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June 25, 2001

The Great Debate


and Un-American

Readers Respond to U.S.

Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow

& a "Response" from Embassy

Narco News 2001

"A little tolerance toward drugs brings many undesired visitors."

- U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow

Speech Against Drug Legalization in Mexico
Mexico City, June 2001

"I wish I could show you what a small marihuana cigarette can do to one of our degenerate Spanish-speaking residents. That's why our problem is so great; the greatest percentage of our population is composed of Spanish- speaking persons, most of whom are low mentally, because of social and racial conditions."

- Editor, Alamosa Daily Courier, 1936

"Fifty per cent of the violent crimes committed in districts occupied by Mexicans, Greeks, Turks, Filipinos, Spaniards, Latin Americans, and Negroes may be traced to the use of marihuana."

- U.S. Drug Czar Harry Anslinger, 1936

"There was fun in the House Health Committee during the week when the Marihuana bill came up for consideration. Marihuana is Mexican opium, a plant used by Mexicans and cultivated for sale by Indians. "When some beet field peon takes a few rares of this stuff," explained Dr. Fred Fulsher of Mineral County, "He thinks he has just been elected president of Mexico so he starts out to execute all his political enemies. I understand that over in Butte where the Mexicans often go for the winter they stage imaginary bullfights in the 'Bower of Roses' or put on tournaments for the favor of 'Spanish Rose' after a couple of whiffs of Marijuana. The Silver Bow and Yellowstone delegations both deplore these international complications" Everybody laughed and the bill was recommended for passage."

- The Montana Standard, 1929

Readers Respond

From Steven Young


Hello Al,

It was a pleasure meeting you and hearing you speak in New Mexico. Here's a little contribution for the response to Davidow. Hope it is useful.

United States Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow offered a great deal of uninformed speculation about what might happen if drugs were legalized. Davidow's blustery ignorance was carefully crafted, but an honest look at the effects of drug prohibition reveals something worse than the ambassador's scary story. Many words that are tied intimately with the drug war didn't make it into Davidow's speech. Phrases like "government corruption," "transnational organized crime," "covert operations" and "disappearing civil liberties" do not appear.

Instead Davidow constructs a dark post-drug-war dystopia where uncontrolled drug-taking becomes the norm. The absurdities abound, but a close look at one sentence exposes the silliness: "In Mexico, the consumption of drugs is rising dramatically, although, of course, it is still not at the level of the United States." So, because both Mexican and U.S. drug use is rising under the ever-escalating drug war, we better not change strategies? And, the U.S., which has higher rates of consumption than Mexico, ought to be guiding Mexico on this issue? The drug war is a tool the U.S. uses for foreign and domestic control. Davidow defends it for no other reason. Compare some of his assertions with legitimate counter-arguments, and see how little respect he shows for the people of Mexico, the people of the U.S. and reality itself.

- Stephen Young

Vounteer, Media Awareness Project of DrugSense -
Author, Maximizing Harm -

From Debra S. Wright, MSW

In response to Jeffrey Davidow's speech, I believe that Mr. Davidow has some of his facts wrong. The first point I would make is regarding his questions of how wise it would be to permit 12-year-old adolescents to be able to acquire alcoholic beverages. Ask any teenager in the United States what is more freely available: alcohol or drugs. They will all tell you that drugs are more accessible. The reason for this is that we have control over the distribution of alcohol in this country; we do not have any control over the distribution of drugs. The only way we will get control over drugs is to decriminalize them and put some controls on them. No one in the decriminalization movement wants to see children have access to drugs or become addicts; just the opposite. We want to see drugs taken off the black market, out of the hands of drug pushers, and out of the hands of our children.

Mr. Davidow argues that the abuse of drugs reduces productivity and affects the tax base. According to the National Institutes of Health, "Methadone maintenance treatment is effective in reducing illicit opiate drug use, in reducing crime, in enhancing social productivity, and in reducing the spread of viral diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis." (Effective Medical Treatment of Opiate Addictions. NIH Consensus Statement 1997 Nov. 17-19; 15[6]: 4.) Methadone treatment for heroin addicts works; we need to make it available to any addict on request, through doctors and clinics, and loosen the tight controls that are currently on this and other opiate agonists.

The United States is losing the War on Drugs. Drugs are more freely available and more pure than ever, billions of dollars are being spent on interdiction, incarceration, the militarization of our borders, and the social consequences of the War on Drugs.

Some states, as well as other countries, are beginning to recognize these devastating consequences of the War on Drugs, and have come to the realization that what we are doing now is not working. States like Arizona and California have passed "treatment instead of incarceration" initiatives that are giving people the option to get drug treatment instead of incarceration.

Our policies of prohibition of drugs are not working. As a country, along with our allies around the world, we need to begin a dialogue about where are policies are failing, and look with an open mind at alternatives to these issues.

- Debra S. Wright, MSW
Drug Policy Forum of Michigan

From Brian Bacon

Ambassador Davidow's speech trots out some very standard arguments against liberalization of drug laws. His reasoning, however, is paper-thin and easily refuted.

First off, I agree with his statement that "the authority of the government brings the responsibility to promote and preserve accepted codes of conduct". This is especially true where such codes are directed to the protection of children. However the results of exercising such responsibility must be considered in the context of the risks associated with the acts being controlled and the consequences of the prohibition itself. Surely, if, through prohibition, we seek to protect people from "the profound damage that the drugs cause to the people who use them" then the punishment must not be more deleterious than the act itself. If Ambassador Davidow is even fleetingly familiar with conditions in US prisons he would find it difficult to argue that persons incarcerated for drug abuse are being "protected". The almost complete lack of rehabilitative programs drug abuse counseling, educational etc in prison makes this line of argument even more specious. The rehabilitative ability of prisons is further eroded by the ready availability of drugs in penal institutions.

The key issue here I think, is that drugs are a social problem not a criminal one. If we are truly concerned with the plight of the user and rehabilitation is the primary objective, then resources must be reallocated from incarceration and punishment to education and rehabilitation. This cannot be effectively accomplished within the regime of the "Drug War". In Canada significant strides have been made in reducing smoking through controlled sales, restrictions on advertising and packaging and an active public education program.

The Ambassador then argues that legalization would result in increases in the number of drug addicts apparently assuming that legal prohibition is the only thing preventing people from sticking needles in their arms. He cites that some European jurisdictions that have legalized have experienced increases in addict populations. Such increases, however, result from the localized nature of the programs, which draw addicts from surrounding areas. Making such programs universal with controlled access to drugs and treatment through family physicians for example would ameliorate this tendency. It should also be understood that legalization does not mean selling heroin in 7-11's. Most people in favour of legalization believe that drugs should be distributed in controlled environments. While cannabis type drugs could be sold through government run outlets similar to liquor stores hard drugs could be available through doctor's prescription or some other method.

As to the cost of drug legalization, not only would the tax base generated help alleviate the costs of education and treatment but the savings in policing and incarceration would be huge. The impact on law enforcement agencies that legalization would entail has created a powerful lobby group with a strong interest in keeping drugs illegal. The notion that legalization would erode economic productivity and the tax base is nothing other than speculative and baseless fear mongering.

The relationship between drugs and crime is a key component of the drug war mentality. Mr. Davidow notes that "in 1999, 74 percent of the prisoners in New York City tested positive on drug tests when they were arrested". This is probably true. However, is it the drugs themselves or the need to fund the addiction that generates the crime. Providing drugs in a safe, controlled environment would probably reduce crime and improve public safety. Most drugs cost pennies to make but have high street costs due to their illegality. Just as an aside, I wonder how many of the prisoners cited in the Ambassador's example were living below the poverty line immediately prior to their arrest. I would suspect that it was probably about the same since crime and poverty are highly correlated. If that were true would the Ambassador be willing to demand that the same resources be allocated to a "War on Poverty"?

We need to stand back and take an honest look at the results of the twenty-year old drug war and ask if its worth it or if other options need to be considered. The US with 6% of the world's population now has about 25% of the world's prison population with over 2 million persons incarcerated. That is up from about 500,000 in 1980 due largely to the drug war. One must seriously question a system whose draconian punishments are reserved for the victims of an illegal multi-billion dollar industry while scant attention is paid to the white collar profiteers who are responsible for the importation, marketing and money laundering associated with this lucrative business

- Brian Bacon
Vancouver, Canada

From Steve Swimmer

Open letter to the people of Mexico (here's a big surprise): Gringos lie. Just as the Fisherman will not, perhaps cannot, tell you fish stink; U.S. Ambassador/Drug Warrior, Jeffrey Davidow, is not able to present a balanced or even a credible position. However, here are the facts of my personal encounter with the drug war. Judge for yourself. Is this what you want for Mexico?

Fact one: My Son, Michael, is among the all to numerous extra judicial homicide deaths, here in the United States, directly attributed to the war on drugs. He was gunned down by, quite literally now, hooded jack booted drug thugs with police badges. While Michael stood naked by his own bed, drug warrior police burst through his front door and riddled his bedroom with machine gun fire. Michael was shot 10 times and died a few hours later. The Authorities all agreed killing my Son (who had no police record) was just, because an unidentified informant said Michael had 368 tablets of ecstasy and, of course, the drug police claimed there was the always just too convenient gun (which was never fired nor even produced).

The people of Mexico should know: In the name of the "War on Drugs," the Davidows of my country will, with little or no compunction, kill people. Is this what Mexico wants for its people?

