DrugSense Weekly February 11, 2000 #136

DrugSense Weekly February 11, 2000 #136
Posted by FoM on February 11, 2000 at 13:27:20 PT
The New Yorker Speaks Out On Drug Policy
Source: DrugSense
Hertzberg's piece wasn't just another plug for reform.For those who aren't regular readers of The New Yorker, "The Talk of the Town, " is a weekly collection of editorial comments and essays arranged in an unvarying format. "Talk" has preceded all other items in the magazine's ultra traditional layout for several decades. The first Talk item- entitled simply "Comment-" is invariably devoted to an issue in the current news.
The February 7th "Comment," (1200 words) by Hendrik Hertzberg is subtitled "Gore's Greatest Bong Hits." Although he begins with the increasingly well-known Warnecke allegations that Al Gore smoked more pot than previously admitted, 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.Hertzberg, who had earlier noted an extended lack of discussion of drug policy at "the level of national government," then cites growing dissatisfaction with the policy: medical cannabis initiatives have passed in eight states and organized opposition is growing (Lindesmith Center, Nadelmann, Soros, and harm reduction are mentioned); Gary Johnson and Tom Campbell were cited as political opponents. Hertzberg also notes that three of the four remaining viable presidential candidates have admitted or "alluded" to illegal drug use in their own past. He implies- hopefully- some "actual or potential" President will use his position to initiate reform.The essay ends with a quote from New Mexico's Gary Johnson who believes (drug prohibition) is like a Berlin Wall that is suddenly "just going to topple" when opposed by a critical mass of public opinion. Although Hertzberg obviously agrees with Johnson or- at least- hopes Johnson's prediction proves accurate, he can't quite bring himself to say so. The good news about his essay is that it's so damning, and -for a main stream publication- fearless in its recognition of drug policy failures. Beyond that, Hertzberg also admits that until now, the drug war hasn't received the extensive discussion and evaluation such a failing and expensive policy should be receiving; either from the media or from government. This is presumably due to fear of the "reigning orthodoxy." What's left unsaid is that Hertzberg, the New Yorker, and the media in general have been a large part of the problem; fear of offending the "reigning orthodoxy" led them to avert their eyes, much as good Germans in the Thirties refused to take the risk of opposing Hitler.What can be implied from the sudden appearance of sharp criticism of the drug war on the pages of a magazine which had studiously avoided the issue for so long? Clearly Hertzberg, who is trying to read political tea leaves, sees an incipient change in public attitude; one of enough magnitude to encourage him to give voice to some long pent-up dissatisfactions. Happily, his editors and publisher went along. Let's hope that both he and Gary Johnson are right; it was just four years ago that William F. Buckley Jr. started this snowball down the hill with a similar- but milder- editorial in another influential magazine. It's been a long time between drinks- if I might be permitted to mix metaphors- hopefully, Campaign 2000 will be the end of that drought. Tom O'Connell, MDCOMMENTS Editor, Drug Sense WeeklyClick the link to read all of DrugSense Weekly's Update News:DrugSense Weekly February 11, 2000 #136 Articles from DrugSense & MapInc Plus New MapInc. Archives: Tom O'Connell News Articles:
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