Adam J. Smith, Associate Director, [email protected]
(This editorial accompanies articles appearing at the beginning of this issue, and on our web site at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/gore.html.)
This week, The Week Online exposes a story of privilege and position, of hypocrisy in the name of political expediency, of the problems inherent when a leadership class insists upon enforcing an unjust and unworkable policy that they themselves would never, could never enforce upon their own.
So Al Gore reportedly used lots of drugs well into his adulthood. That is not the issue, nor should it disqualify him from consideration for the Presidency. Did he lie? Was political pressure put on Newsweek to kill the excerpt, at least until after the primaries? These are interesting questions and the answers will likely sway some voters.
The most important issue though is this: The American drug war was never meant to be enforced against people of means and privilege. And, if it were, if the children of the rich were being arrested, having their lives disrupted, if their parents' doors were being kicked in, if they were being harassed by the police for their private behavior, if they were being incarcerated for their drug use at anywhere near the rates of America's poor, we would have had a rational and humane drug policy in place decades ago.
In 1987, Al Gore, describing the circumstances under which he "occasionally" smoked marijuana in the early '70's, compared it to drinking moonshine during prohibition. The comparison was more appropriate than he let on. Alcohol prohibition was also a failed social experiment. It's impact was seen in an enormous black market, the wholesale corruption of law enforcement and government officials, easy access to alcohol by children, the enrichment of a new class of organized criminals, an explosion of crime and violence, the poisoning of users and a wholesale disrespect for the law. Sound familiar?
It is time -- no it is long past time -- for our leaders to begin to speak honestly about our failed prohibitionist drug war. To level with the American people about the multitudinous costs and the paucity of benefits, about the profits in prisons and in arms and in money laundering, about the government jobs and the campaign contributions. But honesty is difficult, with all of the interests involved, after so many years and so many lies.
So perhaps the questions of Al Gore's drug use, and George Bush's drug use, and all of the drug use by all of our political leaders should in fact be an issue. Maybe that will allow us to start small, with honest answers to questions about that use. Then maybe, just maybe, we could move forward from there.