Fact two: I was arrested, in New Orleans (for marijuana), December of 1992 and released from Atlanta Federal Penitentiary in March of 1997. Federal drug warriors manipulated the entire matter by providing government owned marijuana for no money down, no set price, and no specific pay time. I was to pay what I could, when I could and if I could. I had no where-with-all to accomplish the crime so the government provided all of that. What I had was the "propensity" to do the crime; therefore, according to our law, all the U.S. Government did was considered completely legal and not, as logic would dictate, an illegal entrapment scheme. I was forced to agree to a set prison sentence while, quite oddly, forced to tell the Judge I wasn't being coerced. In my case, there was no marijuana (other than the government's), no guns, and no money (the government even paid for my room and food while in New Orleans); yet, at 50 years old, with no police record, I became a casualty of the drug war while the taxpayers wasted something approaching a million dollars on my arrest, conviction and incarceration. The U.S. imprisons 25% of the world's prisoners while our population comprises only 5% of the world's people. Trust me on this one; the majority of U.S. prisoners should not be in prison. True, some people need to be incarcerated; unfortunately, U.S. prisons are full of drug prisoners. Is this what Mexico wants? More prisoners?

Fact three: U.S. Ambassador/Drug Warrior Jeffrey Davidow, will not tell you the truth about the drug war any more than he will tell you what he knows about Salvador Allende's death. He is in it to deep and has become an important puppet in the U.S. death and torture machine. True, he and his U.S. Drug Force have forced me to bow by implementing U.S. procedures like sanctioned murder, imprisonment, character assassination and confiscation of property. Also true, today, I am a completely cowed, afraid and powerless to resist. I know, for an unequivocal fact: my U.S. government can, at will, set me up for an arrest and conviction, adjust my sentence to however long they want or shoot me until dead; and, not one person will be able to do anything about it. So, I ask the last question: In an attempt to appease Davidow's blood lust approach to the drug war, will the people of Mexico cower before the United States government as I, a U.S. citizen, must cower?

- Steve Swimmer, Citizen
Stone Mountain, Georgia

From Andrew Grice

[Davidow claims]

The black market in drugs would continue even with legalization.

[Andrew Grice knows]

Nothing could be further from the truth. Legalization would put today's black market narco-traffickers out of business. They simply would not be able to compete against legal suppliers. Because society can no longer tolerate the violence, corruption and lawlessness inherent in the black market drugs trade, it is essential that all of the hugely profitable illegal drugs be legalized, marijuana, cocaine and heroin included. Ambassador Davidow's preposterous notion of narco kingpins refocusing their business on sales to minors is nothing but alarmist fantasy. Alcohol is both legal and desired by many young people, but where are the violent international cartels of smugglers selling booze to minors?

- Andrew Grice
Detroit, Michigan

From Lisa Boyd

The man states:

"However, the fact is that currently the use of drugs has diminished considerably in the United States over the past 20 years. In 1979, 25 million U.S. citizens - that is, 14.1 percent of the population over 12 years old and the highest that has ever been registered - had used illicit drugs at least once in the month prior to the date of the public opinion survey. In 1999, the National Household Survey on Drugs found that nearly 14.8 million U.S. citizens, or 7 percent of the opulation,
had recently used drugs. In other words, the number of U.S. citizens that use drugs was reduced by almost 50 percent in the past two decades. The most recent United Nations report on illicit drugs also indicates that the consumption of drugs in the United States has been reduced since 1985."

However, I looked up the National Survey he refers to. It shows that there has been a steady increase in usage of all kinds of drugs from 1990 - 1999.

Don't know how this translates to "winning the war", since there was significant effort/dollars in the 90's.

He doesn't document his 1979 number. Was this number even arrived at by the same methods as the Household Survey? Is he comparing apples to rotten oranges?

- Lisa Boyd, fact checker extraordinaire
Victoria, KS 67671

From Shannon Floyd

I write in response to the speech of Ambassador Davidow, who spoke June 1st in support of a continued "War on Drugs" in the United States, in Mexico and over the entire globe. Mr. Davidow offers a weak set of point/counterpoint arguments which do not address the very real damage that this ongoing war has caused:

In the United States, which has supposedly "exalted the role of personal liberty," over 2 million people currently serve time in prison and almost 60% of those persons are there for the invented crimes of Prohibition. We imprison a higher percentage of our people than any other nation on Earth.

In the United States, we have the highest levels of homicide and street violence of any Industrialized country, much of which is directly linked to the black market trade in substances which have been categorized as "illegal."

In the United States, approximately 70 million people have at one time or another used a substance that our government has categorized as "illegal." The very numbers show that the rate of drug law enforcement success is low. The numbers show that we could not possibly imprison every person who has used an illegal substance, and that without uniform enforcement the laws unfairly decimate the families and communities of low income and dark-skinned people.

Finally, recent history of the United States shows us that the leaders of law and government themselves -- men such as Bill Clinton, Al Gore, George W. Bush, and Clarence Thomas, and scores of others -- all have had experience with illegal mind-altering substances. Until each one of them volunteers to serve time in prison for the good of society because they truly feel their actions were wrong, they have no right enforcing these laws on fellow citizens.

If Ambassador Davidow really wants to act in a way that values "the ethical commitment to protect human life" he will acknowledge that the cure -- in this case Prohibition, prisons and overreaching law enforcement -- is much worse than the disease of substance abuse. Freedom, balance, and personal responsibility is the answer to problems of addiction, not irrational systems of arbitrary crime and punishment.

Shannon K. Floyd
Common Good Cafe
4016 NE 13th Avenue
Portland, OR 97212

From Dean Becker

To Secretary Colin Powell and U.S.Ambassador to Mexico, Jeffrey Davidow,


I am an "average Joe"; a small potatos citizen of the United States of America. However I must state that I am in total disagreement with your stance regarding the "Drug War." Through the Internet, I have been able to easily find proof that this war is nothing more than a sham designed to benefit certain corporate interests at the expense of the American people. If I can make such a determination, if the truth is so obvious, surely you gentlemen must be aware of these facts as well. If not, or if you choose to ignore this data, it does not bode well for your future as a servant of the American people.

I am writing to state that Mr. Davidow does not speak for me or for millions of other American when he tells the Mexican government that we must fight for a more vigorous drug war. Mr. Davidow's statements are nowhere near the real truth. The day is fast approaching when those "beliefs" such as those promulgated by the ambassador will be shown as bigoted, civil-rights stealing mechanisms designed by corporate entities and instituted on their behalf by craven-coward politicians who seek nothing more than campaign contributions, no matter the cost to the citizenry.

I sent the following letter to Mr. Al Giordano who you may recognize as the man at the center of the Banamex trial to be held in New York this coming July 20 in "the Drug War on Trial". Mr. Giordano has indicated he will take my letter and several others, translate them into the Spanish language and disburse these materials to all those who the ambassador tried to impress with his lies about the American perception of this drug war.

Secretary Powell, you have since the Gulf War had a certain appeal to me as a conservative, yet open type of person. For you sir, it may not be to late to embrace the end of prohibition, to bridge the gap between the lies of today to the truth certain to shine tomorrow. For you, Mr. Ambassador, it may just be too late.

Dean Becker
Drug Policy Forum of Texas, Community Liaison
Houston, Tx

Copy of letter sent to Al Giordano of Narco News in response to
Ambassador Jeffrey Davidows' speech in Mexico:

On June 1, 2001, Jeffrey Davidow gave a speech, asking for a more vigorous drug war. Mr. Davidow does not represent the will of the American people.

The facts are becoming more obvious with each passing day, that the basis, the rationale of the "Drug War" is to provide certain corporate interests with an advantage that could not be realized without these draconian laws. Jeffrey suggests that the government has a right to say how we conduct our lives, that we would be a better people if we would but allow the government to forbid us from deciding for ourselves what is liberty.

Jeffery thinks that because he wants to prevent his children from becoming addicts, it gives him the right to prevent any other adult from making their own, educated choices about drug usage. He thinks that because drugs can cause harm to abusers, that all users deserve punishment, no matter how moderate their use.

When drugs are legal, the cost will be perhaps 1% of the current value, yet Jeffery somehow thinks the black market would still thrive, selling drugs to children for 1% of the current value. I cannot see a situation where many people would risk heavy jail time to make such meager profits. Our jails will have plenty of room to keep such deviants for many years to come.

Again, Jeffery harps on about children gaining access to drugs. "For the children" has been a refrain of the prohibitionist down through the decades of this drug war. Dealers now seek out children so that the enormous profits, which are realized through many small sales, can pay for the sellers drug habit, this must be stopped!

Jeffery also states that Holland has been unsuccessful in their efforts to control drugs and drug users. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only does Holland allow sales of marijuana, but after many years of experience they just recently voted to allow even more marijuana sales outlets. Their experience has shown a small spike of increased usage after legalization, which quickly ebbed back down to the point that they now have the lowest usage rate of any Western country.

Mr. Davidow thinks legalization would create high budgetary costs for governments. Again, he is so very wrong. He seems to think gross national product would go down, that child abuse would go up, that more children would drop out of school and that crime would increase. The man represents all that the US could want in a drug warrior; the willingness to lie, to create scare and innuendo at the drop of a hat. When drugs are regulated, children will not have access to hard drugs without the willing cooperation of an adult willing to do hard time in a now, quite roomy prison cell.

Addicts will no longer have to break into our house or car to steal to support their habits when drugs are 1 cent on the dollar.

The majority of drug users already have jobs, are productive and do contribute to society. Davidow lies!

Mr. Davidow would have us believe that the efforts of the drug war have eliminated more than 50% of the drug users from the US. I cannot believe anything that comes out of their mouths, but I would hazard to say that people are unwilling to admit to drug use in the US, because to do so can lead to a long, mandatory sentence

Jeffery admits that we will never win this war, but he decides it is a fight worth continuing, forever. Each day, we lose hundreds of people to this drug war; though gang wars, rip-offs, overdose on drugs of unknown quality, policemen assassinated, peasants slaughtered in Colombia and through incarceration, we have more than 2 million people in prison in the US alone. Studies have shown that the "orphans" of the drug war are several times more likely to follow their parents into prison.

