Long-time Drug Warrior Changes His Mind, Supports Medical Marijuana and Decriminalization

John J. Dilulio Jr. once coauthored a 1996 book entitled Body Count: Moral Poverty...And How to Win America's War Against Crime and Drugs. The other two authors were Bill Bennett and John Walters, both former drug czars and infamously rabid prohibitionists. I haven't read the book, but I'm sure it's a thick serving of ugly drug war propaganda.

And I'm sure it sounds nothing like what Dilulio wrote this month in Democracy Journal:

… legalize marijuana for medically prescribed uses, and seriously consider decriminalizing it altogether. Last year there were more than 800,000 marijuana-related arrests. The impact of these arrests on crime rates was likely close to zero. There is almost no scientific evidence showing that pot is more harmful to its users’ health, more of a "gateway drug," or more crime-causing in its effects than alcohol or other legal narcotic or mind-altering substances. Our post-2000 legal drug culture has untold millions of Americans, from the very young to the very old, consuming drugs in unprecedented and untested combinations and quantities. Prime-time commercial television is now a virtual medicine cabinet ("just ask your doctor if this drug is right for you"). Big pharmaceutical companies function as all-purpose drug pushers. And yet we expend scarce federal, state, and local law enforcement resources waging "war" against pot users. That is insane.

Well, it certainly is and Dilulio deserves credit for his candor, particularly given the likelihood of hugely pissing off his former colleagues (not that they don't deserve it). I hope we hear more from him, both because there's nothing more powerful than former drug warriors speaking out for reform, and because I'm just intensely curious if there were specific events or observations that triggered the evolution of his thinking on these issues.

Moments like this illustrate something powerfully important: any of our opponents could come around at any time. Most won't, and predicting who will is probably impossible, but recognizing that any of these people could potentially end up on our side someday is instructive in terms of how we might choose to interact with them on the rare occasions that big-time drug warriors emerge from their bunkers for public engagement.

It's so easy to just hate the hell out of these people that want to put us in jail, that lie reflexively and professionally, and that preside over monumental injustices with smug callousness. But we have nothing to gain by loathing them and much to lose if our frustration betrays opportunities to build bridges that could one day foster further defection from the ranks of the great drug warrior army.

As the war on drugs continues to cascade out of favor with academics, politicians and the public, those whose careers have been defined by defending it will suffer the greatest disillusionment and may soon crave the embrace of the kind, generous and forgiving people they spent so many years trying to destroy. It would serve our interests well to make it clear that they are always welcome among us.
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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I'd like to commend the

I'd like to commend the author for the last two paragraphs. It's too rare in this day and age to hear anyone preaching empathy and compassion. It's all to easy to forget to exemplify the values you'd like to see more of in society.

seriously, this a great progressive attitude

...but only another 30 years before they de-criminalize! until then its a free reason to prosecute those at the bottom of society for not having a real job.

Enjoyed the Democracy

Enjoyed the Democracy Journal article...and am currently impressed with Dilulio.
Prohibition wall is crumbling...when a former Drug Czar has come around!

Who supports the prohibition?

7,000 people were murdered by the Mexican drug cartels last year because we in the US kept marijuana illegal, many of the victims were children, police officers and politicians. This year the cartels are on track to kill at least 9,000 more. Who supports keeping it illegal?

oh yah

I wouldn`t throw them a life preserver if they were going down for the last time. When I start smoking again I would throw the preserver to them. And be very cautious afterward.


Yeah, I have always talked respectfully to the other side while realizing they were full of s...

I wonder if they have compassion towards the Taliban(Afghan People) or the poor they seem to ride roughshod over? Was Hitler worthy of our compassion? Will the spirit, or their own beings, show compassion towards them when they pass on? Just questions.

Criminals are usually convicted and punished. Those that have run this 40 year drug war on the citizens of the world are criminals. Compassion? Or throw away the key? What would you do with someone whoms ideology has led to a haulacaust of damage to the people of this world? Especially when they can not consider that they have always been wrong. Would we show compassion to serial killers, which our gov't certainly behaves like.

On any level, these people should be punished. Just as the Nazi warmongers were after WWII. In the end these people will get their just rewards no matter what.

I'm more interested in amnesty for drug war victims than trials

for drug war perpetrators, much more interested. And much more interested in getting legalization passed than in complicating the issue with the prospect of prosecutions for past actions. What the drug warriors are doing in general has been ruled legal by the courts, so they are safe in general from legal prosecution, the Constitution specifically forbids ex post facto [after the fact] criminalization. They are surely committing a moral crime, but usually not a legal one.

ex post facto

is what happened when marijuana and other drugs were made "illicit". Prior to that criminalization (due to criminals Anslinger, Hearst, and Dupont), all drugs were legal. All that is really needed is to repeal all laws relating tp the criminalization of drug manufacture/cultivation, possession, sale and use; no new laws need be passed.

I'm pro-choice on EVERYTHING!

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