On Wednesday, 6/17, Drug Czar and retired general Barry McCaffrey, in written testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations' Committee, warned that "There is a carefully camouflaged, exorbitantly funded, well-heeled elitist group whose ultimate goal is to legalize drug use in the United States."
McCaffrey didn't name names, but in the wake of an open letter to United Nations' Secretary General Koffi Annan, published in a two-page ad in the New York Times last week and signed by over 500 prominent individuals worldwide, he didn't really have to. Signatories to the letter included Ronald Reagan's former secretary of State George Schultz, former UN Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar, former US Senators Alan Cranston and Claiborne Pell, Journalist Walter Cronkite, Nobel-winning economist Milton Friedman and Baltimore's mayor Kurt Schmoke. Earlier in the week, in response to the UN letter, McCaffrey scoffed that the reform movement was "the mouse that roared".
Also during the UN summit, a 30-second ad on CNN, paid for by Common Sense for Drug Policy, ran repeatedly in several major cities for the duration. The ad featured footage of President Clinton speaking at the UN, with an actor impersonating his voice, proclaiming the war on drugs a failure. The ad explained that Clinton wasn't really saying this, but that he should. (View the ad or read the text online at http://www.drugsense.org/unad.htm.)
McCaffrey also echoed a recurring theme of drug warriors in their assessment of the growing movement as somehow capable of misleading even the most astute of their supporters. "Through a slick misinformation campaign, these individuals perpetuate a fraud on the American people, a fraud so devious that even some of the nation's most respected newspapers and sophisticated media are capable of echoing their falsehoods."
Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, responded to the controversy surrounding the United Nations' Special Session by calling for hearings on legalization.
"I believe that drug legalization would be a disaster," he said. "But today, many powerful voices in our society are supporting a variety of legalization policies. They say, 'Let's save money and trouble and just legalize drugs.' So I am suggesting that we on the Senate Judiciary Committee take a hard, unblinking look at drug legalization. I think it unfortunate that we must, but I believe it necessary."
Mark Rooney, a spokesman for Senator Biden, told The Week Online, "I'm not sure, at this moment what the senator's strategy on this will be, whether he'll push forward with it or not. Obviously, the chairman, Senator Hatch of Utah, will ultimately determine the committee's agenda. I do know that there's a lot already planned for the committee and so scheduling will have an impact as well."
Ethan Nadelmann, Director of The Lindesmith Center, a drug policy think tank which coordinated the open letter and placed it in the Times, told The Week Online, "When people look back at the UN Session on Narcotics of 1998, if they look back at all, it won't be for the platitudes uttered by president Clinton and the other heads of state, or because the new UN Drug Control chief issued an absurd plan to eradicate opium and coca from the face of the earth in the next ten years. It will be because it marked the moment at which a truly international movement for the reform of drug policy began, and the point at which serious, substantive criticism of the failures of drug prohibition became both credible and legitimate."
Meanwhile, on Wednesday (6/17), the Judiciary Committee held hearings on Teens and Drugs. Speakers included Barry McCaffrey, a teen who recently completed drug rehab, and an undercover narcotics officer who has posed as a high school student at two different schools and whose work led to numerous arrests in both cases. Among the insights that the officer provided to the committee was his assessment that drugs are "rampant" even in middle class and upper middle class high schools. In comparing undercover work at a school with undercover operations in the workplace, he made the point that while it might take 8 months to a year to net a dozen busts among workers, it takes just weeks to find large numbers of kids who are using and dealing drugs. He characterized drugs as far more prevalent in schools. No one on the committee asked whether Prohibition, and the black market which it creates, might have anything to do with such access.
(Senator Biden is featured in the Schaffer Library's "Chicken Page", for those who make noise but don't really want to come out and debate the issue, online at http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/debate/chicken.htm.)