The laws that Mr. Davidow speaks for were originally designed so as to provide leverage against certain ethnic groups. Laws that provided a way to arrest, deport and otherwise control the lives of minority citizens. The laws against opium were designed to clear the streets of San Francisco of Chinese immigrants. The marijuana laws were designed to control the behaviors of Latin American citizens when testimony in the Montana legislature stated "Give one of these Mexican beet workers a drag from a marijuana cigarette, and he thinks he's been elected president of Mexico and sets out to eliminate his enemies."

In closing, Jeffery asks us not to surrender, to think about the education of our society. I agree, I think we should educate ourselves to the truth of this matter and then make the right decision, end prohibition!

Dean Becker, DPFT

Full Response from Professor

Francisco Gil-White

Ambassador Davidow criticizes the "libertarian point of view, [where] it is said that the government doesn't have the authority to stop people from damaging themselves. . . However, the majority of societies recognize that the authority of the government brings the responsibility to promote and preserve accepted codes of conduct. Although the maximum liberty must be permitted to individuals, the higher interests of society - whether they are safety on the roads or the ethical commitment to protect human life - must be taken into consideration. On the practical level, we must also recognize that evil can use absolute liberty. I myself would have a different point of view with respect to the right of Socrates to drink hemlock, which I sustain in how much and how wise it would be to permit 12-year-old adolescents to be able to acquire alcoholic beverages."

One need not dwell too long on other sections of Ambassador Davidow's speech, for this priceless nugget contains everything that matters in terms of his political philosophy and its application to policy. Let us ask: would Abassador Davidow favor regulation of the access that 12 year-olds have to fat and sugar? Would he endorse laws criminalizing the sale of sweets and junk-food to minors? Would he like to see sugar become a controlled substance? The answer must be yes, because fat and sugar, as the epidemic of obesity seizing America clearly shows, are poisonous in the quantities currently consumed, and they are having negative health effects of historic proportions. And they can be addictive. If Mr. Davidow believes in the abstract principles he defends, he will naturally follow them to this obvious policy conclusion. But if he were to say that regulating access to fat and sugar is a ridiculous idea, then he himself must intuit a fundamental problem with the principles he advances. They bear some examination.

Mr. Davidow is right that the government must enforce certain codes of conduct. However, in the same breath he states that the enforcement regime must obey "the higher interests of society". That is a phrase that any communist dictator would have sympathized with. In communist countries and other non-free societies, it was the higher interests of "society" (whatever that is supposed to mean), rather than the presumably "lower" and definitely contemptible wishes of individuals, that justified policy choices. Yes, the government is there to enforce. What else? That is a truism---an axiom.
Ambassador Davidow should be ashamed to present this empty platitude as a reason for any policy choice. But perhaps it is a proud and deliberate obfuscation, for as Ambassador Davidow surely must know, the thing that matters is what, in a free society, should a government enforce. In a free society, the state bears a very heavy burden of proof when proscribing the choices that its free citizens want to make.

For example, take the enforcement of motor insurance. The reason behind government enforcement of motorist insurance is not that uninsured motorists might not get emergency care and thereby come to harm through their decision not to buy insurance. We all know that emergency care will be provided regardless: we simply are not going to let an agonizing motorist die on the road just because he did not take out an insurance policy. But if an uninsured motorist gets badly hurt, someone will have to pay for his emergency care, and that someone is---guess who?---the taxpayer. Because this represents harm to the taxpayer through decisions not made by the taxpayer, we force people to get insurance if they are going to drive a car. Thus, we do not force motorists to get insurance because the state has a responsibility to protect people from hurting themselves, but because the state has a responsibility to protect affected third-parties (in this case, taxpayers) not involved in the decision of that motorist to get or not insurance. The argument for the regulation of citizen choice depends on the demonstration of significant externalities and on the demonstration that there are fewer externalities with regulation than without it.

All ambassador Davidow tells us is that the consumption of drugs is costly. Clearly this is not enough. What we need to know first is: for whom is the cost? If an action is costly only to those engaging in it, its regulation is unconscionable. The right to choose my own private kind of hell must be one of the most fundamental freedoms---in a free society---because it spares me from the definition of "hell" that one state-sponsored ideology or another might want to "save" me from. Recall that the communist dictatorship of the proletariat was supposed to create a worker's paradise that the workers would not be free to depart from. In a free society the government should never decide what "harm" means. Smoking may cause cancer, but it also brings untold pleasures to those who enjoy it (not myself). Who is the government to decide whether there is a net cost or benefit? Individuals can make that decision themselves. If and only if individuals are smoking in somebody else's airspace, and if and only if those others complain of harm done to them, does the government have a legitimate interest in regulating the activity. Since third-parties have complained about harm being done to them by second-hand smoke, we now regulate smoking in public places.

Presumably Ambassador Davidow would like to go further, and forbid consumption of tobacco entirely. Presumably also, he would like to revisit alcohol prohibition. Not to do so would be inconsistent with his stated principles. He says: "Narcotics are illegal because of the damage they cause, they don't cause damage because they are illegal. . .if only marijuana is legalized, the narco-traffickers will continue their illegal commerce in heroin and cocaine; if the use of drugs were legal for those over 18 years old, the narco-traffickers would try to sell them to minors under 18." If we take his logic seriously, then, we have already committed grave mistakes by allowing tobacco and alcohol to be sold legally to adults. These two substances stand in precisely the same kind of contradiction to illegal drugs as Ambassador Davidow claims marijuana would if legalized. Nay, in greater contradiction: there is no known lethal dose of marijuana, but there is certainly a lethal dose of alcohol, and college students die every year of alcohol poisoning. In fact, no drug kills more people than alcohol. Thus, surely, Ambassador Davidow must favor alcohol recriminalization; nothing else would be consistent with the principles he states.

But this is not the only way to resolve the contradiction. The other way, which Ambassador Davidow takes exception to, is to legalize all drugs. It is true that many drugs carry quite serious consequences when abused (alcohol is, epidemiologically speaking, the most serious of them). I do not plan to abuse such dangerous drugs myself. But many others want to do so, and it is clear after so many years of a "war" on drugs that is not even deserving of the name (for we are outmanned, outgunned, and outspent by several orders of magnitude at every corner) that the "war on drugs" does not affect the rate of consumption or the price of drugs on the market. What it does accomplish is enormous costs to third-parties---people who are not making the decision to take a drug. Such third-parties are people doing their groceries, crossing the street, strolling with their babies, going to school, etc. who are affected in various ways (often lethally) because other people decided to poison themselves and the government decided that it would go to war over the issue. That is not fair to those third parties.

What Ambassador Davidow never does, but should be doing, is argue that the costs to third parties of prosecuting the war on drugs are smaller than the costs of legalization. No other argument would justify the war on drugs. But to make this argument would be to agree to my choice of battlefield with weapons known to be inferior---and that, probably, is why this argument is never even attempted. If this is true, and the proper kind of argument is skirted because the ambassador's preferred policy cannot be thus defended, the ambassador may be less interested in good government than in being "morally right." Good government is really hard. Being morally right is really easy, for each of us gets to circumscribe the terms of the moral debate with prejudice towards our own foregone conclusions, and each of us gets to say that those who disagree with us are evil, rather than free citizens who must agree in order to be governed in a particular manner.

But should Ambassador Davidow choose to defend his preferred policy in the proper court, how well would he do? He would certainly be right if he argued that there are costs to third parties with drug legalization. Notably, the families of serious drug-addicts will suffer, and this is no trifle. However, if the "war on drugs" has only a marginal effect on the demand and supply of drugs, as we know it does, then the conclusion must be that the current policy inflicts on third parties the same costs suffered under a legalized regime, plus the additional costs arising from the prosecution of the drug war. In fact, this is a conservative estimate, because if the focus of policy were to treat drug addiction as a medical, not a criminal, problem, the money saved from the drug war could be devoted to education and treatment, making the costs to the families of addicts much lower than they are now. Currently there are not enough beds to satisfy those who, of their own accord, have come to the government seeking help for drug addiction. Even accepting Ambassador Davidow's principle that the government is supposed to prevent people from hurting themselves, this scandalous deficit proves that, whatever else the current policy might do, it does not even live up to the flawed principle upon which he foists it. Ambassador Davidow's defense of the current policy is thus not only incoherent from the point of view of the principles that must constitute a free society (which Ambassador Davidow presumably does not think he has gone abroad to represent), but does not even live up to the paternalistic and interventionist goal in terms of which he would like to justify it.

One is led to wonder whether other, unstated reasons (perhaps unstated even in the privacy of Ambassador Davidow's mind, for they would be too embarrassing to recognize), are really behind the stubborn adherence to the current policy. Such reasons might be impolitely parodied as follows:

(1)Consumption of drugs is immoral. (Says who? Says the infallible Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments, the first of which is "Though shalt not consume drugs, and if thou art black thou shalt surely pay for it dearly.")

(2) Immoral people are not citizens like you or me.

(3) The State is only supposed to protect moral people.

(4) Moral people are those the state deems to be moral, in its infinite Judeo-Christian wisdom.

But perhaps I am too pessimistic. Something approaching an admission can be found that the real reasons for the current drug policy are nothing more than Ambassador Davidow's moral worldview (which he has no shame in advancing as the moral worldview that everybody should adhere to).

"If I am disposed to fight to the final consequences to protect my sons and avoid that they become drug addicts, I also must have the same disposition to help avoid that the son of another person becomes a drug addict. A society that adopts the position that it must be permitted that those who want to commit suicide using drug can do it has lost much more than the battle against illicit drugs - it has lost its own moral sense."

First, notice that the good ambassador will fight to the "final consequences". I am too afraid to ask what these might be. These are words that Osama bin Laden or Timothy McVeigh (utterly certain as they are in the direction of their moral compass) might have uttered---but an ambassador of the "Land of the Free"? Zealots fight moral battles to their final consequences; responsible statesmen weigh the benefits and costs of their actions, and respect diversity of opinion in their citizenry, rather than turn their personal views into enforceable moral dicta.

