DrugSense FOCUS Alert # 161 February 16, 2000 

DrugSense FOCUS Alert # 161 February 16, 2000 
Posted by FoM on February 16, 2000 at 21:20:49 PT
The New Yorker Explains Why Drug Policy Reform Mus
Source: MapInc.
Last week The New Yorker Magazine published a "Comment" piece that offered a nice summary of the state of drug policy in America. Using recent allegations that Vice-President Al Gore was a regular pot smoker as a launching pad, the piece is subtitled "Gore's Greatest Bong Hits." Author Henrik Hertzberg shifts quickly to a much broader commentary on the drug war itself, flatly calling it a twenty-year "failure." 
He then describes that failure in lucid and compelling prose, starting with ONDCP's own "Fact Sheet" and moving effortlessly from falling street prices for heroin and cocaine to rising enforcement budgets and prison rolls. The piece is remarkable, though as friends at DRCNet have noted: the author doesn't properly credit DRCNet as the original source of the story. Regardless of that omission, this is an important piece. The reasons why it is important are analyzed more at length in Tom O'Connell's feature article in DrugSense Weekly: Please write a letter to the New Yorker to offer applause for a very straight-forward analysis of the failure of the drug war. Thanks for your effort and support. WRITE A LETTER TODAYIf not YOU who? If not NOW when? PLEASE SEND US A COPY OF YOUR LETTER OR TELL US WHAT YOU DID (Letter, Phone, fax etc.)Please post a copy your letter or report your action to the sent letter list (sentlet if you are subscribed, or by E-mailing a copy directly to MGreer Your letter will then be forwarded to the list with so others can learn from your efforts and be motivated to follow suit This is VERY IMPORTANT as it is the only way we have of gauging our impact and effectiveness.CONTACT INFO:Source: New Yorker Magazine (NY) Contact: themail ARTICLE:US: Gore's Greatest Bong HitsURL: Newshawk: Kevin Fansler Pubdate: Feb 2000 Source: New Yorker Magazine (NY) Copyright: The Conde Nast Publications Inc. Contact: themail Address: 4 Times Square New York, NY 10036 Feedback: Website: Author: Henrik Hertzberg GORE'S GREATEST BONG HITSA WEEK or so ago the latest chapter in the continuing saga of Al Gore' s flaming youth erupted, as so many such stories do nowadays, from the subterranean depths where book publishing, journalism, and the Internet flow together. A new biography, full of purportedly titillating revelations, is set for publication a few months hence (in this case by Houghton Mifflin); a big magazine (in this case Newsweek, where the book's author, Bill Turque, works) buys the first serial rights; the magazine's editors, worried about the credibility of a source, develop qualms; an Internet reporter (in this case Jake Tapper, of Salon) gets a tip; and the gist makes its way via the tabloids to the mainstream papers (initially as a business section "media" story) and the TV political gab shows, where, at this moment, it contentedly bubbles and pops. The story, in brief, is that John Warnecke, a former friend of Gore's, says that in the early seventies, when the two were neighbors and cub reporters at the Nashville Tennessean, they smoked marijuana together many, many times-more often, arguably, than the "rare and infrequent" pot use to which the Vice-President has long admitted. The tale is not especially scandalous, but it is irresistible, and not just on account of the comic picture it conjures up of the profoundly unwild and uncrazy Gore as an enthusiastic doper-a big stiff with a big spliff. What gives the tale piquancy, even an element of tragic dignity, is the apparent texture of the relationship between the two men, who, like Prince Hal and Falstaff, were once as close as brothers and then drifted far apart when their destinies diverged. Both had grown up in the bosom of the Washington elite: Albert Gore, Sr., was a prominent Senator, while Warnecke's father, John Carl Warnecke, was a famous architect and was so close to Jacqueline Kennedy that she chose him to design her husband's grave site. But young Gore's life took him on a path to Congress, the Senate, and the Vice Presidency, while young Warnecke's led to alcoholism, depression, and obscurity. The two have not spoken, Warnecke says, since 1988, when Gore called him to ask him not to talk to the press about their pot smoking. At the level of national government, discussion of drug policy has been dormant since the nineteen eighties ushered in the crack epidemic, just say no, three strikes and you're out, and the prison boom. The Clinton Administration, the first to be run by people who grew up with soft drugs, chose to surrender to the reigning orthodoxy Yet the failure of the twenty year "drug war" has never been more apparent. The most damning evidence can be found in the most recent "Fact Sheet" handed out by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy-the same office that is currently in hot water for offering television networks millions in financial incentives to insert anti drug "messages" into entertainment programs. The surest measure of the success of drug interdiction and enforcement is price: if drugs are made harder to come by, the price must increase. According to the "Fact Sheet," however, the average price of a gram of pure cocaine dropped from around $300 in 1981 to around $100 in 1997; for heroin, the price fell from $3,500 to $1,100. Only marijuana has gotten more expensive, but its potency has more than kept pace. Interdiction has functioned mainly as a protectionist and R. & D. program for the burgeoning domestic marijuana industry whose product, once the equivalent of iceberg lettuce, is now more akin to arugula. The nickel bag is long gone, but not