(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #24, 1/9/98
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
We've extended our year-end offer for free copies of Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts -- just donate $30 or more to DRCNet, and we'll send you a copy of the book, worth $12.95, plus a year's membership worth $25. Send your checks to: DRCNet, 2000 P St., NW, Suite 615, Washington, DC 20036, or use our secure credit card form at http://www.drcnet.org/drcreg.html.
Table of Contents
Hello again, and Happy New Year to all of our friends and subscribers. Thanks to everyone who took the time to e-mail their holiday wishes to us. Please know that although many of you told us how happy you were to have us around, we are even happier to have you out there, writing letters, sending us your local stories and generally raising your voices against this disastrous War.
While 1997 was certainly an exciting year for the reform movement, it is beginning to look as if 1998 will turn out to be THE year that the war becomes an albatross hanging around the necks of its supporters. Mandatory minimum sentences, medical marijuana and needle exchange all figure to see positive movement at both the state and federal levels this year in the US, and cannabis legalization will be one of the major issues in Europe over the next twelve months.
In June, the United Nations will be holding its first-ever Special Session of the General Assembly on the issue of narcotics. This will be an event which will capture the world stage, and plans are already in the works for a weekend of protest events to take place around the globe to coincide with the opening of the session. DRCNet will be participating in a leadership role in those plans, and will be providing ongoing info on the developments to this list. So stay tuned.
In November, voters in a number of states will be voting on drug policy-related ballot measures. This will provide an opportunity not only to change laws, but to widen the debate on the national stage. Our subscribers have already contributed mightily to the growth of that debate, and, with aggressive plans getting underway to promote this service and bring in thousands of new subscribers, that impact will increase exponentially this year.
So stay tuned, and stay active. The tide has turned and momentum is now in our favor. With the drug warriors certain to furiously defend the faltering regime to which their stars are hitched, it is more important than ever to make our case, and to make it well. Keep in mind that one day your children or grandchildren will learn in school about this sad chapter in the history of American and global justice and compassion, and you will be able to tell them with well-deserved pride that you were a part of the solution. And that will be a message which will serve them well.
Adam and Dave
2. WAR ON PATIENTS TO ESCALATE: Federal Government Announces Plan to Raid Cannabis Buyers' Clubs
The following is a press release from the Marijuana Policy Project, http://www.mpp.org:
San Francisco -- Today the U.S. Department of Justice announced its plan to shut down the dozens of not-for-profit medicinal marijuana dispensaries, known as Cannabis Buyers' Clubs (CBCs), throughout California. CBC workers who refuse to comply will be arrested.
"The Clinton administration plans to subvert the will of California voters by arresting the courageous caregivers who help seriously ill patients obtain medicinal marijuana," said Chuck Thomas, director of communications for the Washington, DC-based Marijuana Policy Project. "Ironically, CBCs would not even be needed if the federal government would allow licensed pharmacies to distribute medicinal marijuana."
Proposition 215, passed by California voters in November 1996, calls on the "federal and state governments to implement a plan to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need." While state and federal prosecutors have been working to subvert Proposition 215, numerous city and county governments throughout California have established regulations to allow tightly controlled CBCs to operate.
"Local governments have passed laws to allow CBCs to give patients a safe, affordable supply of marijuana," said the MPP's Chuck Thomas. "CBCs undercut organized crime -- patients no longer need to buy their medicine from drug dealers on street corners. How dare the cruel, power-hungry federal government interfere with local laws that work? This 'Washington-knows-best' attitude results in drug policies that do nothing but harm."
When the government starts raiding CBCs, the Marijuana Policy Project hopes that the media will resist the urge to focus on the one or two flamboyant CBCs. The public should know that the vast majority are professional, well-regulated, and tightly controlled.
(Stay-tuned to the DRCNet rapid-response-team for info on how to help with this situation.)
