Messages and Mumbo-Jumbo

By Tom Murlowski, Associate Director, November Coalition

When science and reason stubbornly continue to stymie their efforts, the drug warriors always fall back on simplistic rhetoric. Any kind of realistic discussion of drug policy, anything that smells remotely like common sense or logic, might "send the wrong message to our children."

Industrial hemp, an incredibly versatile and potentially profitable crop for our nation's beleaguered farmers, cannot even be considered by our federal government because it "sends the wrong message."

Medical marijuana, which is increasingly being seen as a sensible medicine, is withheld from the sick and dying because it "sends the wrong message."

Needle exchange and methadone programs, both of which have been proven to drastically reduce harm to individuals and society, are constantly under fire by our government for the same reason. They might "send the wrong message."

What messages are we sending now? Here's a message that I'm sure our children are beginning to understand: make a mistake, enjoy a moment of youthful rebellion, and our criminal justice system will destroy you. Another message that I'm sure is all too clear in our minority communities: if you're black or brown, you are suspect.

At the heart of the war on drugs is the concept of a "drug-free America." This seems to be a favorite sound bite in Congress; we've had bills for "drug-free families," "drug-free schools," "drug free communities," even one for a "drug-free century." In the summer of 1998 it was the United Nations proclaiming a "drug-free world."

What exactly do McCaffrey and others mean when they talk about a "Drug Free America"? Every city, town and village in America has a drug store or pharmacy. Just about every city has a liquor store. Shall we close them all down? No more vodka, no more whisky and no more beer! No more aspirin, no more antacids and no more laxatives!

Of course not! What "drug-free" really means is no more drugs that aren't sanctioned by the powerful pharmaceutical and liquor industries. They're just trying to eliminate the competition! A "Drug-Free America" is just more meaningless mumbo-jumbo, more fuel for a failed drug policy.

How about "zero tolerance", a little piece of meanness that is tossed about with increasing zeal by elected officials and petty bureaucrats these days. Here's a little simple math: zero tolerance equals 100 percent intolerance. We will tolerate nothing! Little Johnny brought lemon cough drops to school, and shared them with his sick buddy? Expel him; he's a drug dealer. Surely we can do better than that in this "Land of the Free."

Which brings us to that lofty phrase itself. Can we really call ourselves the "Land of the Free" when we have more human beings languishing in prison than just about any country in the history of the human race? Even Russia is dismantling their prison complex. We ought to be ashamed to show our faces to the international community.

Recently Canada was targeted by the U.S. State Department for "not taking the war on drugs seriously enough." Really? How dare they actually use compassion and common sense in their drug policies. We certainly have a bad case of arrogance. Or could it be that Canada's a step ahead, and this could be a way of our leaders sending another message-do it our way or else?

Here's a message to America for the new millenium: Just Say No! No to policies based on hate, fear, greed and racism. Say "no" to the lies and propaganda that have been forced down America's throat for decades.

Just say no to the war on drugs.