DRCNet Interview: Robert Rapplean of Parents and Educators for the Reform of Drug Laws 10/24/03

Drug War Chronicle, recent top items


recent blog posts "In the Trenches" activist feed


A new, grassroots drug reform group grows in the shadow of the Rockies. Parents and Educators for the Reform of Drug Laws (http://www.perdl.com), formed by concerned citizens in the metro Denver area, aims at taking the struggle against the war on drugs and the propaganda apparatus that sustains it to two groups deeply concerned about the impact of drugs and drug policy on the nation's youth. With a core group consisting of educational director Tiffany Rapplean, administrator Robert Rapplean, graphic designer Cecilia Barrett, and webmaster James Vances, PERDL is just beginning to make its contribution in the long battle for a safer, saner drug policy. DRCNet spoke with Rob Rapplean earlier this month.

Drug War Chronicle: There are already a number of drug reform groups or political organizations out there, nationally and even in Colorado. Why the need for another one?

Robert Rapplean: We wanted an organization that specifically focuses on teachers and parents. For one reason or another, we couldn't get much support from other local organizations. I've actually hooked-up with most of the reform groups in Colorado at one time or another, and while some people are doing good work, others seem to be in it because it's cool or for some form of self-aggrandizement. So instead of attempting to get another group to share our vision, which I've found virtually impossible, we created this group. We've been planning this for a couple of years, although, naturally, we didn't hear about Teachers Against Prohibition [since renamed Educators for Sensible Drug Policy, still at http://www.teachersagainstprohibition.org on the web], until after we had our first meeting.

Chronicle: What does PERDL do?

Rapplean: We just had our first meeting last month, so we are just getting off the ground. We had about 20 people show up -- some educators, some parents, some merely concerned citizens -- and they were all very enthusiastic about PERDL's mission. What we aim to do is create educational materials that we can use in presentations to educator and parent groups to show them clearly and simply that if they want to save the children, the war on drugs is something to save them from. The presentation is the key, of course; you have to provide the information in a compact and comprehensible manner. Ours has been put together by a couple of the best education professionals in the Denver area. But we continue to fine-tune it. We recently gave the presentation to a group of people capable of intelligent criticism and are adjusting as necessary.

Right now, we are generating interest on a word of mouth basis, but one of the things we will address at our next meeting [set for October 29] is the issue of how to bring this up and get it presented and convince people they should come see it. We will be producing brochures we will leave at libraries and other public places, we will staff booths at various festivals. We will go to the PTAs or to any group at all that will take the hour necessary to hear our presentation. And we have a web site, where we are accumulating information from a multitude of sources and putting that data in a format parents and teachers can easily use to find specific pieces of information supporting our arguments. Our plan is essentially to expand our organization to the point we can provide more and more effective tools, because we believe this is a battle of education. We think if people realize what they are doing with the war on drugs, they'll stop doing it.

Chronicle: What sort of arguments do you make in your presentation?

Rapplean: Our presentation gives a basic lesson in economics at a level that your typical parent can understand. Then it explains that it order for the war on drugs to succeed, you have to either stop production, stop demand, or prevent the flow of drugs from producer to user. We present evidence and arguments to show why the war on drugs is not effective in any of those three cases. Then we do a listing and synopsis of all the horrible consequences that the war on drugs causes, and compare that to the harms done by drugs themselves. This is an effective way of conveying to parents and teachers that the evils caused by the drug war are considerably worse than those caused by drugs themselves.

Then we suggest an alternative. What PERDL is calling for is not complete legalization, but changing the laws so that instead of having completely prohibited substances, we have substances that are reasonably regulated. Drugs should be kept out of the hands of children, and unlike current policies, which encourage the involvement of children in the drug trade, regulation would do that. Drugs should be taxed, and the revenues generated used to pay the social costs they create. And people who want to use dangerous drugs like heroin or PCP should have to complete an educational course before being allowed to purchase them.

Chronicle: Is PERDL a national organization?