3. DRCNET EXCLUSIVE: BRITISH EURO-MP's ORDERED BY BLAIR TO VOTE AGAINST COMMISSION RECOMMENDATIONS FOR E.U. DRUG POLICY
DRCNet has learned, from sources within the European Parliament, that all 60 of British Labour's EP members have received direct orders from 10 Downing Street to vote against the adoption of the recommendations contained in the report prepared by the EU Parliamentary Commission on Drugs. The report's recommendations included the adoption of a harm-reduction approach to the use of drugs and the decriminalization of possession of cannabis, among other things. You can read the report online at http://www.drugtext.nl/eu/drugseu.html. (DrugText is maintained by DRCNet advisory board member Mario Lap, our source for this exclusive.)
The vote, which is tentatively scheduled for Monday, January 12, comes at a time when the debate over the legal status of cannabis has reached a furious boil in the UK. (See story below.)
In addition, the Blair government has apparently ordered the 60 to vote in support of Swedish Amendments to the report which would reaffirm a strict Prohibitionist stance. These amendments will be available online soon, and DRCNet will keep you updated.
4. ANN LANDERS, ANTHONY LEWIS TRASH DRUG WAR: DRCNet subscribers are urged to respond!
1998 has just begun and already it is becoming apparent that this will be the year when the Drug War loses its sacrosanct status as a policy above question in respectable circles. In the past two weeks, both Ann Landers, the scion of sensible heartland values, and Anthony Lewis, nationally syndicated columnist, have taken the opportunity to lambaste America's repressive and counter-productive drug policy.
Ms. Landers' criticisms were leveled in, of all places, her annual Christmas column, in which she said, in part:
"The 'war on drugs' has turned out to be a colossal failure. The number of homicides is staggering. Guns and knives are standard equipment among teenagers.... While alcohol is still the most abused drug of all, marijuana and stronger substances like crack cocaine and heroin are common-place in junior and senior high schools. The dropout rate is appalling. Why should a kid stay in school when he can get rich dealing drugs? This is the message that too many young people are getting."
Ms. Landers' brave stance presents an enormous opportunity to educate millions of people, both in the US and abroad, who are concerned about "drugs" but who have not given a thought to the wisdom of Prohibition. It is imperative that she hear from us, and that we make it clear that drug policy reform is vital to both the health of nations and the well-being of children. Contact information (including e-mail) for Ms. Landers is included below.
Anthony Lewis, in his column of Monday, January 5, highlighted Ethan Nadelmann's recent piece in Foreign Affairs magazine. Lewis' piece ran in papers across the country, including The New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the International Herald-Tribune.
Lewis' column is titled "The Noble Experiment" (a reference to America's failed alcohol prohibition) and it closes with the following paragraph: "A good many Americans, including police chiefs and doctors, believe that it is time for a change in our failed drug policy. It is our political leaders who are afraid to change. It will take someone with the courage to say that the emperor has no clothes – someone like Senator John McCain – to end our second, disastrous noble experiment."
We at DRCNet urge all of you to take a moment to send a note to Ms. Landers, papers which carried the Lewis column, and to Senator McCain (to urge that he take Mr. Lewis' advice and stand up on the issue.)
CONTACT INFO: You can send letters to Ann Landers, c/o Chicago Tribune, 435 North Michigan Avenue, P.O. Box 11562, Chicago, IL 60611.
Reaction to the Anthony Lewis piece can be sent to your local paper, if it was carried, or else e-mail to [email protected].
Senator John McCain can be contacted at 241 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510, [email protected].
You can read Ethan Nadelmann's article from Foreign Affairs at http://www.lindesmith.org/library/foreigna.html.
In issue #23 of The Week Online, we told you about the "Light in the Window" campaign being promoted by the November Coalition, designed to draw attention to the hundreds of thousands of non-violent drug offenders who are in prison. However, we neglected to acknowledge the person and organization who originated it: Richard J. Schimelfenig of the Delaware Cannabis Society and Delaware NORML. The idea seems to be catching on and spreading. Please visit the original light in the window web site at http://hempman.home.mindspring.com/Families.html.
6. GUILIANI PLEDGES A "DRUG FREE NEW YORK"
On January 1, former federal prosecutor Rudolph Giuliani took the oath of office to begin his second and final term as Mayor of New York City. As expected, drugs were high on his list of priorities.
