As a reformer of our nation's drug policies, I find myself discussing the failures of the War on Drugs with nearly anyone who stops long enough to ask, "So, what do you do for a living?" After some indeterminate period of time, I generally have succeeded in convincing, or at least in wearing out, my audience. Once this happens, I can predict one final retort. It comes in many forms, but the crux of it is: "But even if you're right, nothing is ever really going to change."
Overcoming this sense of the inevitability of the status quo may well be the most daunting, and most crucial task facing the drug policy reform movement. Many, if not most Americans have begun to realize that our current policies are not working. This is not to say that people are not still frightened by terms such as "legalization" (whatever that means) or even "decriminalization", but this is more due to a lack of information about the alternatives than informed disagreement. The key is that if you ask a random sampling of citizens whether our drug policies are protecting our children, whether they think that our "drug control" strategy is really controlling anything, most will say no. But nothing will change so long as the people who would advance change are convinced that nothing will change. Period.
This state of affairs is very convenient for those who are making money off of Prohibition as well as for those who profit from it in other ways. As long as no one really expects things to change, there is no incentive for politicians to seek change. Especially while the Drug War profiteers -- the military, the prison construction industry, the corrections industry, the prison guards' unions, the drug testing industry, the defense industry, the drug traffickers, the law enforcement bureaucracy and on and on -- keep raking in the money on a war which is sold to the public with the hysterical exaggerations and out-and-out lies of the politicians whose careers these monied interests are financing.
Politicians, on the whole, have it a lot easier when the money and the voters are on the same side of an issue. Keep in mind, however, that most politicians have no problem with lying in order to *get* the money and the voters on the same side. Keep in mind as well that it's awfully difficult to lie to the money. If you know what I mean.
So here we are, with millions of Americans on our side, and a growing movement underway. We have begun to win some of the skirmishes (Prop 200, Prop 215, needle exchange becoming accepted practice, greater media coverage of the reform perspective, etc.). But it's not enough. Every week, somewhere in this country, a legislature or an executive decides to continue to be a part of the problem rather than the solution (see Oregon Recrim, below). Every battle we lose means more wasted tax dollars, more ruined lives, more drug-related harm and another generation of kids lost to the culture of prohibition.
If you are reading this, you are already a part of the solution. You believe enough in the potential for change that you receive DRCNet's Alerts, and maybe you even respond to one per week, or per month. So what I am asking you to do...yes you... is to find one other person who understands that what is being done in the name of a "drug-free America" is an unworkable and destructive fraud. Find that person and explain to him or her that the single most important reason why "it'll never change" is because he or she has decided that it won't. Ask him to sign up to receive these Alerts. Ask her to write one letter, send one email or make one phone call per month. Tell them to do it for their kids... for themselves... for your kids... for yourself... but tell them to do it. Because their voice is important. And because their voice will bring other voices. Just like yours did.
Adam J. Smith