By Tom Murlowski, Associate Director, the November Coalition
Ardent Drug Warrior (and member of the powerful House Judiciary Committee) Rep. Bill McCollum (R-Orlando, FL) is being opposed by a candidate who is making his contempt for the War on Drugs a central issue in the campaign. Democrat Al Krulick will be opposing McCollum for a second time, and is calling for an end to the War on Drugs. Krulick has attacked McCollum for sponsoring HRes 372, (A House resolution demonizing any marijauna use be it, medicinal, industrial, or otherwise), and for being an "arm-chair drug warrior, who promises a new and frightening chapter in America's long and disastrous war on drugs."
Tom Murlowski: Could you tell us a little bit about your background? Where did you grow up? What brought you into politics?
Al Krulick: I grew up in Queens, N.Y. in the 50's and lived with my parents, an older brother and younger sister, in a working class community made up mostly of Jewish WW II veterans. I went to public schools, graduated High School in 1968, and eventually got my BA from the State University of New York at Binghamton, in 1973. I worked summers, and often during the academic year itself. I began my professional career in the theatre, while still in my teens, and am completing my 30th year as an actor, writer, director and producer. I currently work for Walt Disney World here in Orlando.
In terms of my political background, I am neither a lawyer nor a professional politician. I did work for several Democratic candidates when I lived in Massachusetts and was involved in the Party organization as a Delegate to State Party conventions. My interest in politics has been lifelong, and I vividly remember the Vietnam era protests. I believe both in direct political action, and in trying to influence change within the system.
TM: There seems to be a general feeling in government that speaking out against current drug policies is tantamount to political suicide. What convinced you otherwise?
AK: It is generally accepted that the issue of drug reform is the "third rail" of American politics. My local Party leader advised me that I'd either be "electrocuted" or "electrified." I told him I'd settle for just being elected! But campaigns need to be about important issues. The "Drug War" is one of the most dangerous public policy failures in our national life. Not speaking out about it, while billions of dollars are being wasted on interdiction and enforcement efforts; tens of thousands of nonviolent offenders are being jailed yearly; and our Constitutional freedoms are being undermined seems tantamount to cowardice and, if I might be so bold, treason. I just felt it was necessary to bring the issue to the attention of the voting public. Our policies cannot continue to be based on fear, prejudice and ignorance, but rather on common sense, science, public health concerns and respect for human rights.
TM: What kind of public response have you been seeing to your 'Stop the War on Drugs' platform?
AK: There is no doubt that the whole issue of drug policy reform is an emotional minefield. The American public has been told so many lies for so long, that it is understandable when they have irrational responses, even to reasonable and calm argument. It is surprising, therefore, that the vast majority of people I talk to are very receptive to my stance on drug policy reform. It seems that the public is, indeed ready for a national debate on this issue. Once they see that thoughtful, major party candidates can offer alternatives to the current madness, they will also see this debate as one between dernagoguery versus fact, political posturing versus reason. The fact that the mainstream media has begun to question our laws arid policies is certainly helpful, as well. Once again it is the politicians who are way behind the population.
TM: The American people have been bombarded with Drug War propaganda for years and years. How would you convince them that the War on Drugs is more dangerous to them and their loved ones than drugs themselves.
AK: Interestingly enough, many people already know that the "War on Drugs" is more dangerous to society than the drugs themselves, but not enough to force a major change at the political level. This will take time, persistence and courage. We need to fight the lies at every level, teach tolerance and compassion to our children, and demand it from our leaders. But we have truth on our side, and I am convinced that the tide is beginning to turn.
If I can help push the debate, as a Congressional candidate from a major party, I will have done something my kids will be proud of. At a recent "Marijuana Education Summit", here in Orlando, sponsored by various Drug Warrior Groups, I challenged ex-Drug Czar Bill Bennett on his stance against medical marijuana. The exchange was reported in our local newspaper the next day, and it certainly made Bennett look like the empty-headed ideologue he is. It was a small victory for truth but it was a victory nonetheless.
TM: What would be your suggestions as an alternative to the criminal justice and incarceration model of drug control.
AK: I don't claim to have all the answers to this complex issue. I know I am against prohibition because it is morally wrong and in the end it doesn't work. I am against punishment, against the erosion of individual freedoms, and against the waste of my tax dollars on failed policies based on ignorance and hysteria. I am against the demonization of drug users and against the propaganda campaign foisted on our children. I believe that the truth is our best ally and that compassion and reason our best tools.
We must work in the direction of harm reduction and away from persecution and incarceration. The "War on Drugs" is turning our nation into a police state and all we hear from the current crop of Drug Warriors is, "Let's do more of the same!" How long does something have to fail before we try a different approach? I think it was Thomas Jefferson who said that " the only cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy." Let's continue to give the people the facts and use all available legal means to force change. Let's challenge the laws whenever we can and support those who wish to change them.
TM: Finally, a more heartfelt question. Do you think we can end this madness soon, and bring our loved ones home? What do you think it will take?
AK: I don't know how long it will take to end the madness. History suggests that things often have to get worse before they get better. Will it take a painful cancer in the family of my opponent before he sees that his opposition to medical marijuana is hateful and unjustified? Will it take the arrest of half the population before it is understood that incarceration is the wrong approach? I hope not. I can only do what I believe is right, in the arena of my choosing. All anyone can do is keep the struggle alive, not back down and reach out to like-minded friends. In the end we will win.
(From Al Krulick's campaign literature: "The citizen who thinks he sees that the commonwealth's political clothes are worn out, and yet holds his peace and does not agitate for a new suit, is disloyal." - Mark Twain)
Al Krulick makes his home in Orlando, Florida, with his wife, Cindy, and their two children, Zoey and Emma. You can write Mr. Krulick at:
Al Krulick for Congress