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Tom Hayden to NORML: US Needs Peace Movement to End Drug War [FEATURE]

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #754)
Consequences of Prohibition
Politics & Advocacy

Harkening back to his days as a student antiwar activist in the 1960s, but also drawing heavily on the example of the contemporary Caravan for Peace (with justice and dignity to end the drug war), which emerged out of Mexico this summer to traverse the United States, Tom Hayden used the occasion of the opening of the 41st National NORML Conference to call for a social justice peace movement to end the war on drugs in the US.

Hayden, who co-founded the radical anti-war Students for a Democrat Society in 1966, was prosecuted as one of the Chicago Seven, and went on to serve as a California state assemblyman, told the opening day crowd he had been following and covering drug war events in Mexico and Central America for some time, and that he was "astonished" at how the Mexican drug war was covered in the US.

"It's estimated that 60-70,000 Mexicans have been killed in the drug war since 2007," Hayden noted. "The funding came from the US, the weapons came from the US, the advisors came from the DEA -- the whole thing is an extension of US drug and national security policy, and it was met with a terrible silence in this country."

Digging deeper, Hayden came across the Mexican movement led by poet Javier Sicilia, which he described as being something like Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, "a movement whose hard core were people who thought of themselves as victims, who had experienced the disappearances of family members, their deaths, beheadings, torture." Such movements typically play into the hands of hard law and order, Hayden noted, with calls for more police, more imprisonment, more suppression.

"But in this case, it was more along the lines of saying 'enough, this war is causing more suffering than anything it seeks to suppress or prevent,'" the veteran activist continued. "These were not people calling for the legalization of drugs, but for an end to the drug war on the assumption that nothing good could come of it, and that only if were ended would it be possible and necessary to consider alternatives like legalization."

"Javier Sicilia is a poet and a man of the left, and seems to be able to channel the feelings of all these people in Mexico as a sort of therapeutic experience connected to political demands," Hayden said. "There hasn't been a strong peace movement perspective brought against the drug war here. It could be a matter of framing, but a drug war peace movement could be a strong complement to medical or legalization. We need a medical approach, not a military one."

Tom Hayden addressing the antiwar movement, 2004 (
The Caravan for Peace has attempted to plant that seed on both sides of the border, and in an historically unique fashion, Hayden argued.

"I don't remember any group of Mexicans since the mid-1800s who organized to come north over the border to protest policies in the United States," he said. "They came looking for others who have suffered violence, incarceration, repression, addiction. They came looking to build community with people all across the US."

And the timing couldn't be more critical, Hayden suggested.

"Pressure from south of the border is starting to put some muscle behind the moral pressure for legalization here," he said, citing the work of the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy and, more recently, the Summit of the Americas, where the US couldn't prevent the issue of the failed drug war from rearing its head. "The drug war is now becoming a serious impediment to the US conducting its foreign policy with Latin America. An effort to mobilize a peace movement against the drug war is not only overdue, but could be decisive for your efforts."

Hayden hardly mentioned the word "marijuana," but his message was clear: For the movement to advance, it has to go beyond fighting merely for the right to get high, but instead needs to root itself in the broader cause of social justice. With the NORML conference's theme this year being The Final Days of Prohibition, Hayden certainly gave his audience something to think about.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Paul Pot (not verified)

At the UN meeting last week Presidents Calderon, Perez and Santos spoke at length for the need to reform international drug laws. Even though the drug war was the central point of their speeches the UN summary of events that day recorded none of this. The UN is a bit like the US. But leaders are looking for serious alternatives and may just go ahead without UN sanction especially should one US state legalize at the ballot box this year. Vote to legalize in Colorado, Oregon and Washington. Gary Johnson for President. War is Over! 2012!

Fri, 10/05/2012 - 7:28am Permalink
Jillian Galloway (not verified)

American taxpayers are being forced to pay $40 Billion a year for a prohibition that causes 10,000 brutal murders & 800,000 needless arrests each year, but which doesn't even stop CHILDREN getting marijuana.

After seventy-five years of prohibition, it's obvious that the federal marijuana prohibition causes FAR more harm than good and must END! Drug Dealers Don't Card, Supermarkets Do.

Fri, 10/05/2012 - 10:26am Permalink
Anon (not verified)

"For the movement to advance, it has to go beyond fighting merely for the right to get high, but instead needs to root itself in the broader cause of social justice."

