Back in June, representatives of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a 40,000-member organization led by Executive Director Neill Franklin, marched from the National Press Club to the Office of National Drug Control Policy headquarters. Our mission: to hand-deliver a copy of our new report, "Ending the Drug War: A Dream Deferred," to the nation's drug czar.
We thought the 40th anniversary of President Nixon's famous declaration of the "war on drugs" would be a good time for reflection on what has been achieved -- or not -- over these past decades.
Common courtesy dictates that the head of ONDCP, Gil Kerlkowske, do what his aide promised on his behalf, namely that he would read the report and tell us what he thinks. Perhaps we weren't sufficiently "official" in our request. Perhaps this appeal will be more successful.
Date: August 6, 2011
To: Gil Kerlikowske, Seattle Chief of Police (Ret.)
From: Norm Stamper, Seattle Chief of Police (Ret.)
Subject: You Can Run But You Can't Hide
We didn't just drop by on June 14, Gil. We had sent emails and made phone calls asking for a meeting. Our requests went unanswered. So we decided to show up in person, and hope for an audience.
Instead, you sent your aide downstairs to head us off in the lobby. The man graciously accepted the report, promised to deliver it to you, and to convey our request that you get back to us with your reactions.
Just curious, have you read it?
It's a short report, only 19 pages. The print is large, there are lots of charts, graphs, photos, even an executive summary. Perhaps if you read only the executive summary?
As we told your aide, and the press, we were seeking an opportunity to present evidence of the sweeping failure of U.S. drug policy. History confirms that prohibition causes death, disease, crime and violence. It also contributes to addiction. Prohibition costs this country between fifty and seventy billion dollars a year. Think about the fiscal effect of replacing prohibition with a regulatory model. (Such a change may not have single-handedly staved off the debt-ceiling crisis, but it's hardly chump change.)
Think about the return on investment, human and financial, if we were to pump at least a portion of those savings into drug education, prevention, and treatment.
The "Ending the Drug War" report leaves no doubt about the absurdity of the country's drug policies. But, to this day, we have not heard from you. Is your silence because you lack an adequate answer to the points we've made?
From all outward indications, you are following in the steps of your predecessor, John Walters. A George W. Bush appointee, Mr. Walters rarely missed an opportunity to duck a debate with drug policy reformers.
Or, did you dodge us because, by law, the drug czar cannot support legislation or any other initiative that would legalize drugs?
Crazy as it seems, and as un-American and unscientific as it plainly is, it is true that you must oppose any and all attempts to legalize the use of currently illicit drugs. According to the "Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 1998," the director "shall ensure that no Federal funds appropriated to the Office of National Drug Control Policy shall be expended for any study or contract relating to the legalization (for a medical use or any other use) of a substance listed in schedule 1."
But we weren't there to ask for money, Gil. And we do understand that you haven't the authority to change laws.
Our expectation was that you'd at least be willing to have a grownup conversation about our drug laws.
In today's climate, with marijuana clearly on a course to legalization by popular demand, we were particularly interested in your personal view that cannabis has "no medicinal benefit," a position recently made official by the Drug Enforcement Administration. DEA? Narcs, not docs?
You've also asserted that marijuana should continue to be classified, along with heroin and crystal meth, as a "Schedule 1" drug, thereby buttressing the position that the feds, not the states, reign triumphant in the government's battle to keep recreational marijuana out of the hands of responsible adults, and medicinal marijuana away from patients suffering intractable pain, wasting and terminal illnesses.
These are issues that beg to be discussed, Gil. With all stakeholders, including your former colleagues in law enforcement.
LEAP repeats its request. Will you please sit down and have an open dialogue with us? We are, as you know, current and former chiefs, sheriffs, rank-and-file cops, prosecutors, judges, prison wardens, and agents of the FBI, DEA, Homeland Security.
We've come by our anti-drug war views honestly, through scholarship, research and real-world experience. Our point of view is increasingly in alignment with that of citizen-taxpayers across the country.
We're not going away, Gil. Talk to us.