Rapplean: Not now. We can canvas support most effectively around Denver because that's where we physically are, but our idea isn't geographically specific. It can be used anywhere. We would like to expand, we would like to find people in other cities who are capable of doing this work, but before we concentrate on expanding nationally, I think we need to demonstrate some success locally. How do we measure that? I'm not sure yet, getting people to not just listen to but act on our presentations would be a measure. If we can get 2,000 people to surround the capitol building in Denver and yell "No more drug war!" for half an hour, we might begin to get the idea across. But to really be successful, we will have to show we can use our membership list to coordinate letter-writing campaigns, to be able to encourage people to vote in one direction or another.

Chronicle: How does PERDL support itself?

Rapplean: Out of our own pockets. Once we get a stable core group, we may start charging memberships, but this is an operation with a minimal budget. Our workers are all volunteers, and our actual out-of-pocket expenses have run about $400 for an overhead projector and slides. I'm a software engineer who works at home, and I have the technical expertise to produce this. We will use free public spaces for our presentations. We will eventually seek grants or other funding, but we need to become a more established group first. We want to have existing successes to show potential funders. Once we have the talent to do a video of the presentation, we can copy it to a hundred cassettes and start sending them to people for use elsewhere. And I'm working on a flash presentation for the web. We want to get our message out in as many formats as possible to hit the broadest possible audience. And once we start getting any sort of national publicity -- and we think if someone starts converting parents and teachers to the cause of drug reform, that's news -- then we will be able to start hitting up big names like Woody Harrelson and Katherine Zeta Jones. She and her husband are both conscious of this issue, and they have children.

Chronicle: How did you get involved in this issue?

Rapplean: My brother was arrested for drug possession when I was 12, and it completely ruined his life. He spent three teenage years in various juvenile detention facilities, and that was ruinous. For more than 20 years now, I've essentially been doing examinations of social and political structures. I've researched government data, and the Internet certainly makes that easier. I've been looking at what we're doing, why we're doing it, and why we should stop doing it. What I see as a key element is the overall dishonesty that pervades the war on drugs. Just as parents and educators are a key target for all that dishonesty from the government, so they are a key target for us.

-- END --
Link to Drug War Facts
Please make a generous donation to support Drug War Chronicle in 2007!          

PERMISSION to reprint or redistribute any or all of the contents of Drug War Chronicle (formerly The Week Online with DRCNet is hereby granted. We ask that any use of these materials include proper credit and, where appropriate, a link to one or more of our web sites. If your publication customarily pays for publication, DRCNet requests checks payable to the organization. If your publication does not pay for materials, you are free to use the materials gratis. In all cases, we request notification for our records, including physical copies where material has appeared in print. Contact: StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 293-8340 (voice), (202) 293-8344 (fax), e-mail [email protected]. Thank you.

Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of the DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

Issue #308, 10/24/03 Bolivians Deal Blow to US Andean Drug Policy | University of Virginia Drug Bust Draws Complaints, Disbelief | Seattle's Sensible Marijuana Initiative Idea Catches On -- Eugene Next? | DRCNet Interview: Robert Rapplean of Parents and Educators for the Reform of Drug Laws | Press Release: Pain Coalition Seeks Relief Through Chronic Pain Treatment Act | Newsbrief: Hawaii to Prosecute Mother in Meth Baby Case | Newsbrief: Urine Sales Case Before South Carolina Supreme Court | Newsbrief: What Racist Drug War? Ask Maryland | Newsbrief: Latest Gallup Poll Finds Public Believes Drugs a Serious Problem But Not the Most Serious | Newsbrief: Glacial Movement on Ganja Decrim in Jamaica | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | Newsbrief: Canada to Look at Subsidized Housing for Junkies | Perry Fund Accepting Applications for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 School Years, Providing Scholarships for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions | The Reformer's Calendar

This issue -- main page
This issue -- single-file printer version
Drug War Chronicle -- main page
Chronicle archives
Out from the Shadows HEA Drug Provision Drug War Chronicle Perry Fund DRCNet en EspaŮol Speakeasy Blogs About Us Home
Why Legalization? NJ Racial Profiling Archive Subscribe Donate DRCNet em PortuguÍs Latest News Drug Library Search
special friends links: SSDP - Flex Your Rights - IAL - Drug War Facts

StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet)
1623 Connecticut Ave., NW, 3rd Floor, Washington DC 20009 Phone (202) 293-8340 Fax (202) 293-8344 [email protected]