents' house, in my house… we smoked on weekends. We smoked a lot.

Al Gore and I were smoking marijuana together right up to the time that he ran for Congress in 1976. Right up through the week he declared for that race, in fact.

WOL: And after that?

JCW: After that he began to distance himself from me. I was bad for his political career.

WOL: During the course of the 1988 campaign, you told the New York Times and the Nashville Tennessean that you had smoked marijuana with Al Gore…

JCW: A few times. And I told them that he didn't like it.

WOL: Why didn't you tell the truth at that time?

JCW: I was put under a lot of pressure to lie.

WOL: Who was pressuring you?

JCW: The answer to that question is in the excerpt that Newsweek decided not to run. It's in the Turque book. Right now, I'm going to leave it at that.

WOL: So what made you decide to come forward now?

JCW: It's because I've been under a lot of stress. My conscience has been killing me ever since then. I actually came forward months ago when Bill (Turque) interviewed me for the book. I had been told that this story would come out, that the public would know this by now. But then the book date was pushed back, and Newsweek pulled the story. The only thing that I can assume is that Newsweek is covering this up, protecting the Gore campaign by refusing to run this before the primaries. I decided that I had to go ahead and tell it. I really feel that the public has a right to know this at this time, and I was having trouble living with myself being part of the hypocrisy and the lies.

WOL: Hypocrisy?

JCW: Yes. The drug laws in this country are ruining the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people, mostly poor young people, people who don't come from privileged backgrounds and wealthy families. It just doesn't make sense that we have a war on drugs. It doesn't work, and the politicians refuse to talk about it. That suffering and that hypocrisy has weighed very heavily on my conscience. I have a saying that I use, and that is: "who raised you?" In other words, were you raised with a conscience? Mine has made my life very difficult ever since I became part of the hypocrisy. I couldn't live with the lie anymore. Not and stay sober.

WOL: How long have you been sober?

JCW: Twenty-one years.

WOL: Congratulations. So, after twenty-one years of sobriety, do you consider Al Gore a criminal for his drug use?

JCW: I don't consider drug use a criminal act. Is drug use a poor choice? Yes. Is it risky behavior? Yes. Does it make any sense -- has it gotten us anywhere as a society to criminalize it? Absolutely not. Unless you consider it progress that we're spending more on prisons than on higher education, and still the drugs are everywhere. But politicians refuse to talk about this issue honestly.

WOL: And what would you have Al Gore say about it?

JCW: I wish Al would come clean. I wish that all politicians would come clean and deal with this in a rational manner. Look at all the damage the silence is causing.

WOL: And Newsweek?

JCW: Newsweek cut off information that the American people should have had in order to make an informed decision. Knowing that Al Gore used drugs considerably more than he has admitted is important. Let the American people draw their own conclusions about it, let them decide how important it is.

We need to quit lying about it. Quit hiding it. To my mind, Newsweek censored this, they covered it up. And I think that the perpetuation of that silence over time has allowed us to go on jailing kids. Kids who are much younger and less equipped to deal with life than Al Gore was when we were using drugs together.

I want any candidate that is running for president to be honest about their drug use. And then we can start being honest with ourselves about how best to deal with society's drug problem.

WOL: So you don't think that his past drug use, even his extensive drug use, should disqualify Al Gore from the nomination?

JCW: I'm going to vote for Al Gore.

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Related articles:
EDITORIAL: Dishonest Policy
Why this is about the drug war, not drugs
Gore Briefly Supports Access to Medical Marijuana, Then Backpedals (12/17)
Governor Bush's Cocaine Problem (8/20)

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