the nickel high. Meanwhile, federal spending on drug control has gone from around $1.5 billion to around $16 billion, mostly for interdiction and criminal justice. State and local spending has likewise multiplied, bringing the combined annual bill to something in the neighborhood of $40 billion. The prison population, which fifteen years ago was under three quarters of a million, will cross the two million mark sometime this month. Drug convictions account for the great bulk of that increase. The average drug offender in a federal prison serves more time than does the average rapist, burglar, or mugger. This costly jihad has scared off some casual users, but it has done nothing to reduce the number of hard core addicts. These facts have not much intruded themselves upon the current political campaign. Below the Presidential and would be Presidential level, though, there are modest signs of popular discontent with the drug policy status quo. The voters of eight states, from California to Maine, have passed initiatives approving the medical use of marijuana. There is growing interest in practical alternatives to the regime of punitive prohibition, particularly the approach known as "harm reduction"- which, in the words of Ethan Nadelmann, of the George Soros funded Lindesmith Center, "aims to reduce the negative consequences of both drug use and drug prohibition, acknowledging that both will likely persist for the foreseeable future." Even a few politicians have begun to call for fundamental reform, including Congressman Tom Campbell, the probable Republican nominee in this year's California Senate race, and Governor Gary Johnson, of New Mexico, also a Republican, who has undertaken a sustained rhetorical crusade against what he regards as the folly of the drug war. With varying degrees of candor, three of the four plausible Presidential candidates have admitted to (Gore and Bill Bradley) or alluded to (George W. Bush) past drug use. The fourth, John McCain, says he has never done drugs, but, as he said not long ago, he was already a prisoner of war when pot became popular in the military ("Also, remember my age: sixty three," he added apologetically.) Gore has taken the usual baby boom politician's boilerplate-admitting one or two episodes of unenjoyable "experimentation"-a useful step further: for some years, he was an occasional (by his own account) or regular (by Warnecke's) marijuana user. During those years, he served in the Army in Vietnam, studied divinity and law, worked as a newspaper reporter, and prepared to run for Congress. Whatever the effect marijuana had on him (and he did, after all, once suggest putting a TV camera in orbit, aiming it straight down, and broadcasting a picture of the earth twenty four hours a day on cable), his ability to function as a productive citizen does not appear to have been impaired.One day, perhaps, an actual or potential President will acknowledge that there are meaningful distinctions to be drawn among different drugs and different ways of using and abusing them; and that there is something morally askew in a criminal justice system that treats adults who sell drugs to other adults (let alone adults who merely grow marijuana plants) as harshly as it does violent, predatory criminals. That day can hardly come too soon, though when it does a great change may have already begun. "I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think this was a Berlin Wall-type situation," Governor Johnson, of New Mexico, told an interviewer recently, explaining why he is willing to brave the indignation of the drug warriors. "You're going to get a critical mass here, and all of a sudden it's just going to topple."SAMPLE LETTERTo the Editor of The New Yorker, Thanks to Henrik Hertzberg for his comments on the drug war ("Gore's Greatest Bong Hits," Feb. 7). The hypocrisy and failure of the drug war become obvious to anyone willing to take an honest look. I agree with New Mexico Governor's Gary Johnson and others who contend the disaster may soon buckle under its own weight. I don't believe, though, we should sit around and wait for such an event. Lives are being destroyed every day. Well-armed drug gangs and anti-drug forces try to determine who can be more ruthless in the battle - so focused on each other they display little concern for average citizens caught in the crossfire.It may be easy to assess the failure of the drug war, but it's harder to stand up and speak out against it. Witness, for example, the snide smears Johnson has faced not only from political opponents, but from appointed bureaucrats like "drug czar" Barry McCaffrey. If the drug war is allowed to escalate further because challenges to it are inadequate, many more of us will be casualties before it ends. Stephen YoungIMPORTANT: Always include your address and telephone numberPlease note: If you choose to use this letter as a model please modify it at least somewhat so that the paper does not receive numerous copies of the same letter and so that the original author receives credit for his/her work. ADDITIONAL INFO to help you in your letter writing efforts3 Tips for Letter Writers Letter Writers Style Guide TO SUBSCRIBE, DONATE, VOLUNTEER TO HELP, OR UPDATE YOUR EMAIL SEE: UNSUBSCRIBE SEE: Prepared by Stephen Young Focus Alert Specialist CannabisNews Archives Of MapInc Articles - New:'s Hay Day - Salon Magazine Education of Al Gore - Newsweek Magazine
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Comment #1 posted by steve1 on February 17, 2000 at 21:19:54 PT
camera in space
I watch the NASA channel once in awhile and they have video of the earth from orbit, it's really great, What Al Gore proposed is a great idea.
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