"Four years from now, when the next mayor of New York City stands here, I want the newspapers and the magazines around the nation to be writing about how New York City led America to a drug-free America."
Giuliani promised to hire an additional 1,600 cops, and to get more aggressive against the drug trade. These promises come on the heels of a Guiliani initiative to crack down on drug sales within Washington Square Park, famous centerpiece of Manhattan's Greenwich Village. Over the past several weeks, both buy-and-bust and sell-and-bust operations have been run in the park, which encompasses two square blocks.
Aaron Wilson of the Partnership for Responsible Drug Information, a New York-based organization promoting a dialogue on drug policy, told The Week Online, "The Washington Square Park initiative demonstrates, in microcosm, the problems with enforcement-based policies. The dealers are still around the park, but now they're on the side streets, where people live. It's the classic push-down, pop-up problem. You can install surveillance cameras, as Giuliani is already doing, and chase the trade around, but it doesn't go away, it just moves." Wilson added, "And the entire strategy ignores the fact that most of the drug trade in New York is conducted indoors, with beepers and home delivery, or through networks of friends. Guiliani's road to a 'drug-free New York' will be littered with the lives of thousands more young African Americans and Latinos, which is not the way that rational people should want to ring in the new millennium."
7. HEROIN IN NEW ENGLAND – CHEAPER, PURER THAN EVER
On December 31, Reuters News Service reported that New England is now the fastest-growing US market for Colombian heroin. George Festa, DEA special agent in charge of New England told Reuters "The purity of the product is what really concerns us. We've made street buys with purity of 95%, even 97%."
That level of purity simply dwarfs the potency of heroin available in the past. This trend has had two major effects. The first is that heroin can now be snorted or smoked, rather than injected, which tends to cut down on the sharing of syringes, and thus the spread of AIDS. The other side, however, is that the ability to use heroin without injecting it could lure new users who would not have tried the drug otherwise. Reuters reports that bags of heroin are available on the streets of Boston for as little as $4. The skyrocketing purity, the low price, and the fact that large quantities of Colombian heroin are making it all the way up to New England is a striking indication of just how ineffective the strategies of interdiction and enforcement have been in controlling the black market.
George Kenney, a long-time harm-reduction advocate now working with Community of Color Outreach in Roxbury Massachusetts, told The Week Online, "There's certainly no shortage of heroin on the streets up here, and they're right, it is cheap. The state health department has finally started a pilot needle exchange program, and it seems to be going well, but its not enough to address the problem. There are so many sea ports up here, its just impossible to keep the stuff out. We need to get less punitive, and start spending more time thinking about how to reach people where they are, instead of threatening them and chasing them back into the shadows, so that we can help them to move into recovery, or at least help them to stabilize their lives so that they can prepare to make the decision to get clean."
8. FEDERAL ANTI-DRUG AD CAMPAIGN TO HIT AIRWAVES
This week will, or should, mark the beginning of the Federal Government/Partnership for a Drug Free America mass media campaign. The campaign, which will combine up to $195,000,000 of taxpayers' money with matching donations from business and media entities, will kick off in twelve test cities, er, soon. The campaign was originally scheduled to begin last October, and was later put off until December.
The campaign will feature ads on TV and radio, as well as an Internet presence, which has yet to be formally outlined. Commenting on the Internet portion of the plan, Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey told CNN's Sunday Morning, "we're going to go on the Net and talk to children and their parents about why drugs will kill you."
In the past, the Partnership's ads have been criticized for being based on hysteria, rather than on facts, and that these tactics tend to lead kids to disregard otherwise important information on the real dangers of specific substances.
Dr. Joel Brown, Director of the Center for Educational research and Development, and author of "In Their Own Words" as study of California's school-based anti-drug program, told The Week Online, "As a scientist, there is no evidence that media campaigns prevent anyone from using drugs. What we need to do is to begin the process of providing help to the kids that need it, and to provide real, factual information about these substances so that we can avoid the tragedies which come from a lack of knowledge."
Asked, by CNN's Sunday Morning whether he still believes in interdiction, McCaffrey answered that "you still have to work with our international partners," but "that's going to be a supporting aspect of a prevention, treatment strategy." DRCNet would note that of the more than $17 Billion in 1997 federal anti-drug spending, less than one third was earmarked for education, prevention and treatment combined.
