In a crude attempt to stifle the crucial debate on drug policy before it has begun in earnest, a coalition of anti-drug groups and government agencies staged American Cities Against Drugs: United for Reducing Drug Use through Prevention and Treatment; United Against Increasing Drug Use Through Legalization last May 14-16 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Atlanta. Participants included US Drug Czar Lee Brown, Deputy Secretary of State Tim Wirth, Partnership for a Drug-Free America Chairman James Burke, Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse Director Joseph Califano and many others, speaking on such topics as "Why the United States Will Not Legalize Drugs," "We've Made Too Much Progress to Legalize Drugs," "What Legalization in Europe Would Mean to the United States," and "What Legalization Would Mean to America's Children." The highlight of the affair was the signing of the "Atlanta Resolution" against discussion of legalization, at which Lee Brown proclaimed "we'll never give in to legalization." (The Atlanta Resolution is an imitation of the Frankfurt and Hoover resolutions calling for health-based alternatives to the drug war.)
Reformers did not let the occasion go by unchallenged. On Sunday May 14, a group of approximately 30 activists staged an outdoor demonstration calling for harm reduction alternatives and an open debate on drug policy. Though small in numbers, the demo received good coverage on local television stations and even a few seconds on CNN. The next day a press conference was convened at the Hyatt by the Coalition for Sensible Drug Policy, spearheaded by the Drug Policy Foundation, featuring Carrie Saxon Perry, former Mayor of Hartford, CT, Bob Keizer, Head of the Dept. of Alcohol, Drug and Tobacco Policy, the Netherlands, Dr. Peter Lurie, Professor at the Univ. of California, San Francisco, a leading AIDS researcher, and Kevin Gray, member of the ACLU national board, and former campaign manager for Jesse Jackson and Tom Harkin. An early morning debate on CNN pitted former Mayor Perry against Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell. Later that Monday afternoon, an activist summit was held at the Atlanta Days Inn, in which representatives of policy think tanks like the Drug Policy Foundation met with representatives of the grassroots organizations in attendance and discussed ways in which the two sides of the movement can work together in the future.
DRCNet was a co-sponsor of the demonstration, which was spearheaded by James Bell of Georgia NORML and Aaron Wilson of NYC. Discussions are underway on going forward to make The Atlanta Project the beginning of something larger.
Next: The Casualties Mount...