Second, notice the entailment which is apparently self-evident to Ambassador Davidow: if he thinks his son ought not to consume a drug, then his neighbor ought by all lights to think the very same thing. Or else that neighbor must go to jail? This is not stated explicitly but it follows given that Ambassador Davidow's preferred method for preventing the neighbor's son from abusing drugs is to treat him as a criminal should he choose to try them. I am not merely poking fun. It must be stated this way because what the ostensible show of compassion in Davidow's quote hides is the possibility of an alternative strategy for helping Davidow's neighbor's son (assuming that this is really what Davidow would like to do). That alternative strategy would recognize that if Davidow's neighbor's son wants to get his hands on drugs, he will do so, and cheaply and easily, regardless of government efforts to the contrary. Making that recognition, the compassionate effort would treat the addiction as a medical problem to which the resources of the interventionist state that Ambassador Davidow favors could then be devoted. The resources in question would be vast if the drug war were abandoned. However, since this compassionate proposal is nowhere to be found, I am forced to conclude that what being "moral" really means (in Ambassador Davidow's world) is not "looking after others," but "identifying immoral people (by Ambassador Davidov's definition) and putting them in jail."

- Francisco Gil-White
Assistant Professor, Psychology
University of Pennsylvania

From David Maurice Shoales

Indeed the prohibition of alcohol in the U.S. did raise the damage to society. It is because that drugs are illegal that damage is caused in the U.S. today. If a family member is using drugs they may still be able to go to work, to be with their children, and to add to the society if its nothing more than fellowship with friends. Put that person in prison and you destroy the family. The family is the foundation of society. The family may lose the bread winner, the companion, the dad who puts the bandage on his daughter's knee. But the prison system gains another human to torture and charge the public for his keep.

Legalization of drugs is not about creating addicts. These people have problems and will have them with or without drugs. According to this logic guns and cars should be outlawed because disturbed people can use them to hurt others. Legalization is about going about life in a sane and human way. Altered states is a necassary componet of the human psyche. We are not little cogs for the rich.

The argument is really about keeping people (workers) hopping and submissive. Ideology and myth is constantly used to keep people (workers) in a daze. We all know the rich are not persecuted for their drug use (see George Bush) it is a war against the poor.

- David Maurice Scholes

From Reber Boult, Esq.

From my perspective as a practitioner in the drug wars (criminal defense lawyer), I've been unable to clearly see a strategy that would significantly reduce drug consumption. But I have clearly seen one thing that is proven year after year to not reduce drug consumption. That thing is what is called "the war on drugs." This is so clear that nobody who knows the area could believe that it significantly reduces drug consumption.

Since the architects of this war know it doesn't serve its asserted purpose, we may wonder what purpose they have in mind. Among the many possibilities, a couple immediately come to mind: 1) reducing the constitutional protections enjoyed by people in the United States; and 2) providing cover for the United States' interference in the affairs of other countries.

But Ambassador Davidow claims to disagree. Presenting sketchy government figures with little context, he says the drug wars are reducing consumption. (The figures are carefully limited the United States; he doesn't claim any hard data on the situation in the countries he's talking to.)

Ambassador Davidow could have told his audience of his government's conclusions on the usefulness of its meager drug war statistics. A March 29, 2001 Reuters dispatch is headlined "Report says U.S. flying blind in war on drugs." The article tells of a report commissioned by the White House in 1998. Reuters says "The report said that the government is hampered by the absence of basic data . . . and that its ability to evaluate its policies is no better now than it was two decades ago when the war on drugs escalated." Professor Charles Manski, the head of the reporting group, is quoted "'"It is unconscionable for this country to continue to carry out a public policy of this magnitude and cost without any way of knowing whether, and to what extent, it is having the desired result.'" The Professor calls for "'more factual and realistic evidence."

That report was commissioned by President Clinton. Reuters reports the Bush Administration's reaction: "Edward Jurith, President George W. Bush's acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said the report was correct in saying that more needs to be done to assure informed anti-drug policies, but said progress has been made in drug research in recent years. 'Armed with accurate information, governments and communities can make wiser policy choices,' Jurith said"

Other studies, too, give the lie to Ambassador Davidow's assertion that the the drug war is reducing drug consumption. Plainly, Ambassador Davidow is a liar.

- Reber Boult
Lawyer in New Mexico, U.S.A.

From Prof. Ted Keller

To the People of Mexico:

A Few Things Ambassador Davidow Forgot to Tell You

Considering the numerous conferences he has to attend, the meetings with your national authorities, the endless phone calls, the frequent trips back to Washington for advice and instruction, and the social functions at which mind-clouding drinks are served, it is understandable if U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow finds little time for sober reflection. His June 1st University of the Valley of Mexico speech opposing legalization of drugs points up the problem. As a social scientist and an Emeritus Professor of International Relations, I therefore offer him my humble assistance.

Let me start by identifying and dispensing with the good Ambassador's weakest propositions. Responding to the libertarian argument that governments have no business controlling what people willingly do to themselves and one another, Mr. Davidow manages to punch himself in the head, claiming: "I myself would have a different point of view with respect to the right of Socrates to drink hemlock."

Unfortunately, in drinking the hemlock old Socrates was not exercising liberty. To the contrary, it was the oppressive Athenian state that ordered him to take the fatal potion, which supports the libertarians' perspective concerning governments and personal freedom, not that of the Ambassador.

Mr. Davidow then observes: "If I am disposed to fight the final consequences to protect my sons and avoid that they become drug addicts, I must also have the same disposition to help avoid that the son of another person becomes a drug addict." This argument, too, is terribly flawed. It seems fair to assume the Ambassador is disposed to insure his own sons receive adequate health care and education. Is he therefore equally prepared to cover those expenses for the sons of others? If so, while he may gain our respect and admiration for adopting such a thoroughly Christian and Communist stance, we have a right to be cynical and to ask for a little proof.

In the last connection, it should also be noted that the children of ambassadors rarely choose to become drug addicts. No sticks are required to prevent them from doing so, since the roads before them are strewn with carrots. Given his expressed concern, we are justified in wondering, then, why the Ambassador does not pressure for the extensive structural changes required to furnish poor sons and daughters in the U.S. and Latin America with similar carrots, rather than confronting them with sticks.

Next, the Ambassador asserts that ending the Drug War would exact a great price. Asking: "Who would be responsible for the social costs of the use of drugs?", he quite logically decides society would have to do so. However, he makes no attempt to demonstrate that the total expense would be less than the tens-of-billions of dollars society already pays to prosecute the Drug War. In addition, he fails to mention the thousands of U.S. homes whose doors have been battered down by police in search of drugs, or the cars, boats, airplanes, houses and other properties they have seized and profitably sold, without benefit of trial and often upon the flimsiest evidence that those who suffered the seizures were actually using, let alone trading in drugs. He neglects to mention the enormous sums of cash taken in the same unconstitutional fashion, or the terrible social cost imposed when hundreds-of-thousands of women with young children are forced to serve long prison sentences for the possession of small quantities of marijuana, heroin or cocaine.

Admittedly, we must concede that, as with the social cost of cigarette smoking, which kills an estimated 400,000 of Mr. Davidow's countrymen yearly while hospitalizing millions more, or the excessive consumption of alcohol which exacts a similar toll, only the whole of society would be able to provide the money and we would all have to help bear the cost. One might even argue it's just that we do so, in view of our hesitancy to make the changes in the socio-economic order required to offer addicts hope instead of dope. The question, then, is not "Who would be responsible?" We would all be responsible, as we already are.

No, the critical question is: What applications should the huge sum of money involved be given? Should it be spent on guns and shackles, prisons and police, or, should it be spent on medical care, education and the construction of new employment opportunities for individuals who will otherwise become addicted?

"If only marijuana is legalized," the Ambassador urges, "the narco-traffickers will continue their illegal commerce in heroin and cocaine." Unhappily, in saying this he gives himself a second punch in the head. Having previously insisted that "the black market in drugs would continue even with legalization," he now implicitly concedes it would not. Judging by the U.S. experience in ending prohibition and Holland's experience with legalizing drugs, it's reasonable to suppose he's correct in assuming the legalization of marijuana would end narco-trafficking in that substance. In the same way, logic argues that legalizing the use of heroin, cocaine and other presently illicit drugs would end their narco-trafficking as well.

At this juncture Mr. Davidow queries: "Does anyone seriously believe that freer access to drugs without any threat of sanction or punishment would have as a consequence a drop in the number of persons that use drugs?" I suggest we grant him this point. Given the existing socio-economic situations in the U.S. and Latin America it seems likely it would not. Conversely, there is no reason to suppose it would lead to a significant increase either. Anyone familiar with the motion picture and music industries is aware that many writers, producers, actors and musicians currently use marijuana, cocaine and other illegal drugs, which they have no difficulty procuring.

Moreover, they find themselves subject to society's control only when, like Robert Downey Jr., their drug use begins to have a very hurtful and public impact upon their work. But when it does, as in the case of Downey or baseball player Darrell Strawberry, we give them sympathy, understanding and treatment, not incarceration, which is precisely what those who seek to legalize drugs want for addicts in general.

If Mexico were to legalize drugs, the Ambassador continues, it would invite drug users from other nations. "A little tolerance toward drugs brings many undesired visitors," he declares. Now, in all probability he is right to assume Mexico would experience an increase in drug-using visitors. On the other hand, it is not at all clear they would be considered "undesirable." By far, the largest percentage of drug-using foreigners who have taken up residence in Holland are neither poor nor prone to violence. In view of its present economic condition, if Mexico legalizes drugs it's more likely to find any resulting influx of foreigners quite welcome.