You can find Dr. Brown's study, "In Their Own Voices" on the Lindesmith Center web site, at <http://www.lindesmith.org>.
9. AMERICA "WORKS WITH" HER INTERNATIONAL PARTNERS
This Week, the San Francisco Chronicle reports on the work of Father Leonidas Moreno, a Catholic priest in the town of Pavarando, in northwestern Colombia. Pavarando has recently become a virtual refugee camp, housing as many as 10,000 people who have fled the southern part of the country to escape violence and death at the hands of paramilitary groups and aerial bombardments by the Colombian army in the province of Riosucio.
The Center for Research and Popular Education told The Chronicle that a campaign, begun in mid-December by paramilitary groups, aims to "cleanse" the Riosucio region of political insurgents and their alleged supporters, and has led to the massacre of dozens of peasants.
It is well-known, though rarely admitted, that the paramilitary groups are aligned with elements in Colombia's military. It is also widely understood that these groups perform much of the "dirty work" of a military that has gotten a great deal of international attention due to its abominable record on human rights. Late last year, the Clinton Administration agreed to provide $150 million dollars in military aid and equipment to Colombia to support its "anti-narcotics" efforts in the southern half of the country. The real purposes for which the equipment would be used was muddled by Colombian officials however who told the press that it was free to use it however it saw fit within the southern, rebel-controlled half of the country.
According to a Human Rights Watch report cited in the Chronicle article, paramilitary groups grew and multiplied soon after the US government sent a team of CIA and US Military "advisors" to Colombia to improve the "efficiency and effectiveness" of their military. The report also notes that this cooperation between the US advisors and the Colombian military "provided a blueprint for... a secret network that relied on paramilitaries not only for intelligence but to carry out murder."
The brutality of these groups is also well-documented, with innumerable reports of the killing, often by machete, of women and children, as well as live dismemberments.
Coletta Youngers of the Washington Office on Latin America spoke with The Week Online about the situation in Colombia.
"The paramilitary groups originally emerged out of an alliance between the Colombian military and the landowning and economic elites, who set up what were then known as Vigilantes. Major drug traffickers, of course, represent a portion of those elites. The groups were legal, and operated in outright cooperation with the military until the late 1980's when they were outlawed. Ties to the military remained strong after that, although those relationships vary from region to region."
"As to the military aid that the US recently promised to Colombia, that aid has been delivered only to the police, navy and air force. The aid which has been earmarked for the army has been held up because under the Leahy bill, the US government is prohibited by law from providing assistance to individual military units which have been responsible for human rights violations and which have not been held accountable by trial. Due to the recent spate of massacres in the southern, coca-growing region of the country, they are still searching for a unit of the Colombian army which would be eligible under this provision."
You can visit the web site of the Washington Office on Latin America at http://www.wola.org. Human Rights Watch has a site at http://www.hrw.org.
10. U.S. COUNTERNARCOTICS BASE TO REPLACE AIR FORCE BASE WHEN PANAMA CANAL IS TURNED OVER
On December 22, Panamanian officials announced that negotiations had been completed which would turn Howard Air Force base into a "multi-national" anti-narcotics center rather than have it revert to Panamanian control when the canal is turned over in 1999. 2,000 US troops will be stationed at the base.
11. SIGNATURE DRIVE UNDERWAY FOR INDUSTRIAL HEMP BALLOT INITIATIVE IN CALIFORNIA
Signatures are now being collected throughout the state of California for a 1998 ballot initiative which would legalize the cultivation of hemp for industrial purposes in that state. 433,269 valid signatures will be required to qualify the initiative for the ballot in November of '98. The initiative was proposed by Sam H. Clauder II.
For more information, or to send a donation, contact:
Sam H. Clauder II <[email protected]>
NOTE: DRCNet will let you know as soon as the language of the initiative is available on the net.
