International community is key to US drug reform

By John Gilmore

I'm a businessman, computer wizard, civil libertarian, and philanthropist living in San Francisco. Two years ago I decided to spend at least the next ten years of my time and money to reform drug policy in the US. I haven't started, nor do I desire to start, any new or competing drug reform organization. I work with existing ones, so far, because I think today's international drug reform community is already a powerful key to fixing the whole problem.

If we want to reform drug laws, the first step is to figure out what props up the current policies. US drug policy is based on a fabric of lies. These lies survive because the people who know better are afraid to tell the truth. They are afraid because in the US those who have personal experience with drugs must be silent, or risk being thrown in prison, seeing their kids taken away from them, having their private property seized by the government, including their family home.

Truthful experience reported by people from other countries can show Americans that what weakly props up the drug war are official government lies - falsehoods like "marijuana is addictive;" or "every use of an illegal drug is abuse;" or "ecstasy makes holes in your brain;" or "drug users can't do skilled work;" or "people can't use drugs safely," and "letting sick people use illegal drugs as medicine sends the wrong message to kids."

Prevailing US drug policies also produce terrible consequences for many other countries. All over Central and South America the US actively undermines civil and criminal law, civil rights, democracy, local control of government by its citizens, and many other facets of community life and governance. As long as these consequences are largely unknown to the taxpaying US public, these terrible acts and the elected politicians who think them up will remain hidden, and the atrocities will continue. So we US citizens need to hear your truth about what is really happening in your countries as a result of drug prohibition and US antidrug initiatives.

US government policy on drugs relies overwhelmingly on tough-guy law enforcement. The enforcers' stance is to make it seem like they are in control, while pretending there is no dissent about drug policy, and insisting that anyone who disagrees with them is either insane or should be in jail. It's important for drug policy reformers in other countries to know that that citizens in this country are seething with drug policy reform.

US citizens have voted in almost one-fifth of the country to make marijuana legal as a medicine. Medical marijuana patients and clubs are unintimidated and flourishing, despite the DEA raids in California recently. You won't read much about the growing numbers of cannabis clubs in mainstream newspapers because the drug policy reform movement is (so far) doing a poor job of telling our story.

Still, national polls show 80%+ support for medical marijuana. Support for full legalization is not as strong. Yet, in Alaska, 40% of the populace voted for a measure that would not only repeal all the laws against marijuana and free all the marijuana prisoners, but also study restitution that would compensate marijuana users for the damage they have suffered at the hands of the government. As the official lies are disproved again and again, and the public's irrational fears recede, voters will support more and more sane policies.

The tide has turned. Today's vicious policies are reaching their end. As usual, the incompetent and corrupt "leaders" in our government will be the last to accept and yield to the facts. One of the best things we can do for policymakers in other countries is to convince them to ignore the US Federal government when it comes to drug policy, just as many US State governments are doing.

The vicious Federal enforcers are an increasingly isolated minority. Their power comes solely from instilling fear in their opponents. If we citizens stop fearing them, and if countries around the world regularly ignore them on drug issues, their power will dry up and blow away. Speed the day that the rest of the world adopts sane policies because, then, we in the US will be better able to force healing sanity down the collective throats of our currently insane drug warriors.

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The Razor Wire is a publication of The November Coalition, a nonprofit organization that advocates drug law reform. Contact information:
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