Fri, 10/05/2012 - 2:38pm Permalink
UndertheRadar (not verified)

In reply to by Anon (not verified)

Methinks it is a sad day in hell when our citizens have to worry about 'federal agents' knocking.
What has happened to our 'free' country?
George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry...they would all disown our cowardly, miserable, whining asses.
Have we really come to this? 
I spent 5 years in Federal Prison for a marijuana offense.
I wrote about the escapades that enabled that 'vacation.'
My book:  Shoulda Robbed a Bank
I would be honored by your review.


Thu, 10/11/2012 - 3:13pm Permalink
steveqi (not verified)

In reply to by Anon (not verified)

"For the movement to advance, it has to go beyond fighting merely for the right to get high, but instead needs to root itself in the broader cause of social justice"

I have a lot of problems with this statement. First of all, to relegate "getting high" i.e. the purposeful change of neurological reality by an individual, as a trivial, or  "mere" endeavor is extremely wrongheaded, in my view, and part of the Calvinist conqueror paradigm the West seeks to impose on its factory slaves, to the benefit of a managerial middle-class, what used to be a  small elite of robber barons, our homegrown aristocracy of, as Mencken wrote, boorish  "breakfast food kings". Babbits. The idea of the work ethic, "tardiness", Calvinist predestination, can all be read in the epigraph above as the disdain of a middleclass chauvinist, an obvious armchair pundit and stuffed shirt. Yes, a doughty contender of the spoils system has spoken.

Sun, 10/14/2012 - 7:13pm Permalink
Colleen McCool (not verified)

True Patriots believe in the American Dream: Self-Government, freedom from big government tyranny and oppression.

The elephants and donkeys deserve the bird because they have forsaken the American Dream.

A declaration is an affirmation. Independence means self-government. They could have called The Declaration of Independence, The Affirmation of Self-Government! Aha! The Founders were libertarian.

Gary Johnson and Judge Jim Gray are the only choice to Save the American Dream: and to Restore Justice, the guardian of Liberty! The people believe in self-government and self-medication.
Fri, 10/05/2012 - 3:04pm Permalink
David762 (not verified)

Albert Einstein was once quoted as saying "Insanity is defined as continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different outcome."

Regardless of which mainstream political party is in power, the War OF Drugs continues to get more repressive. This is not absolute -- there are a few politicians in each party that, when pressed, will come out in support of medical cannabis and fewer still in favor of re-legalization of cannabis. This usually happens when their continuing political career is threatened. But over all, neither Democrats nor Republicans can be trusted in regard to upholding personal freedom and liberties regarding the most maligned harmless plant in modern history. Sadly, this occurs even against the express wishes of a majority of voters when state-wide referendums are passed. Unsurprisingly, these same authoritarian politicians also vote for repressive Police State legislation. Don't take my word on this; check it out for yourselves. If we want real change, with personal freedoms and liberties restored, these politicians need to be voted out of office. There are alternatives, like the Green Party and the Libertarian Party. With enough votes, these will be the new mainstream political parties and the Democrats and Republican relegated to the ash-heap of history, where they belong.

Fri, 10/05/2012 - 10:41pm Permalink
mexweed (not verified)

Too late now to say this?   Maybe Gaawd (or google) will step in-- we need an Open Primary and Top Two Runoff System via quickie Emergency Constitutional Amendment, then it would make sense to vote Green Party this year, meanwhile avoid draining any votes away from Lesser Evil Barry, remember the other guy said, "I'll fight tooth and claw against [cannabis legalization]." 

Officially released (you don't know how much more passes through the $uperPACKs); so far in 2012 the tobacco industry gives $75,000 to Romney, $17,000 to Obama.

Not against recycling worthy defeated Republicans: have our newly reelected Second Choomcago President get the job done next year by Proclamation-- giving Tooth and Claw Mitt the job of CZAR  over a US-led Crusade EXTERMINATING the $igarette slavery habit (6,000,000 deaths/yr.) worldwide and (part of the deal) worldwide cannabis legalization and widespread SUBSTITUTION of vaporized cannabis for tobacco and alcohol at all social conviviality occasions.  If Romney works with the Church (Mormons have lowest $igarette addiction rates) .he can get the job done-- eliminate the greatest genocide plague in the history of the human species (over 200,000,000 dead so far and counting) and win a $$ Prize (Know Well, the Norwegians did sing).