12. UK: HOME SECRETARY'S SON FOUND DEALING CANNABIS, LEGALIZATION DEBATE RAGES
For nearly two weeks, the question was the talk of Britain: "Who was the prominent cabinet minister whose son was caught dealing cannabis to an investigative journalist?" British law forbids the publication of the names of minors accused of crimes, and so a court order had been issued which effectively banned the naming of the government official.
But in an age of electronic communications, governments are finding that of all prohibitions, the prohibition of information is hardest of all to enforce. In fact, by the time the court order was lifted, and it was revealed in the British press that the minister in question was none other that drug warrior Home Secretary Jack Straw, there was barely a soul in England who had not already heard the news.
Straw's 17 year-old son allegedly sold approximately $17 worth of cannabis to a reporter who was following up on a tip she had received concerning the young man's activities. The reporter subsequently went to local police to turn over the small bag of marijuana, and to tell them how she had gotten it. She was immediately arrested for possession. At this time, neither the youth nor the reporter are expected to face more than a stern warning from the magistrate.
But the implications of the incident have gone much deeper than the legal outcome of the case. Britain, awash in a debate over the legal status of cannabis ever since the Independent on Sunday newspaper began its highly publicized, and widely supported legalization campaign in September, is now in the throes of a raging national argument. Straw, whose office is ultimately responsible for drug control policy in Britain, had already been at the center of the storm with his repeated admonitions that legalization of cannabis was simply out of the question, and assurances that it would not happen. Recent events have not made his job as PM Tony Blair's drug war mouthpiece any easier.
Straw will get to share some of the burden now, however, as this week marked the official beginning of the term of the UK's first Drug Czar, Jack Hellawell. Hellawell, along with Straw, has been buffeted in recent months with calls for a Royal Commission to study the issue. True to the prohibitionist M.O. however, they have steadfastly refused to consider naming a commission, even as they claim that they "welcome debate". Many members of Parliament in England, including several from Blair's Labour Party, have called for a change in the law. And despite the wishes of the ruling party, and prohibitionists across England, that call seems to be getting louder.
A recent call-in poll by The People newspaper found 83% of respondents in favor decriminalization. And while polls of that type are notoriously unscientific, the result at least indicates that proponents of change are more actively concerned with the issue than their opponents. Combined with the stunning recent recommendations out of the French Ministry of Health conference on drug policy, as well as the report by the European Union Parliament's committee on drug policy and other related events on the Continent, the issue, and the call for reform, is not going to go away anytime soon. We'll keep you posted.
13. AUSTRALIAN COPS, "POLICING IS NOT THE ANSWER"
On Jan. 2, the Australian Bureau of Criminal Intelligence, a group made up of many of the nation's chiefs of police, released a stunning report on the prospects (or, rather, the lack thereof) for enforcement to have an impact on the problems associated with drugs. The report notes that despite vastly increased spending, law enforcement has failed to make a dent in either supply or demand, and indicates that upholding the law is in many cases harmful and counterproductive. "On one hand, there is the public expectation that they (police officers) will uphold the law and proceed against drug offenders," the report says, "on the other hand, it is widely recognized that street-level policing can actually lead to harm to both drug users and society."
The report notes that cannabis laws, and their enforcement, may well have the effect of pushing users toward the purchase and use of harder drugs, and points out that efforts targeting drug dealers had been singularly ineffective. It goes on to cite the steady increase in availability, and decline in price of drugs on the street as just one indicator of the failure of enforcement as a tool of drug policy. The report comes several months after the federal government cancelled, at the last minute, a proposed experiment in heroin maintenance modeled on the successful Swiss trials. That decision brought much condemnation from both inside and outside the government. Australian press reports at the time claimed that the US State Department had made substantive back-room threats against Australia's legal opiate industry if the trials were held.
To find out more about the reform movement in Australia, visit the web site of Family and Friends for Drug Policy Reform at http://www.wps.com.au/druglawreform/.
14. "SMOKE A JOINT, LOSE A LIMB?": Pending Mississippi Bill Threatens Dismemberment For Convicted Drug Violators
(This story reprinted with permission of the NORML Foundation, http://www.norml.org).