Insisting drug addiction is necessarily associated with crime, Ambassador Davidow reports: "In 1999, 74 percent of the prisoners in New York City tested positive on drug tests when they were arrested." What makes this particular bit of evidence worthless is that drug possession was the very crime for which many of the prisoners were arrested, making it common sense to suppose the drugs would show in their systems. The Ambassador might have argued many addicts are known to steal in order to acquire the money for purchasing drugs. Of course, that's an observation made by proponents of legalization, who argue a sharp drop in drug prices would ensue, making such theft unnecessary.

Furthermore, Mr. Davidow insists, during the past two decades drug use in the U.S. has declined. While the degree to which (or even whether) it has declined, is hotly debated, let's suppose for the moment that he is correct. It does not automatically follow that the decline is due to our use of prisons and police. Non-drug-related crime in the U.S. is also said to have declined during the same period. However, most sociologists attribute that decline to an improvement in the economy and the attendent increased availability of employment, not to a use of sticks and stones by the state.

Having made the above criticisms, let me turn to a defense of Ambassador Davidow's central thesis. I not only think he's right to conclude the Drug War has advantages, I believe that for some individuals the benefits can be shown to far outweigh any costs. Elemental logic argues if there were no grand-scale benefits the Drug War would not be taking place, that if tomorrow those benefits were to suddenly disappear, both the war and the debate about it would simultaneously cease to exist. The question, then, is not WHETHER the Drug War provides benefits, but FOR WHOM, HOW and BY HOW MUCH it does so. In brief, we need to identify just who it is that profits from keeping drugs illegal and waging a national and international war against them.

Domestically, of course, those reaping great profit from the Drug War include police authorities and organizations of every kind and dimension, including the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the Coast Guard, county sheriffs' offices, city police departments and other law enforcement institutions. The profiteers also include major to minor contractors engaged in building prisons, those who guard the prisoners, and myriad manufacturers who furnish the police with ever-increasing quantities of guns, batons, battering rams, mace and pepper spray, uniforms, helmets, bullet proof vests, stun guns, handcuffs, sophisticated high-tech surveying devices and specially-equipped cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles. They include hundreds-of-thousands of young men and women who work as prison guards at incomes which, while modest, are much higher than the generally not well educated individuals who perform such tasks could earn doing other things. Many U.S. towns and cities actively compete to determine which of them will become the site of a prison and secure the considerable benefits involved.

In addition, the U.S. prison system is rapidly being privatized, with big money operators investing in the construction of jails to house cooperative and non-violent prisoners serving long sentences; a semi-slave work force paid less than Third World incomes to manufacture an expanding array of saleable goods. The fast-growing U.S. prison industries are proving to be a gold mine for investors, and the Drug War provides them with an indispensable justification, much as racism provided tobacco and cotton plantation owners the rationale vital for maintaining their own highly profitable operations for more than 150 years.

Then, there are the U.S. weapons manufacturers. Having suffered a major loss in sales when the Cold War came to a close, the billions-of-dollars in helicopters, planes, guns and other weaponry being given to Colombia, Ecuador and Peru alone makes the Drug War logic used to justify that undertaking essential. Carrying out the Drug War abroad also benefits many Americans of lesser rank, including Navy Seals, Green Berets, Army pilots, and civilian soldiers of war, who not only train, but often direct their Latin American counterparts in battle.

Most important of all, like the Cold War it replaces, the Drug War furnishes U.S. raw-material, agricultural, communications, banking and other industries with huge investments in Latin America the logic vital for protecting those investments. As many Mexicans know well, when elite U.S. and Latin American interests fought their Cold War against communism in the hemisphere they reflexively defined as "communist" any policy, program or individual that threatened them with expropriation, including moderate laws, politicians, educators, doctors, lawyers, priests and nuns. Most of the so-called "communists" envisioned financing a Latin American industrial revolution with funds to be obtained by taking over, in whole or in part, the profits from such quasi-feudal operations. Since the weakly industrialized economies of many Latin American countries continue to be incapable of providing employment for their growing populations, the threat of a revolutionary expropriation remains. Hence, the importance of the Drug War for major U.S. interests. Simply stated, since the raw-material/agricultural economies which currently provide trillions-of-dollars in profit to both U.S. and Latin American elites each year are unable to feed, house and clothe all their peoples, since, as in Colombia, the dispossessed consequently begin to entertain thoughts of revolution, defending the elite interests requires that the revolutionaries be either killed or beaten into submission. Too, as noted, besides being critical for defending a variety of hegemonic U.S. and Latin American interests, the killing and beating is itself profitable for many other individuals.

Able to tap a large and growing portion of U.S. Drug War monies, brutal
Colombian paramilitary operatives find they can offer dirt poor and unemployed young men food, uniforms, guns and enticing incomes to carry out the requisite genocidal killing, while simultaneously securing an otherwise elusive upscale life style for themselves. No doubt Ambassador Davidow would have explained all the above nuances of the Drug War, if only his schedule were a little less demanding.

- Ted Keller

A brief addendum to the lengthy piece sent in yesterday:

Re Davidow's: "If I am disposed to fight the final consequence to protect my sons and avoid that they become drug addicts, I also must have the same disposition to help avoid that the son of another person becomes a drug addict." Who is so naive as to believe that if one of the his sons did become a drug addict the Ambassador would "fight" to have him suffer the punishment he presently "fights" to impose on the sons of others, arrest and imprisonment."

- Ted Keller, Emeritus Professor of International Relations
San Francisco State University

From Kevin Hebert

Dear Mr. Giordano,

Thank you so much for your translation of Gustavo de Greiff's speech in Mexico City, "Plan Colombia and the War on Drugs". It was a fitting rebuttal to the speech by Jeffrey Davidow earlier in the month.

I have become completely convinced that the federal war on drugs conducted by the United States government is causing far more harm than the drugs themselves. In a nation where 400,000 die from using tobacco, a legal, taxed, government subsidized product, why do we wage a war on other drugs -- ones that cause a total of 15,000 or so deaths a year?

Like de Grieff, I am convinced that the answer is politics. The United States has no right to try and intervene in Colombian or Mexican politics, any more than we would expect the Colombians or Mexicans to interfere in the politics of our country.

We need new, better answers. The only answer that makes logical sense is legalization and regulation of drugs. Surely the adult that can be trusted with a liter of distilled liquor can also be trusted with marijuana or other drugs for personal use.

I do not trust my government as I once did, and it is due to the war on drugs. I feel we are hypocritical to put people in jail for choosing the type of intoxicants they use. Furthermore, it should be plainly obvious to anyone with eyes and ears that the damage done to society by putting millions of people in jail is far greater than that done by drugs.

I applaud your continuing courage in exposing the war on drugs for what it really is: an excuse for the federal government of the United States to gain control over other sovereign nation's internal affairs, as well as the affairs of the citizens of the United States.

The war on drugs cannot last forever. The United States government is elected by the people, and one day -- and, God willing, one day soon -- the people will realize they do not have to elect a government that rules them. We have the right to live the way we choose in our own homes, and elected leaders who do not realize this basic freedom exists will have to find work elsewhere.

Thank you again for your thorough and truthful coverage of the effects of the war on drugs in Latin America.


Kevin M. Hebert
Chicopee, MA, USA

Full Response from Professor

Lyn Isbell


This speech is rife with inaccuracy and doubletalk, but let's start with its flimsy beginning.

Ambassador Davidow states his anti-legalization premise in language that trivializes a deadly problem: "Each of us has listened to somebody say . . . that we should simply legalize drugs with the goal that society would no longer be bothered by the problem of confronting the narco traffickers." This characterization of the motive to legalize drugs is obscenely dismissive and indicates the ambassador is either obtuse or grossly insensitive.

I have edited Ambassador Davidow's statement with more accurate words: "Each of us has listened to somebody say that we should finally legalize drugs with the goal that society would no longer be terrorized by the problem of being robbed by or being physically intimidated by or kidnapped and tortured by the drug traffickers, or losing more innocent lives to them, or watching our government give into them because they have more money, power, and arms than our nation has."

But Ambassador Davidow is completely out of touch with the real problems caused by illegal drugs in Mexico. Throughout, he speaks abstractly, as though his audience were affluent students in a college class somewhere in the suburban U.S., where the issue of legalization is (currently) more academic. He shows no understanding of the bloody civil strife, the ruination of legal economies, and senseless loss of innocent lives narco traffic has wrought upon Mexico and the other Americas.

Ambassador Davidow's academic argument isn't very good either, but this is certainly in keeping with the quality of debate by the C average leadership we enjoy in the present administration. Take, for example, this excerpt from his fifth paragraph:

On the practical level, we must also recognize that evil can use absolute liberty. I myself would have a different point of view with respect to the right of Socrates to drink hemlock, which I sustain in how much and how wise it would be to permit 12-year-old adolescents to be able to acquire alcoholic beverages.

First, arguing that one abstract concept (evil) can "use" another abstract concept (absolute liberty) does not constitute a valid argument by the stretch of anyone's imagination. Further, Ambassador Davidow fails to illustrate or support what he means but instead leaps wildly to questioning the "right" (?) of Socrates to drink hemlock and throws in a red herring about 12-year-olds buying alcohol--without connecting either of these examples to evil or absolute liberty. (Is anyone anywhere proposing that 12-year-olds be allowed to buy alcohol? I think not.)

Of course, as most of us learned in 7th grade history, Socrates was forced to drink hemlock, a death sentence imposed on him by the state to punish him for supposedly corrupting the morals of Athenian youth. Yes, the old man could possibly have escaped this fate because he had many friends willing to smuggle him out of Athens. But he would have been exiled, never able to return home, a fate worse than death for most old people. To characterize this dilemma as the "right" of Socrates to drink hemlock is as specious as saying we are "bothered" by the problem of "confronting" narco traffickers.

- Lyn Isbell


Etzkorn Replies



"Those of us who have something do with the education of our societies cannot surrender," to quote Davidow.

Less than honorable Davidow's ignorance points out only too well he belongs… with the likes of Pinochet, and Kissinger.

