INTERVIEW with John C. Warnecke 1/21/00

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Exclusive to The Week Online, by Adam J. Smith

John C. Warnecke worked as a reporter for the Nashville Tennessean and was a close personal friend of the Gores. Warnecke is the son of John Carl Warnecke, architect for the John F. Kennedy gravesite. The Week Online spoke with Mr. Warnecke by phone this week.

The Week Online: Mr. Warnecke, Vice President Gore has said that he used marijuana "on several occasions" and "not since he was twenty-four." But you say that you have first-hand knowledge that his use was more extensive than he has previously admitted?

John C. Warnecke: Yes, I do. I have first hand knowledge that he has not told the truth about his drug use. Al Gore and I smoked regularly, as buddies. Marijuana, hash. I was his regular supplier. I didn't deal dope, I just gave it to him. We smoked more than once, more than a few times, we smoked a lot. We smoked in his car, in his house, we smoked in his parents' house, in my house... we smoked on weekends. We smoked a lot.

Al Gore and I were smoking marijuana together right up to the time that he ran for Congress in 1976. Right up through the week he declared for that race, in fact.

WOL: And after that?

JCW: After that he began to distance himself from me. I was bad for his political career.

WOL: During the course of the 1988 campaign, you told the New York Times and the Nashville Tennessean that you had smoked marijuana with Al Gore...

JCW: A few times. And I told them that he didn't like it.

WOL: Why didn't you tell the truth at that time?

JCW: I was put under a lot of pressure to lie.

WOL: Who was pressuring you?

JCW: The answer to that question is in the excerpt that Newsweek decided not to run. It's in the Turque book. Right now, I'm going to leave it at that.

WOL: So what made you decide to come forward now?

JCW: It's because I've been under a lot of stress. My conscience has been killing me ever since then. I actually came forward months ago when Bill (Turque) interviewed me for the book. I had been told that this story would come out, that the public would know this by now. But then the book date was pushed back, and Newsweek pulled the story. The only thing that I can assume is that Newsweek is covering this up, protecting the Gore campaign by refusing to run this before the primaries. I decided that I had to go ahead and tell it. I really feel that the public has a right to know this at this time, and I was having trouble living with myself being part of the hypocrisy and the lies.

WOL: Hypocrisy?

JCW: Yes. The drug laws in this country are ruining the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people, mostly poor young people, people who don't come from privileged backgrounds and wealthy families. It just doesn't make sense that we have a war on drugs. It doesn't work, and the politicians refuse to talk about it. That suffering and that hypocrisy has weighed very heavily on my conscience. I have a saying that I use, and that is: "who raised you?" In other words, were you raised with a conscience? Mine has made my life very difficult ever since I became part of the hypocrisy. I couldn't live with the lie anymore. Not and stay sober.

WOL: How long have you been sober?

JCW: Twenty-one years.

WOL: Congratulations. So, after twenty-one years of sobriety, do you consider Al Gore a criminal for his drug use?

JCW: I don't consider drug use a criminal act. Is drug use a poor choice? Yes. Is it risky behavior? Yes. Does it make any sense -- has it gotten us anywhere as a society to criminalize it? Absolutely not. Unless you consider it progress that we're spending more on prisons than on higher education, and still the drugs are everywhere. But politicians refuse to talk about this issue honestly.

WOL: And what would you have Al Gore say about it?

JCW: I wish Al would come clean. I wish that all politicians would come clean and deal with this in a rational manner. Look at all the damage the silence is causing.

WOL: And Newsweek?

JCW: Newsweek cut off information that the American people should have had in order to make an informed decision. Knowing that Al Gore used drugs considerably more than he has admitted is important. Let the American people draw their own conclusions about it, let them decide how important it is.

We need to quit lying about it. Quit hiding it. To my mind, Newsweek censored this, they covered it up. And I think that the perpetuation of that silence over time has allowed us to go on jailing kids. Kids who are much younger and less equipped to deal with life than Al Gore was when we were using drugs together.

I want any candidate that is running for president to be honest about their drug use. And then we can start being honest with ourselves about how best to deal with society's drug problem.

WOL: So you don't think that his past drug use, even his extensive drug use, should disqualify Al Gore from the nomination?

JCW: I'm going to vote for Al Gore.

(An editorial discussing DRCNet's views regarding political candidates and drug use appears below, at the end of this issue, or at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/122.html#editorial. This interview accompanies an article, appearing immediately above, or at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/gore.html.)

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Issue #122, 1/21/00 New Bio Alleges Gore Used Marijuana Regularly for Years -- Newsweek Kills Story Set to Run This Week | INTERVIEW with John C. Warnecke | Prison Moratorium in Tough-on-Crime Colorado? | US Government Reviewing Scripts of Network Shows as Part of Anti-Drug Campaign | Emergency Coalition Against Propaganda and Censorship | US Drug Czar Commands Customs to Seize All Hemp Seed Imports That Contain Any THC | Teach Your Children Well: Clergy, Religious Academics Discuss Reform | College Convention Report | Sentencing Project Report Finds Massive Increases in Number of Women Imprisoned for Drug Offenses | Editorial: Dishonest Policy

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