Jan. 8, 1998, Jackson, MS: Persons found guilty of possessing marijuana in Mississippi could face the removal of a limb if proposed legislation becomes law. House Bill 196, introduced by Rep. Bobby Moak (R-Lincoln County), authorizes "The removal of a body part in lieu of other sentences imposed by the court for violations of the Controlled Substances Law." NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup called the measure "political posturing at its most extreme. This is a truly barbaric proposal that shocks the conscience." Moak told reporters that he introduced the legislation because he felt the state wasn't doing enough to combat drug use. Moak admits, however, that the measure has slim chances of passing. Provisions in the bill mandate that the convicted person and the court "must agree on which body part shall be removed."
15. STUDENT SUSPENSION OVERTURNED
-Peter Kempner for DRCNet
On Jan. 7, 1998 the Fairfax County Virginia School Board reversed itself and rescinded the five-day suspension, and a thirty-day suspension from extracurricular activites, of a twelve year-old student on charges of possession of drugs. The suspension, originally imposed under the school's "zero-tolerance" policy, had so angered the girl's family that they had retained an attorney to fight it. In the end, the charges were dropped at a hearing presided over by Don P. Sheldon the school districts Area I superintendent. In his decision Sheldon wrote "Because of her otherwise unblemished disciplinary record, her good academic record, and the particular facts involved, I have decided to clear Nicole of this charge and not impose any disciplinary action." The offending substance? Advil.
The school policy under which the suspension was originally imposed makes no differentiation between illegal drugs such and legal medications. In addition, Regulation 2102.3, which describes the types of "nonprescription drug not authorized as medication" includes "aspirin, Tylenol, gargles, ear drops, eye washes, ointments, Pepto-Bismol, cough suppressants and the like." The attorney for the student told the Washington Post, "We're not disputing the regulation in regard to illegal drugs, or even prescription medications ... We're talking about the fact that school officials are interpreting the policy to cover all kinds of ... products. From that standpoint, a student could never know what is right or wrong."
The incident which brought on the charges took place on a school bus when another girl asked the student whether she had something for a headache. The student pulled a small bottle of Advil from her bag, but remembering school policy against handing out medications, decided not to give the pills to her schoolmate. It was too late, however, as the bus driver had seen the bottle and promptly reported it to school authorities.
(Read about similar incidents and other youth issues in issue #1 of Highlights from the Week Online, at http://www.drcnet.org/highlights/highlights1.html#youth.)
16. JURY NULLIFICATION BALLOT INITIATIVE IN CALIFORNIA
-Peter Kempner for DRCNet
This week in Buena Park California, Reverend Wiley Drake of the First Southern Baptist Church announced plans to launch a ballot drive to place on the ballot an initiative aimed at giving jurors the option to reject unjust laws. The measure, if passed, would require judges to instruct jurors that they have the right "to acquit the defendant, or find him/her not liable for damages" if they, the jury, find that a law is unjust or that the application of it would be unjust.
Drake and the First Southern Baptist Church were each found guilty in July 1997 of four misdemeanor counts of violating city laws by housing the homeless at the church. The pastor claims that jurors on the case later apologized "for their misguided conviction" in the case.
This is not the first time that the doctrine of "jury nullification" has been touted as a citizen-based solution to fighting unjust laws. Law school professor Paul Butler from the George Washington University Law School has been teaching his students jury nullification for years as a way to fight unjust drug laws which he feels disproportionately target African Americans and other minorities. Many critics of jury nullification say that if passed this initiative would be found unconstitutional because it violates a person's right to equal protection under the law.
Leading drug policy reform organization seeks highly skilled master's-level public policy director. Must understand major reform issues: medical marijuana, pain control, asset forfeiture, mandatory minimums. Will build coalitions, develop action strategies and coordinate advocacy efforts with new allies to advance shared agenda. Will prepare testimony and policy papers. Exceptional communication skills, familiarity with public health and criminal justice issues essential. Send resume and salary requirements to: Public Policy Search, Drug Policy Foundation, 4455 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite B-500, Washington, DC 20008-2328. (A more lengthy description of the position will be made available on the DRCNet web site next week.)
