Opponents of drug law reform often rely on false, misleading, even ridiculous
arguments to make their case. Starting this issue, The Activist Guide
will report on the antics of the other side on a regular basis.
- In what may have been his last official act as director of ONDCP, former
"drug czar" Lee P. Brown issued a statement on Jan. 5 criticizing
Adidas for its production of the "Hemp" athletic shoe. Brown
said the "cynical marketing" of the Hemp shoe is an attempt to
"capitalize on the drug culture." Adidas president Steven Wynne
countered by explaining that hemp is not marijuana and that the shoe was
designed with environmental concerns in mind. "It's comforting to
know that the war on drugs is going so well that you can afford to devote
your time to writing letters to me," he chided, adding "I don't
believe you will encounter anyone smoking our shoes anytime soon."
- In a Jan. 28 column published in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, and another
column in the Des Moines Register, Iowa's drug policy coordinator, Charles
W. Lawson, wrote that Switzerland, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy had
all attempted drug legalization and that they had abandoned their failed
attempts. This is one of the stranger lines of reasoning being used by
the other side; it is strange because in fact none of those nations ever
legalized drugs, not even the Netherlands.
- On Feb. 20, the Topeka Capitol Journal printed an article about
Topeka resident Dr. Harold Voth, a former Navy officer who designed the
service's drug testing regimen in the 1980s, who was traveling to Washington
to meet with recently appointed US drug czar Barry McCaffrey. Voth said
he would recommend the government conduct investigations of several drug
policy reform groups. DRCNet director David Borden responded with a published
letter to the editor suggesting that the article, titled "Topekan
Pressing for Tough Drug Stance," would have been better titled "Topekan
Tries to Stamp Out Political Dissent."
- On May 26, the Washington Post published an op-ed by Joseph
Califano, president of the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA)
titled "Don't Stop This War." Among other things, Califano claimed
that "[Alcohol] Prohibition did not generate a crime wave." His
evidence was that homicide rates increased more between 1900 and 1910 than
during Prohibition. Not only did he fail to mention the state prohibition
laws that were enacted during this time period; he also neglected to point
out the dramatic drop in violence that followed Prohibition's repeal: more
than 50 percent in less than ten years.
- In the June 2 edition of the Jellinek Quarterly, a book review
of a Ph.D. dissertation on HIV among drug users in Amsterdam referred to
comments made by Dr. Herbert Kleber, of the Center on Addiction & Substance
Abuse at Columbia University, that the author felt were motivated by ideology
and conflicted with objective scientific findings. In a speech titled "Harm
Reduction or Harm Production," Kleber said that HIV rates among drug
users in the Netherlands had increased, and attributed it harm reduction
programs like low-threshold methadone programs, needle exchange projects
that he claimed "extended the addiction." An audience member
pointed that HIV among drug users in the Netherlands had gone down, not
up, and cited articles published in some of the most prestigious international
journals. Dr. Kleber admitted that he was not familiar with those articles.
- On July 12, the Heritage Foundation published a Backgrounder
report titled "The Clinton Administration's Continuing Retreat in
the War on Drugs." The paper, written by John P. Walters and James
F.X. O'Gara of the New Citizenship Project, was based on the fantasy scenario
being conjured by Republicans against Clinton in the heat of this election.
The paper can be obtained from the Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts
Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002-4999, (202) 546-4400.
- On July 25, the Peace Officers Association of Los Angeles County held
a morning seminar in Burbank, CA with the title "Drug Legalization
& Law Enforcement Seminar: How Should We Respond?" DRCNet board
member Cliff Schaffer and member Jim Rosenfield attended the meeting to
observe. According to Schaffer, the seminar attracted about 30 people,
and consisted mainly of cheerleading with little practical instruction
on debating the issue. One presenter cited a 1988 ruling by DEA Administrative
Law Judge Francis Young as evidence against medical marijuana. When asked
by Schaffer if he had read the ruling, the presenter answered he had not.
(The ruling in fact favored medical marijuana, and is available
in full on the world-wide-web.)
- A September 12 Associated Press article reported that a class action
lawsuit has been filed on behalf of agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration
against the CIA, the National Security Agency and the State Dept. "These
agencies have a pattern and practice of eavesdropping on DEA agents' and
employees' conversations while they are serving the government overseas,"
according to attorney Brian Leighton. The lawsuit seeks a court order barring
the agencies from further wiretapping.
- On October 9, the Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC) of the DEA's
San Jose office was arrested on a "peeping Tom" charge. The two
women on whom the DEA chief was spying turned out to be police officers,
who chased him down and apprehended him, with the help of men from their