Barney Frank Makes Drug War an Issue, Again 10/20/00

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Saying the country was ready for "a public revolt" against the war on drugs, Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Barney Frank last Sunday ratcheted up his assault on the drug policy status quo.

Frank, who is running for reelection against Republican and Libertarian challengers, turned a campaign event in Worcester into a slash-and-burn attack on what he called the nation's "harsh and punitive" prosecution of the drug war.

Frank, who has previously called for the legalization of marijuana and who sponsored a medical marijuana bill in the House of Representatives, stopped just short of calling for legalization of all drugs.

According to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Frank said "the country was not ready for that."

"But there are people in prison today for doing what I believe Al Gore and George Bush did, when they were younger," he told the event. "It is not that I mean Al Gore and George Bush should be in prison. It does mean that young, uneducated, poor and particularly minority youngsters should not be in prison either."

The Massachusetts congressman also chided conservatives as free market ideologues except when it comes to drugs. Conservatives, Frank said, fail to recognize that "the market is a powerful tool."

"Millions of free people with money who want something are very likely to get it," he said. "It is possible for a sophisticated society to protect people from other people. It is very hard in a free society to protect people from what they themselves determine to do to themselves."

Frank also challenged his hosts, a local affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, to examine their tactics and broaden their fight against the country's harsh drug policies.

"The Civil Liberties Union and others have been very good in stepping in and protecting people's rights, but collectively we have not done enough to change the climate that leads to the violation of those rights," he said.

"It is our sacred duty to vindicate the rights of individuals in judicial proceedings, but it is a very incomplete defense if we do not dedicate ourselves to change the political climate that led to the offense in the first place."

"It means going to town meetings, it means getting on these stupid talk shows, it means writing letters to the editors, it means getting out there and trying to change the minds of your fellow citizens."

Frank is one of the most consistently pro-drug reform politicians in the Congress. In addition to sponsoring the medical marijuana bill, he was a leading voice in the struggle to pass limited federal asset forfeiture reform. He continues to lead efforts to overturn provisions of the Higher Education Act which penalize students who admit to having a drug crime on their records.

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Issue #156, 10/20/00 Drug Czar Resigns, McCaffrey to Step Down January 6th | Slouching Toward Putumayo: Plan Colombia Gears Up, Battle Front Heats Up, Europeans Throw Their Hands Up, Rights Group Issues Heads Up | Drug War Toll from Police Shootings Continues to Rise -- How Many Dead? Nobody Knows Because Congress Doesn't Care | West Coast Forward, East Cost Back: San Diego Needle Exchange One Step Closer, Defeat in Prince George's County, Maryland | Follow That Story: Tulia Relief Fund Issues Appeal | Barney Frank Makes Drug War an Issue, Again | Europeans Release 2000 Drug Report | The Reformer's Calendar | Editorial: Saying Goodbye (and Good Riddance) to a Drug Czar
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