As an artist I point out that the American barbaric pot laws are but mere illegal enactments per violation of my artistic, cultural and religious liberties. Having engaged an ancient art form of the Mesoamerican and Andean to the point of isolating vast levels of perception some of which require the usage of marijuana or hashish usage of sweet mary jane is indeed legal, hence a violation of huge proportion to hold others in our amerikan gulags.

- Etzkorn


From Bob Reed

Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow has trotted out the usual tangled snarl of evasions, half-truths, hypothetical worst-case scenarios, selective use of statistical evidence (including data which is inherently unreliable due to its request of self-report of illegal conduct), and other obfuscations to defend the staggeringly costly, inherently totalitarian, and manifestly ineffective measures that have comprised the U.S. "Zero Tolerance" war on drugs for decades. His unctuous appeal to "save the young people" is particularly misleading, it being the case that the illegal marketplace not only has no provision for age restrictions on consumers, but is often staffed at the street retail level by teenagers, and it is the young who are most often negatively affected by the consequences of the illegal marketplace, from assaults and murders connected to turf wars, to the stigma of criminal convictions, to incarceration and the prospect of becoming the victims of violence, brutality, and prison rape- the last phenomenon alone presently occuring in overcrowded U.S. jails and prisons at the rate of tens of thousands every year. It would take many more than one or two paragraphs to detail all of my objections to his disingenuous remarks, so I'll confine myself to detailing a rational "middle-path" alternative between Zero Tolerance and outright over-the-counter legalization of the most dangerous and lethal substances.

Almost all of the trepidations that Ambassador Davidow alludes to in regard to drug legalization could be addressed in the following manner:

First, allow the possession of personal-use amounts of cannabis, and allow personal cultivation of small amounts- up to 20 plants, perhaps. This would allow people to possess and consume this relatively non-toxic substance without making it a mass-market consumer commodity. It would also sever the most important linkage that makes cannabis a "gateway drug". While cannabis usually isn't the first mind-altering drug used by young people- typically, alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine beverages are all used first- it is a gateway drug in this sense: it is the gateway to the illegal marketplace staffed by an underground of criminal profiteers. If this were not the case, few people would become intitiated into the ways of the contraband marketplace. Presently, U.S. law allows for the manufacture of personal-use quantities of alcohol in the form of beer and wine (up to 200 gallons, I believe); a similar provision can be made for small quantities of marijuana. As cannabis is a singularly non-lethal psychoactive substance (even less toxic than many common houseplants such as chrysanthemums and hydrangea) it presents relatively trivial problems, either to its users or to society at large, once the criminal stigma is removed. Despite this fact, count on the defenders of totalitarian drug prohibition to use every exaggeration to defend its continued criminalization- most of them would probably even prefer a commercial market in marijuana, controlled by huge corporate monopolies (using, perhaps, a patented Monsanto variety), rather than the libertarian de-commercialization of the plant which I have suggested.

Second, allow controlled legalization of coca and opiates, in dilute and non-lethal preparations such as tea, beverages and elixirs. Controls would include age restrictions, taxes, licenses, zoning restrictions, and limts on the quantity available for purchase. Both coca and opium can be compounded into forms that would make extraction of the pure chemicals costly, time-consuming, and difficult to accomplish. The effects of the dilute raw substances, both on body and mind, are significantly less powerful and toxic than their refined counterparts (although they are undeniably noticeable enough to provide competition for much of the consumer demand, as there are many who would be satisfied with a milder effect from these substances that that provided by powder cocaine, crack, or refined opiates). The danger of overdosage would decrease, in comparison to the use of the concentrated contraband powders. At present, the extracted compounds which presently have such widespread availability under what is laughably called "Zero Tolerance" are of unknown purity and strength, much like the poison liquor of alcohol Prohibition, which killed an estimated 40,000 people, and crippled and blinded hundreds of thousands more, during the 13 years that Prohibition was in effect. The controlled access to legal products of assured purity and strength would act to lower the demand in the illegal marketplace. Mild legal opiates would also allow those already addicted to obtain some relief for the maintenance of their addiction without the necessity to provide profits to the criminal underground. In regard to the use of coca, coca tea was in fact available in the U.S. for a time beginning in the late 1970s, and tens of thousands of boxes were sold until the mid-1980s, when it was discovered that the exporters had not de-cocainized the leaves. The DEA demanded that the shelves of retailers, mostly natural foods stores, be cleared of this product, although there were no reports of any harm whatsoever connected with the use of this mild stimulant. (The illegal cocaine supply, by comparison, remained unabated, and it is quite likely that the ban on coca tea actually increased the demand for the more powerful refined substance.)

Third, buy the excess coca and opium crop at the source in producing nations around the world and destroy it, while making provisions for alternative crop development. This could be accomplished for a fraction of the current U.S. Federal budget for anti-drug efforts. This course was suggested by, among others, former DEA agent Michael Levine, in regard to the coca crop in South America. It was also brought up by the Khun Sa of Burma, at one time the largest heroin trafficker in the world, in the 1980s. However, he was turned down by the U.S. government, which apparently prefers to each year spend 10 times the money that such a program would require, in order to fund repressive and totalitarian measures which have been utterly ineffective in curbing the illicit drugs industry.

Fourth, rather than stuffing the prisons with low-level retail dealers, shut down the retail trade wih a policy of confiscation of the contraband. Police, courts, jailers, and jails would no longer need to waste huge amounts of time and energy in arrests, bookings, hearings, trials, and incarceration for the lowest level sellers and buyers. Instead, law enforcement could simply confiscate the drugs, which would deprive the dealers of their product, the source of their income, with a minimum of effort. I know of no business which can long survive when their inventory is continually being confiscated. Over time, and in concert with other recommendations above, the street drug trade would become much less lucrative, without criminalizing huge populations of people attracted to easy money from the illicit drugs trade. This strategy has been recommended by, among others, former San Jose police chief Joseph MacNamara, a knowledgeable common-sense conservative with the Hoover Institution who would be a far superior choice for the post so laughably referred to as "drug czar", in the place of the present nominee, John Walters, who is an ignoramus and political hack.

Please note that these recommendations would not amount to full-scale legalization of the hard drugs. When all of these measures are applied together, however,they would diminish the market for illegal hard drugs substantially, and return the problem to a scale which could be addressed more effectively. Just as the U.S. government maintains criminal enforcement of anti-bootlegging of alcohol, Customs and drug agents would still be needed to contend with the remaining unregulated traffic in the hard powder drugs.

Unfortunately, due to the widespread economic, political, and law enforcement corruption connected to this huge business nowadays, I have little doubt that even the most reasonable and easy-to-achieve provision which I have outlined, the first one, will be fought tooth and nail by the defenders of the status quo.

- Bob Reed, Narconews supporter

From Tom Barrus


Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow <>,

My name is Tom Barrus. I am a Pharmacist by education, training, and experience, although I am not currently practicing as a Pharmacist. I also have a MBA degree. I am writing to you in response to your speech of 2001Jun01, "A Closer Look at the Legalization of Drugs".

You said:

[A society that adopts the position that it must be permitted that those who want to commit suicide using drugs can do it, has lost much more than the battle against illicit drugs - it has lost its own moral sense.]

Are you saying that the United States of America has "lost its own moral sense" because the federal government permits those who want to commit suicide using the two most deadly and dangerous of ALL drugs, tobacco and alcohol, to do so?

You said:

[The first and fundamental is the profound damage that the drugs cause to the people who use them. Narcotics are illegal because of the damage they cause, they don't cause damage because they are illegal.]

The damage caused by the use of tobacco or alcohol is much greater and profound in terms of morbidity and mortality than similar, but less harmful drugs like cocaine or heroin. Cocaine and heroin use, adulterated, impure, and misbranded, due to the failure of the federal government to regulate these drugs, accounts for about 15,000 drug deaths annually in the US. By comparison, tobacco drug use accounts for over 450,000 drug deaths annually, and alcohol drug use accounts for over 80,000 drug deaths annually in the US. So, if it is true that "Narcotics are illegal because of the damage they cause, they don't cause damage because they are illegal.", why are the two most deadly and dangerous of ALL drugs, tobacco and alcohol, exempt from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) {21 USC 802 (6)}, when these two hard drugs account for the most damage of any drug?

You said:

[The number of addicts of nicotine and alcohol in my country counts tens of millions. Does anyone seriously believe that freer access to drugs without any threat of sanction or punishment would have as a consequence a drop in the number of persons that use drugs?]

If you are serious about wanting to see a "drop in the number of persons that use drugs", why are there no threats of sanction or punishment as a consequence of tobacco or alcohol drug use? Is the reason that there are "tens of millions" of tobacco and alcohol drug users in the US, a direct consequence of the freer access that people have to these hard drugs, as a result of their being exempt from the drug laws? If so, what is the reason that these hard drugs are exempt from the drug laws of this country? Can we expect Mexico to take us seriously in our war on drugs if we exempt with no rational basis the two most deadly and dangerous of ALL drugs, tobacco and alcohol, from our own drug laws? Won't they think that we must be either fools or dishonest hypocrites to surrender to the tobacco and alcohol drug lords by exempting their drugs from the drug laws? On what basis are tobacco and alcohol exempt from US drug laws when they are the most harmful drugs? Can you tell the difference between right and wrong?

You said:

[In a very important manner, those who favor the legalization of drugs ignore the devastating social consequences that this would cause.]

Why do you favor the legalization of the two most deadly and dangerous of ALL drugs, tobacco and alcohol? Why do you ignore the devastating social consequences that this drug legalization is causing right now?

You said:

[However, the fact is that currently the use of drugs has diminished considerably in the United States over the past 20 years. ...
In other words, the number of U.S. citizens that use drugs was reduced by almost 50 percent in the past two decades.]

Why do you ignore the fact that the use of tobacco and alcohol has either remained steady or has actually increased over the past 20 years? Don't you know that tobacco and alcohol are drugs? Aren't teenagers actually showing an increase in the use of tobacco over the last 20 years?

