|Week Online: What
is Teachers Against Prohibition, and what is its mission?
Adam Jones: This is
an organization aimed at generating support for drug reform among educators.
I have, to a large degree, modeled it after Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
(http://www.leap.cc) because I think both
groups have much in common. Both organizations are trying to appeal
to professions whose members see the results of the drug war on a daily
basis, but don't necessarily see that most of the ill effects derive from
prohibition itself. We have several goals. We seek to educate
the public, the media and policymakers about the failures of current drug
policy. We are working to create a speakers' bureau of knowledgeable
and articulate educators who can describe the impact of these failed drug
policies on things like teacher safety, teacher/community relations, and
the human and financial costs of current drug policies. We want to
restore students' respect for teachers, respect that has been diminished
by their role in imposing and implementing drug prohibition, by participating
in programs such as DARE, for example. And our ultimate goal is to
reduce drug war harms by ending drug prohibition.
WOL: How did you come
up with the idea of Teachers Against Prohibition?
Jones: I was at the
SSDP/MPP conference in Anaheim and was talking with Justin Holmes from
SSDP SUNY-Broome about teachers and drug policy, and he said, "you'd think
there would be an organization." The idea grew from there.
I bounced the idea of something like TAP off various people, and I got
a lot of good input and support from groups like DrugSense (http://www.drugsense.org);
in fact, DrugSense's Richard Lake sits on our board of directors.
Also, Nora Callahan of the November Coalition (http://www.november.org)
came through town and sat down with me. I have to give her a lot
of credit. Lots of people helped. I should also mention Kevin
Zeese of Common Sense for Drug Policy (http://www.csdp.org),
who contributed as well.
WOL: This is a brand
new organization. What kind of start are you off to?
Jones: Our membership
drive is just getting underway and we already have 35 members. We've
put the word out on every drug policy mailing list we know of, though we
haven't done mainstream education lists yet. Still, we're getting
new applications by the hour, and we now have members in the US, Canada,
and New Zealand. In fact, we have six members from New Zealand, which
is something of a surprise.
We are going to try to gain
some endorsements before moving into the education mainstream. We
will try to get an endorsement from the National Teachers' Association,
which has already endorsed alternatives to marijuana prohibition.
Then there's the National Education Association; that's more of a long-term
project. And drug education and prevention specialist Marsha Rosenbaum
(http://www.safety1st.org) has been
working with Parent-Teacher Associations. We will try to follow her
lead on that.
We have some good people
for our speakers' bureau; now it's a matter of getting that up and running,
of connecting them with the potential audiences out there, and we're also
hoping to engage the legislative process, but that is probably a year or
so down the road, after we do this initial membership drive, then learn
how to maintain those members and keep them active.
We haven't done any press
releases yet or received any real media attention, but one of the members
of our board of directors, addiction specialist Patrick Jones, is set to
do an interview with the Internet newspaper Sierra Times (http://www.sierratimes.org).
It's supposed to be about addiction and kids, but Patrick will get some
plugs in for TAP.
WOL: Are there specific
areas of drug policy on which you focus? If so, what are they?
Jones: The board of
directors has selected three primary agenda items: DARE, drug testing
in the schools, and reforming the Higher Education Act (HEA). Right
now, we're really focusing on the HEA campaign (http://www.raiseyourvoice.com)
because it is so active. We're trying to pair our actions with what
SSDP does, trying to coordinate members and speakers with SSDP chapters.
We're also trying to provide more faculty advisors for SSDP, campus NORML
groups, or other campus-based drug reform groups. With DARE, we view
that as a failed program, the research shows it is a failed program, and
we're seeing DARE begin to be replaced -- even in Los Angeles, where it
was born. DARE doesn't work and it costs a lot of money. Like
any other government program that doesn't work, it should be replaced.
We believe it should be replaced with reality-based drug education.
And we want to see drug testing completely abolished. We think it
is counterproductive in the schools and destructive of our constitutional
WOL: What can you do
to combat what seems to be a steady increase in student drug testing in
the wake of the Supreme Court's decision?
Jones: Our campaign
is only in the beginning stages, but we are taking a firm stance against
it. We hope to be able to educate the community about the harms of
drug testing, its negative impact. From a student's point of view
or a teacher's point of view, there is little positive about drug testing
students and then kicking them off of extracurricular activities.
It seems counterproductive. We're hoping we can enlist teachers and
other educators to explain to school boards and PTAs why they should not
adopt drug testing, or abolish it if it has been adopted.
WOL: Who can be a member
Jones: People who been
granted the authority by state, local or federal government to be teachers,
as well as administrators and anyone else involved in the educational process.
This includes people at the college and university level as well, and it
includes people who are working to become teachers. If you have an
Education major, you're welcome to join, and if you're up to the arduous
task of grant-writing, all the better.
WOL: You have been
arrested and convicted of a drug offense. Are you concerned that
your record will damage TAP's credibility?
Jones: I was busted
for a half-gram of psilocybin mushrooms. I'm on probation for the
next three years. It is something of a worry, but it depends on who
I'm trying to appeal to. If I'm talking to someone in drug reform,
they'll probably not hold it against me. If I'm talking to a mainstream
audience, that could present more of a problem, but it's not something
I'll necessarily emphasize. A lot of people, like Nelson Mandela,
did time for living and fighting for what they believed in. In being
persecuted, they discovered how important it was that they continue to
work for what they believe is right. When I was in jail, it really
solidified my belief that things needed to be changed. I would like
to think there was something positive about that whole experience.
Besides, I now have the credibility of my convictions.