Keywords: 25-mg Serving Size Screened Single Toke Rasta-choomette utensil made from everyday objecdts;  #16-mesh screen sifter

Sat, 10/06/2012 - 6:00pm Permalink
mexweed (not verified)

Erratum: the #16 mesh screen sifter is for sifting herbs to consistent particle size for best vaporizing results in one-hitters; the crater screen should be #40.

Sat, 10/06/2012 - 6:10pm Permalink
Rwolf (not verified)

Should U.S. Government Pay Americans’ Drug Rehab Costs—If the Government Is Helping–Cartel(s) Import Illegal Drugs?

If The latest revelations are true, mentioned in the October 5, 2012 New American article “Stratfor Sources: U.S. Troops in Mexico as Feds Aid Cartels” that U.S. Government supports certain drug cartels as “first reported by Narco News”, after WikiLeaks released hacked e-mails from Stratfor, it would appear to confirm accusations made last year by a top Sinaloa operative Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla, that U.S. government offered his criminal syndicate virtual immunity to import multi-ton quantities of drugs across the border.

If U.S. government is helping the Sinaloa Cartel criminal racketeering enterprise or other Cartel import tons of drugs into the United States—Americans injured by those illegal drugs should not hesitate to file Civil Racketeering Lawsuits against the U.S. Government and the law enforcement agencies that participated in helping Cartels import illegal-drugs.

U.S. criminal courts order defendants as a condition of probation, to attend and pay for expensive private and non-profit drug rehab programs creating a $12-Billion dollar industry. If e.g. the Sinaloa Drug Cartel is the predominant importer of drugs into the United States because of U.S. Government support, shouldn’t the U.S. Government pay the drug rehabilitation costs of American drug users? It would appear Californians injured by a Cartel’s illegal-drugs that U.S. Government helped import into the United States, could sue U.S. Government and any law enforcement agency that assisted the Cartel import illegal-drugs under The California Drug Dealer Liability Act Effective January 1997. In brief the “Act” provides a civil remedy for damages to persons in a community injured as a result of the use of an illegal controlled substance. These persons include parents, employers, insurers, governmental entities, and others who pay for drug treatment or employee assistance programs, as well as infants injured as a result of exposure to controlled substances in utero (" drug babies"). This “Act” enables them to recover damages from those persons in the community who have joined the marketing of illegal controlled substances. A further purpose of this Act is to shift, to the extent possible, the cost of the damage caused by the existence of the market for illegal controlled substances in a community to those who illegally profit from that market.

Consequently if U.S. Government supports the Sinaloa Cartel or other Cartel that import illegal-drugs into California, victims of illegal-drug use should be able to sue the U.S. Government along with all other participants.

Every year innocent landlords of residential rental property and motels defend their property against Government Civil Asset Forfeiture because unbeknownst to an owner, a tenant or guest at their property is alleged by government to have sold or distributed illegal drugs. It is a conflict of interest for U.S. Government to forfeit real estate from innocent landlords if Government participates is supporting illegal-drug Cartel criminal enterprise to import illegal drugs into America—foreseeable to taint innocent landlords’ property.

Many U.S. Cities have blocks of blighted buildings caused by illegal drug activity that collapsed real estate values and collected property taxes communities depend on to support their infra structure. If U.S. Government is helping the Sinaloa Drug Cartel or other cartel flood America with illegal drugs, cities and counties economically damaged by U.S. Government’s illegal-drug activities should file Civil RICO Suits to recover damages from  the U.S. Government and law enforcement agencies that helped a Drug Cartel import illegal drugs into the U.S. See California Drug Dealer Liability Act Effective January 1997, other states passed similar bills.

Illegal-drug distribution in America increasingly corrupts police. If U.S. Government actually offered or actually helped the Sinaloa Drug Cartel or other Cartel import illegal-drugs into the U.S as alleged in numerous reports, what kind of message is U.S. Government sending law enforcement. Almost every week the news reports police arrested for selling illegal drugs, taking bribes, falsifying evidence to arrest U.S. Citizens. Police corruption can only get worse if U.S. Government supports drug-Cartels import illegal-drugs into the United States.

See the October 5, 2012 New American Article at:

Thu, 10/11/2012 - 5:15pm Permalink

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