You said:

[Also, the problem of consumption of drugs is increasingly affecting more nations, including Mexico. Do we really want to make the situation worse by legalizing drugs?]

Why have you made the situation worse by legalizing the two most deadly and dangerous of ALL drugs, tobacco and alcohol?

You said:

[The costs that we would pay for being conformists and resigned would be too high; they would be measured on the basis of the decline of our cultures and would be counted by the number of lives destroyed.]

Wouldn't you say that a government that is so fundamentally dishonest, irrational, inconsistent, unjust, immoral, evil, and contemptuous of the rule of law as to exempt the two most deadly and dangerous of ALL drugs, tobacco and alcohol, from every drug and consumer protection law with no rational justification in doing so, shows a real and pronounced decline in its culture? Let's recount the number of lives destroyed by tobacco and alcohol, over 450,000 and 80,000 annually, respectively - and this counts only the deaths from the use of these hard drugs, not the dollar amounts involved. You don't seem concerned at all over this carnage, yet you get hysterical over a medicinal herb whose use accounts for no deaths at all, cannabis. Why?

You said:

[Those of us who have something to do with the education of our societies cannot surrender.]

But you have already surrendered to the tobacco and alcohol drug lords, Philip Morris and Anheuser-Busch, et al. So, why not surrender to the rest of them as well? Or, why not include the two most deadly and dangerous of ALL drugs, tobacco and alcohol, in the ongoing perpetual fight against drugs? Why cannot you and the federal government be honest and consistent about drugs, including tobacco and alcohol?

Why not fight against the commerce of the drugs tobacco and alcohol for much of the future, just as we do against other kinds of crimes?

Please send your written response to me within seven (7) days of the receipt of this email. Please answer every question asked. Both an email and US mail response is requested.

Please note that I am copying the State Department in this message. I expect that they will want to send me a response in addition to your own response, and I ask them to do so.


- Tom Barrus, Pharmacist & MBA
Golden, CO

From Larry Seguin

To the editor;

U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow must have had his speech faxed from the Office of National Drug Control Policy! The speech has all the characteristics of the propaganda the U.S. citizens have heard from General Barry McCaffrey for the pass five years!

The usual of referring to marijuana then going off on to the horrors of so called hard drugs. Before the war on marijuana, hard drugs were seldom heard of. To decriminalize marijuana would make the drug war a pillow fight. The U.S. has to have marijuana in the drug war, to have a drug war!

A New Zealand parliamentary select committee began hearing testimony on whether to decriminalize the drug. Already, the inquiry has generated over 500 submissions. A 1998 government commission on the mental health effects of marijuana concluded, "Occasional cannabis use presents few risks to the mental health of most adult users," and acknowledged that "prohibition enforced by traditional crime control methods has not been successful in reducing the apparent number of cannabis users."

In Canada, strong public and political support now favors removing criminal penalties for pot possession. Nearly 50 percent of the public favor legalizing it - up from 24 percent in 1990 - and the House of Commons recently voted to commence an 18-month inquiry to study the issue.

In the Netherlands, where the use, growth and sale of marijuana is tolerated, usage statistics are significantly lower than in Canada or the United States, including youth.


- Larry Seguin
Lisbon, New York

From John Wanless

Thank you so much for the opportunity to participate in this crucial debate! Without further delay:

Davidow says the government has the right to prevent people from harming themselves because most societies feel that government should "promote and preserve accepted codes of conduct."

First of all, he makes the unstated assumption that government has the ability and rightful role of deciding what self-harming activities it can police. This ignores the great hypocrisy that the government graciously permits the use of the two drugs that cause the most destruction - alcohol and tobacco, while the substance that causes the LEAST damage - marijuana - is the one that the most people are persecuted for - 700,000 arrests each year!

Even if we did concede that consuming marijuana is a significant harm (which we don't) we have already seen in the 1920s that prohibition does not reduce use and only creates more death and corruption of society.

And to say that government should have the role of promoting and preserving "accepted modes of conduct" is ridiculous on the surface since accepted conduct is always a standard in flux, especially in these times of rapid change.
Looking deeper at that statement reveals where the real "evil" is because the accepted conduct the government wants to protect is an attitude that it created by the great demonization of marijuana beginnining in the 1930s primarily with the bigoted zeal of the bureaucratic empire builder, Harry Anslinger.

For thousands of years prior to this date, marijuana was not only accepted, but considered a valuable natural medicine. Only the full force of the world's greatest propaganda machine could temporarily blind the populace to its true benign and beneficial nature.

He then states these "higher interests of society" are on a par with road saftey and protecting life in general and compares illicit drug use with committing suicide (Socrates and his hemlock).

To ascribe this level of degree of harm to marijuana is simply a bald-faced lie. In 1999, the White House Office of Drug Control Policy commissioned a review by the prestigious Institute of Medicine of the scientific evidence of marijuana's harms and benefits.

It concluded that there do exist valid medical uses for marijuana and that all the (propaganda induced) perceptions of it's harms were unfounded. They did say that inhaling marijuana smoke was likely (not proven) to be harmful to the lungs, but, throwing a bone to the Drug Czar, did not mention that even this questionable harm can be avoided by eating and drinking preparations of marijuana or by using a vaporizer.

The simple fact is there is no greater injustice in this country than the government persecution of millions of people who use marijuana -a substance that has caused not a single death - while the great killers - alcohol and tobacco are not only permitted, but in many instances, openly promoted.

- John Wanless
Four year participant in the New York Times Drug Policy Forum.

From Duane Grindstaff

Although there are many flaws in the Ambassador's speech and many of them would be obvious to most readers, I believe that one area that many people may not be aware of is a correction to his statement, "A fundamental element of the debate on legalization is the affirmation that the consumption of drugs and drug addiction would not rise if they are legalized. This is evidently false. The consumption of alcoholic drinks rose in an important way after their prohibition was abolished in the USA."

While it is true that alcohol prohibition reduced alcohol consumption, people who have not studied the history of this era may not be aware that although alcohol prohibition reduced alcohol consumption it changed alcohol's purpose from a drug of relaxation and socialization to a drug whose sole purpose was to get drunk. That is one reason that there was a large movement to repeal alcohol prohibition. Although overall consumption went down, problem drinking increased.

Prohibitionists need to decide if their goals are to minimize drug use with an increase in problem drug use (use that causes problems for the user and people associated with the user), or to minimize problem drug use while accepting an increase in casual use. History and studies of other cultures shows that we can never minimize both, except that Holland shows much less casual use than other countries and virtually no problem use due to its removal of "forbidden fruit" status for marijuana.

Duane Grindstaff
Kent, WA

From a Wisconson Reader


Mr. Davidow ignores the fact that there is presently more crack cocaine and other dangerous drugs on the streets today than at any time in history.

This is a situation that allows anybody who uses these drugs to have an unlimited supply of these drugs available to them despite the billions of tax dollars wasted on the war on drugs. Further, a child has a much easier time obtaining illegal drugs than regulated substances like alcohol or even cigarettes.

Next, nobody except the most logical objective thinkers want drugs legalized. Not the cops, who enjoy the most sought after positions in any police department - the narco assignment where they are largely unaccountable to the citizens, control their own workload in the dark sexy underground world of undercover duty with great power and discretion,
informants and even corruption opportunity. These officers cry discrimination and unfairness when they are asked to put on a uniform and help a citizen knab a burglar or purse-snatcher. Not the prosecutors or judges or myriad others in the system enjoying the steady stream of tax dollars supporting the narco-industrial complex. Not the drug user who
would rather obtain the most potent form of the drug of their choice, unregulated and readily available on most street corners. And certainly not the drug trafficker profiting daily tax free and subject to none of the regulations of other forms of commerce.

As far as Davidow's claim that drugs cause the violence, does he recall that the last time we experienced the level of street gangland violence we have had for the last 20 years was during the era of prohibition? It took legalization and regulation to put Al Capone out of business.. It is well known that about 80% of the homicides are drug turf war related. This is due to drug laws not the drugs themselves. When is the last time someone was killed in connection with the
distribution of alcohol or tobacco.

In response to the assertion that legalization would cause an increase in use, look at tobacco whose use has plummeted from about 75% of the population to under 25%. This highly addictive and dangerous drug is being brought under control by respecting individuals intelligence to make choices about their bodies after being given accurate information about the health risks. Also corporations are being held accountable to market safe products or pay huge damage judgments in this area. With illegal drugs, these dangerous products are allowed to freely flow into every community and
even into every prison and jail. The natural consequence of prohibition is for the product to be marketed in its most pure form. Recall moonshine that killed people. Today, heroin in unheard of purity levels is killing our youth.

From Wisconson

From Richard Glen Boire, J.D.

In his speech "A Closer Look at the Legalization of Drugs," Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow does his best to discredit the growing number of citizens in the US and Mexico who are calling for an end to the so-called "Drug War."

As the Executive Director of a civil rights organization focused on cognitive liberty, I write to comment on what Ambassador Davidow calls the "philosophical argument that the government does not have a right to say to the citizens how they should conduct their private lives." While acknowledging that this is "very attractive reasoning," Davidow goes on to assert that "although the maximum liberty must be permitted to individuals, the higher interests of society - whether they are safety on the roads or the ethical commitment to protect human life - must be taken into consideration." He then goes on to implicitly equate drug use with drug abuse, and even suicide.

Ambassador Davidow's reasoning is as convoluted as our national drug policy. By inaccurately painting all drug use as necessarily producing violent behavior or socially dangerous conduct. Amassador Davidow does an end-run around the very philosophical issue that he claims to address; namely; why should the government be granted the power to police the minds of its citizens?

Drug laws are not about dangerous behavior, or violent conduct. They should be, but they're not. The national drug prohibition laws make drug use a crime regardless of the person's behavior. A responsible adult who smokes a marijuana joint in his home, or who takes a capsule of MDMA (ecstasy) with his spouse on a quite Friday evening, faces the prospect of having armed government agents kick down the front door.

