AC News Special a Success

On Thursday April 6, ABC aired America's War on Drugs: Searching for Solutions, a news special anchored by former Texas Judge Catherine Crier. The ABC special presented a brilliant and revealing overview of alternatives to the drug war orthodoxy, perhaps unprecedented in the American mainstream media. The show was followed by a discussion of the topic on Nightline, with Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, Partnership for a Drug Free America chairman James Burke, and Center on Alcohol and Substance Abuse director Joseph Califano. Since then, ABC has taken a lot of flack from those who are opposed to a realistic discussion of the full range of policy alternatives. It's important that reformers contact ABC in a show of public support. Please send letters to producer Jeff Diamond at the following address:

Jeff Diamond
ABC News
77 W. 66th St.
New York, NY 10023

or call (212) 456-7777 and ask for audience information.

Videos are available by credit card only (Visa/Mastercard/Amex) at (800) 913-3434. Cost is $34.95 for the news special, $29.95 for Nightline, or $54.90 for both, plus $3.95 shipping and handling for one video, or $4.95 for both. Transcripts are available for $14 for the news special, $12 for Nightline, or $21 for both; call (800) ALL-NEWS, or send check or money order to Journal Graphics, 1535 Grant St., Denver, CO 80203. Specify that you are interested in the April 6th ABC News special and/or Nightline of the same evening.

Following is a summary of the program, written by Jim Hoffman:

Stated Purpose:

The claimed purpose of the show was 'not to advocate specific policy' but to 'open up the discussion' and consider new approaches, as this issue 'deserves debate'. It advised viewers not to dismiss approaches just because they seem too radical.


The show focused on those approaches to the drug problem known as 'harm reduction'. Although marijuana was touched on several times, the focus was on 'hard drugs' such as heroin.


The show was composed primarily of excerpts of interviews with various people, primarily advocates of harm reduction, stitched together with narrative by Catherine Crier and footage of police raids, prisons, people shooting drugs, etc. It is sprinkled with assertions by drug war zealot William Bennett, which are in most cases followed by refutations which look much more reasoned.


The show opened with some observations:

And some facts:

It then interviewed Jimmy Montgomery, a paraplegic who was sentenced to life imprisonment for 2 ounces of cannabis (later reduced to 10 years) in Oklahoma. (He had no prior criminal record.) He smokes marijuana to relieve the pain of his broken back. It quoted his attorney pointing out that violent offenders are released from jail to make room for people like Jimmy.

Next, three influential advocates of harm reduction in the USA are introduced:

Conservative California Judge James Gray:

Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke:

New Haven police chief Nick Pastore:

William Bennett summarizes the prohibitionist mindset:

Next it moves to Europe and looks at the experiences with harm reduction in Holland and Britain.


Back to the USA ...


AIDS infection:


William Bennett again:

These assertions are both made to look rather dubious by subsequent rebuttals.

Drugs and children:

Memorable metaphor:

Kurt Schmoke describes the drug war as a 'domestic Vietnam'.

From The Activist Guide, Issue #6, June '95, DRCNet Publications section, A Guided Tour of the War on Drugs home page.

The next article is Marijuana's Gateway Myth.