Earlier today, Feb. 25, DRCNet participated in a press conference at the National Press Club in downtown Washington, DC. The event featured 16 organizations and individual experts representing a variety of reform viewpoints, ranging from anti-prohibitionist groups like DRCNet, to critics of military anti-drug efforts, to advocates of sentencing reform, to those who feel the key is to provide better resources to the poorest communities. While the speakers didn't represent a tight consensus, there was agreement that a new approach is needed, and that all points of view should be aired.
The event was chaired by DRCNet advisory board member Eric Sterling, President of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, and began with a presentation by Congressman John Conyers (D-MI). Other presenters included Mark Kappelhoff, ACLU, Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll U.S.N. (ret.), Center for Defense Information, Rev. Dr. Andrew L. Gunn, Clergy for Enlightened Drug Policies, Larry Birns, Council on Hemispheric Affairs, Kevin Zeese, Commons Sense for Drug Policy, Arnold Trebach, Drug Policy Foundation, David Borden, Drug Reform Coordination Network, Chuck Thomas, Marijuana Policy Project, Marc Mauer, Sentencing Project, Rev. Dr. James C. Moone, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Coletta Youngers, Washington Office on Latin America, William Chambliss, Ph.D., past president, American Society of Criminology, and Clarence Lusane, Ph.D., Medgar Evers College.
DRCNet Director David Borden was interviewed for the Voice of America radio show, and DRCNet Assistant Director Adam J. Smith will appear on Wisconsin Public Radio later this week.
DRCNet's press release is attached. Additional information on the event, including statements by other organizations, is available at http://www.drcnet.org/pressnet/ on the world- wide-web.
Contact: David Borden or Adam J. Smith, (202) 362-0030
The Clinton Administration's 1997 Drug Control Strategy, due to be released on Feb. 25, has come under criticism for continuing the same failed policies essentially unaltered.
"This document is the latest deja vu in a cycle of denial," charged David Borden, Director of the Drug Reform Coordination Network, a Washington DC-based advocacy group calling for health-based drug policy reform and an end to the "war on drugs". Borden continued "It's time to acknowledge that the policy of prohibition has done far more harm to our children than good."
Borden explained that as long as there is a demand for drugs, someone will provide the supply. But keeping drugs illegal creates enormous black-market profits for anyone willing to fight over them. This has the effect of drawing large numbers of young people into a "war over money" that bloodies city streets, brings drugs and guns into schools, and plunges entire neighborhoods into terror.
"Americans repealed Alcohol Prohibition because they found, perversely, it made alcoholism more common among teenagers, not less," said Borden. A recent survey showed a majority of teens report marijuana easier to obtain than alcohol. "Are we really controlling anything?" Borden asked.
"I spent 10 years running youth programs in New York City, and during that time I saw fist fights give way to bats, knives and guns," said Adam J. Smith, DRCNet's Assistant Director. "I got involved in drug policy reform when I realized the violence of the drug trade was affecting even the behavior of youths not directly involved in the trade. Prohibition has spawned its own counterculture of violence. When human life is so widely devalued, kids who live in that atmosphere tend to adopt those norms. And if we think this system is limiting children's access to drugs, we are fooling ourselves."
DRCNet feels the government has gotten it wrong on the smaller issues as well. For example, in an interview with Dateline, aired Feb 21, drug czar Barry McCaffrey put forward an Illinois study he thought supported the D.A.R.E. program, only to later dismiss the study as "twaddle" when confronted with its actual findings - that D.A.R.E. doesn't work for most children and may be counterproductive. "The drug czar should stop contradicting himself and playing politics with our children's welfare," concluded Borden. "Drug education has to work, not just feel good."
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