The vast majority of adults use drugs responsibly -whether the drug be legal like alcohol, and Vicodin, or illegal like LSD or marijuana. Indeed, were it not for a host of invasive law enforcement tactics and tools such as confidential informants, wiretaps, electronic surveillance, undercover sting operations, and drug testing, it would be almost impossible for the government to determine who is using illegal drugs and who is not. Clearly, the war on drugs is not about behavior.

People (whether using a drug or not) who engage in physical conduct that harms other people, or which places other people in harm's way ought to be policed. Indeed, we already have laws that make it a crime to commit violent acts or to engage in conduct (such as driving while intoxicated) that endanger another person. But, people who responsibly use a drug -- who do nothing more than occasion an alternative state of consciousness and whose conduct poses no threat to others, should be permitted to live in peace.

Backed by the power of the State, the law should police dangerous conduct not mental states. The two are not equivalent by any means, and falsely equating them, as does Ambassador Davidow, leads to a world at war with human nature and Nature itself, a world in which the police truly become "Thought Police," and "Thought Crime" is not just the stuff of novels.

Richard Glen Boire, J.D.
Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics

From Gabriel Rey-Goodlatte


"Does any serious person want to make it easier for youths to obtain drugs? I don't think so. However, this would be the inevitable result of legalization." (from Davidow Speech)

As a youth (I am 17), I disagree. Ask any teenager whether it is generally easier for teenagers to get illegal drugs or alchohol, and most teenagers will tell you that illegal drugs are more easily obtainable. The age-restricted legalization and standardization of drugs would probably make it harder for young people to obtain drugs.

The legalization of drugs would create a legal market for drugs.

Unleashing the juggernaut of American capitalism on the tremendous market for drugs which already exists would all but destroy the illegal drug trade. Drugs would be available in stores, but only to people with identification to show that they are old enough to buy drugs or alchol.

Drugs would probably be unobtainable by other means, and this would make it harder for minors to get their hands on drugs.

-Gabriel Rey-Goodlatte
Chicago, IL


From Art Clack

Davidow says that "Narcotics are illegal because of the damage they cause, they don't cause damage because they are illegal."

He is wrong. My father was assaulted by college students harvesting wild marijuana on a neighbor's property. The assault did not occur because they were using marijuana. The assault did not occur because they were trespassing. The assault occurred because the drug laws make attempted murder less expensive than being caught with marijuana. Narcotics MAY cause damage. Drug prohibition DOES cause damage.

- Art Clack

From Michael Gouge

"Anti-American Sentiment from the American Ambassador"

In Mr. Davidow's Speech the man who is responsible for representing the United States he lets his anti-drug dogma possess him to such a degree that he derides those three values so intrinsic to the heart of United States, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. His corrupt logic states that the Government has the moral obligation to deprive certain individuals of their ability to pursue personal happiness unmolested, steal from hundreds of thousands of Americans their liberty, and in a few cases of no-knock raids gone wrong, rob the lives of their citizens, all in their zeal to purify America from drug-users.

The sense of nationalism, all the misleading Propaganda, the specially armed secret police of the dea, the imprisonment of certain members of society because of a single difference in lifestyle reminds me of a unforgettable era in another country, the 1930's in a place called Germany. The drug warriors have become so focused on the war, they have forgotten everything this nation was dreamt to be so long ago, and in addition have created millions of nightmarish lives for citizens of this country, and those that stretch beyond its borders. My heart aches with this knowledge for the dream of a free America, a free Mexico, A free Columbia, a free world has not been exstinguished from my most private innards. Mr. Davidow you are just a uniform away from being an American Nazi.

- Michael Gouge

From Carl Condit

Greetings! Glad to see things are going so well on the Great Debate! We loved having you in Santa Fe. In response to Ambassador Davidow's arguments against legalization of drugs, I would like to pass along the text of Chapter 33 of Licit & Illicit Drugs: The Consumers Union Report on Narcotics, Stimulants, Depressants, Inhalants, Hallucinogens & Marijuana - including Caffeine, Nicotine and Alcohol (full title) by Edward M. Brecher and the Editors of Consumer Reports, published in 1972. (Little, Brown) It's only two pages long. (Everyone interested in the issue of drugs should know about this book - it's comprehensive, extremely well-written, and in spite of being published almost thirty years ago, thoroughly relevant to today. Nothing has changed; the only significant development since then has been the invention of crack.) Perhaps some of this chapter will be useful in the Great Debate.

-Carl Condit
Santa Fe, NM

From cited Consumers Union Report:

33. Why alcohol should not be prohibited

In contrast to the many logical arguments in favor of alcohol prohibition, the one decisive argument against such a measure is purely pragmatic: prohibition doesn't work. It should work, but it doesn't.

The evidence, of course, was accumulated during the thirteen-year period 1920-1933. The arguments in favor of prohibition before 1920 were overwhelming. The Eighteenth (Prohibition) Amendment passed both houses of Congress by the required two-thirds majority in December 1917, and was ratified by the required three-fourths of the forty-eight state legislatures a bare thirteen months later. After experiencing alcohol prohibition for thirteen years, however, the nation rebelled. The Twenty-first (Prohibition Repeal) Amendment passed both houses of Congress by the required two-thirds majority in February 1933 - and this time it took less than ten months to secure ratification by three-fourths of the forty-eight state legislatures.

Alcohol prohibition was not repealed because people decided that alcohol was a harmless drug. On the contrary, the United States learned during Prohibition, even more than in prior decades, the true horrors of the drug. What brought about Repeal was the slowly dawning awareness that alcohol prohibition wasn't working.

Alcohol remained available during Prohibition. People still got drunk, still became alcoholics, still suffered delirium tremens. Drunken drivers remained a frequent menace on the highways. Drunks continued to commit suicide, to kill others, and to be killed by others. They continued to beat their own children, sometimes fatally. The courts, jails, hospitals, and mental hospitals were still filled with drunks. In some respects and in some parts of the country, perhaps, the situation was a little better during Prohibition - but in other respects it was unquestionably worse.

Instead of consuming alcoholic beverages manufactured under the safeguards of state and federal standards, for example, people now drank "rotgut," some of it adulterated, some of it contaminated. The use of methyl alcohol, a poison, because ethyl alcohol was unavailable or too costly, led to blindness and death; "ginger jake," an adulterant found in bootleg beverages, produced paralysis and death. The disreputable saloon was replaced by the even less savory speakeasy. There was a shift from relatively mild light wines and beers to hard liquors - less bulky and therefore less hazardous to manufacture, transport, and sell on the black market. Young people - and especially respectable young women, who rarely got drunk in public before 1920 - now staggered out of speakeasies and reeled down the streets.

There were legal closing hours for saloons; the speakeasies stayed open night and day. Organized crime syndicates took control of alcohol distribution, establishing power bases that (it is alleged) still survive. Marijuana, a drug previously little used in the United States, was first popularized during the period of alcohol Prohibition; and ether was also imbibed. The use of other drugs increased, too; coffee consumption, for example, soard from 9 pounds per capita in 1919 to 12.9 pounds in 1920. The list is long and could be lengthened - but we need not belabor the obvious.

During the early years of alcohol Prohibition, it was argued that all that was wrong was lack of effective law enforcement. So enforcement budgets were increased, more Prohibition agents were hired, arrests were facilitated by giving agents more power, penalties were escalated. Prohibition still didn't work.

The United States thus learned its lesson - with respect to alcohol. More remarkable, the mere memory of Prohibition, forty years after Repeal, it is still so repellent that no proposal to revive it would be taken seriously. Since alcohol is treated as a nondrug, however, the relevance of the lesson to other drug prohibitions has been overlooked.

The Twenty-first (Repeal) Amendment left power in the states to retain statewide alcohol prohibition - and made it a federal offense to ship alcoholic beverages into a dry state. Statewide alcohol prohibition, however, failed like national prohibition. State after state repealed its statewide alcohol prohibition laws; Mississippi's, in 1966, was the last to go.
In summary, far more would be gained by making alcohol unavailable than by making any other drug unavailable. Yet the United States, after a thirteen-year trial, resolutely turned its face against alcohol prohibition. Society recognized that prohibition does not in fact prohibit, and that it brings in its wake additional adverse effects.

From Kid Crisis

I think the main issue with respect to us drug policy is the long-standing "good neighbor" policy, a euphemism for effective us dominance and chauvinism towards Latin American nations. what the us thinks is right, has to be right for the rest of the hemisphere--or else.

Over the past 50 years, the us has intimidated its neighbors to the south, sponsored repressive right-wing dictatorships like those in Chile and Cuba, and repeatedly threatened latin american countries with its false aegis of "certification". the myth that America is a humanitarian and egalitarian democracy is closely linked with the chauvinism and imperialism that are characteristic of many american people and certainly of its government; America never admits it is wrong about anything, she simply makes excuses or points the finger at someone else. America needs to see itself more as a member of the world community, not a dictator of policy and of morals to the world. Furthermore, i applaud the UN's recent decision to kick the us off the Narcotics Control Board! Hopefully this will usher in an awakening in the rest of the world, a desire for other countries to assert themselves and challenge de facto US hegemony worldwide.

Because of the insane rubric of fear and intimidation that grips my country, I am not using my name. It's a shame that i have to do this, while men such as Mr. Davidow get to use their real names. I am not a criminal, just one more concerned voice.

--kid crisis,
Tampa, USA

Embassy's "Response"

From: Mexico US Embassy <>
To: "'Alberto M. Giordano'" <>
Subject: RE: Dear Jeffrey Davidow...
Date: Thu, 14 Jun 2001 12:34:13 -0500

Dear Mr. Giordano:

Your message has been forwarded to the appropriate office.

Responding to Non-Responsive Government