18. EDITORIAL: A "DRUG FREE NEW YORK"? C'MON RUDY.
It was a bitter cold New Year's Day in New York City, and Rudolph Giuliani, former US Attorney, had just taken the oath of office to officially begin his second, and by law his final term as mayor. His inaugural speech, delivered to a group of 5,000 shivering but loyal supporters, was vintage Rudy.
In it, Giuliani took much of the credit for the 30% reduction in crime during 1997. That the reduction in crime mirrored a stunning national trend, or that much of it can be explained by factors which are out of the control of politicians, were not mentioned. This came as no surprise, however, as Giuliani has amassed such a reputation for expansive self-evaluation that New York Magazine is currently running an ad campaign which describes their publication as "perhaps the only good thing in New York for which Rudy hasn't taken credit." (Last month a state court threw out Giuliani's lawsuit against the magazine for the unauthorized use of his name.)
But perhaps the statement which showed the greatest level of hubris (in New York we call it "chutzpa") was not one in which Giuliani took credit for something he had done, but one in which he anticipated credit for something he plans to do. Standing in his suit jacket on that bitterly cold podium, Rudy said (with a straight face, we're told) "Four years from now, when the next mayor of New York City stands here, I want the newspapers and magazines around the nation to be writing about how New York City led America to a Drug-Free America." As a first step toward his planned annointment as the St. Patrick of the Drug War, Giuliani plans to hire 1,600 additional cops.
To be sure, Rudy had been less than secretive since his re-election in November about his plans to focus on drugs in his second term. As a prelude, a police initiative had already been operating whose goal is to eliminate drug-dealing from Washington Square Park, in the middle of Greenwich Village. Reporters from local papers who have visited the park have indicated that this effort isn't going very well, with "smoke" still being offered regularly to visitors in and around the famous site. But Giuliani has reiterated his determination to clear the park of dealers, going so far as to install surveillance cameras at various locations and instituting reverse stings, or "sell-and-busts" with undercover officers posing as dealers and arresting would-be buyers of nickel and dime bags.
The operation in the park, and the difficulties in making it work, only serve to illustrate the absurdity of a "drug-free" New York City, much less a drug-free America. Washington Square Park is two square blocks of relatively open real estate, with very few places for drug dealers to hide. The fact that intense focus on even this tiny area, out of a city of enormous geographical size and a population of around 8 million, cannot make the drugs disappear, ought to show Rudy that even he cannot make the Drug War work.
Rudolph Giuliani's hopes for receiving credit for leading all of America toward "drug-freeness" from his office in City Hall are an indication of his future plans. A rising star in the Republican Party despite their well-documented spats over such issues as his endorsement of Democrat Mario Cuomo in the New York's last gubernatorial race, Rudy has set his sights on national office. The buzz in New York political circles is that his next race will be for the governorship, with an eye toward the White House. That governorship is currently held by George Pataki, the man who defeated Mario Cuomo in a result which surprised many people, not least of whom, Rudolph Giuliani. Pataki is also said to be interested in a run for the White House.
But the question, albeit one which would have sounded ludicrous a very short time ago, is whether a staunch prohibitionist, one who continues to tout a law-enforcement approach to the drug problem, will even be electable by the time Rudy is ready to run for President. Judging by international events, and the rising movement for reform in America, the War, at least as Rudy knows it, could well be over by then. Or at least it should be seriously winding down. Where will Rudy and his sell-and-bust operations be then?
To be fair, Giuliani probably does not belong to the most vile class of drug warrior. He is, in the words of long-time reform activist Aaron Wilson, a "true believer." From all indications, Rudy honestly thinks that enough firepower, or surveillance, or prisons, can win the war. The question, then, is whether his enormous ego will prevent him from learning from his mistakes, and from the mistakes of others. Because if not, there is a good chance that he will make the error of trying to prove himself right at all costs -- arresting and brutalizing thousands upon thousands of his own constituents in an attempt to beat them into submission. Such tactics, in arguably the most important city in the free world, could shine a huge spotlight on the inherent failure of Prohibition, and greatly hasten its demise. But perhaps this wouldn't hurt Rudy's chances for national office at all. Because if that happens, and the Drug War ends, he'll be totally justified in taking the credit.
Adam J. Smith
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