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Harvard Prof. Resigns Addiction Ctr. to Protest
Drug Czar Award

Drug Reform Coordination Network
(DRCNet) Rapid Response Team

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A controversy was recently provoked when the Norman E. Zinberg Center for Addiction Studies, an institution of Harvard Medical School and Cambridge Hospital, announced that its 1997 Zinberg Lecture Award would go to retired General Barry McCaffrey, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (the "drug czar").

Dr. Zinberg was very much opposed to the criminalization approach for which McCaffrey stands, and even served on the Board of Directors of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). The Washington-based Drug Policy Foundation, which promotes drug policy reform, has also named one of its annual awards after Zinberg.

Late last month, the Zinberg Center's choice of McCaffrey as an awardee was brought to the attention of drug policy reformers on DRCTalk, one of DRCNet's online discussion groups. Since then, long-time reform advocates who knew and worked with Norman Zinberg have expressed outrage at the McCaffrey selection, saying that "Norman would roll over his grave" if he knew about it. Reformers regard McCaffrey's talk about shifting funds to treatent as mere lip service, and consider his opposition to needle exchange and his vehement opposition to medical marijuana as unconscionable and diametrically opposed to the principles for which Norman Zinberg stood.

Dr. Lester Grinspoon, a long-time professor at the Harvard Medical School, takes this issue so seriously that last week he decided to resign his faculty appointment at the Zinberg Center in protest. Dr. Grinspoon's letter is attached to this posting. Coincidentally, Grinspoon's letter was submitted on December 5, the 63rd anniversary of the passage of the 21st amendment, which repealed federal Alcohol Prohibition.

The Zinberg Lecture Award will take place on March 7 at the Boston Park Plaza. Interested parties can obtain a form to attend the event from the Cambridge Hospital Department of Continuing Education at (617) 864-6165. Stay tuned to DRCNet for information on the protest that is being planned.

December 5, 1996

Howard J. Shaffer, Ph.D.
Director, Division on Addictions
Harvard Medical School
Norman E. Zinberg Center for Addiction Studies
1493 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02139

Dear Howard:

As you know from our phone conversations, I am distressed about your choice of General Barry McCaffrey as the recipient of the Norman E. Zinberg Award of the Division on Addictions of the Harvard Medical School. I am sure both of us want to be faithful to our understanding of what Norman stood for, but we have different ideas how he would have viewed this decision.

In our conversations you've suggested that I was objecting to the award because of McCaffrey's controversial political positions. You pointed out that you had invited other controversial speakers, including Thomas Szasz and myself, and you told me that you had to defend these choices against critics. I agree with you that Norman would have had no objection to a controversial speaker, and the General has a right to speak in any forum that requests his presence. But in this case he is not just giving a speech: he is receiving an award that implies scholarly achievement in a field in which he has no record of scholarship. He is not a scholar but a political appointee who commands great power, and in my view, has been using that power to do harm. If he is controversial, it is largely for two reasons: his rejection of medical marihuana, which he calls a "hoax", and his opposition to needle exchange programs. By working to block access to medical marihuana and clean needles for addicts, he is exacerbating the problem he was appointed to solve. Furthermore, although I once had higher hopes for him, it is clear to me now that he is not even open to discussion of these issues; he refuses to talk with people who take different views. Norman Zinberg would not have wanted a prize named after him awarded to such a person. By giving McCaffrey the award, you put Norman's name and the prestige of Harvard Medical School in the service of a political agenda that I consider unfortunate.

Because I feel so strongly about this, I must dissociate myself from the Norman E. Zinberg Center. Therefore I am tendering my resignation as a faculty member and asking to be released from my commitment to give a lecture on February 11, 1997.

Sincerely yours,

Lester Grinspoon, M.D.


cc: Dorothy Zinberg

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