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June 16, 2005 - DrugSense Weekly (USWeb)

Spreading Truth

By Robert Rapplean, political analyst, activist, and director of Parents and Educators for the Reform of Drug Laws ( He lives in Denver, CO with his wife and two daughters.

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The challenge inherent in correcting our nation's drug policies isn't so much one of changing laws as one of changing truth. The word "truth" is often mistakenly thought to refer to something that is beyond argument and immutable. Sometimes people mistake truth for fact, sometimes they are engaging in wishful thinking, sometimes they have just never thought about the meaning.

Facts are those pieces of information you can trace down to a reproducible source. For instance, most of our readers know that marijuana is a relatively harmless substance from our personal experimentation, from our observations of others who use it, and from the many studies and papers published by organizations such as the World Health Organization. All of these are reliably reproducible sources, and since there are several such sources, we can and should feel confident in the solidity of this fact.

Truth, on the other hand, is acquired via hearing enough people tell you something, via anecdotal evidence, and via unverified feats of logic. Seriously, that's it, nothing more. We often assign various people with "authority" positions, and believe what they say more than we believe the words of others. Examples of authority figures include priests, politicians, scientists, and our mothers.

Sometimes one opinion is all it takes, to make something true in the face of copious scientifically-derived evidence to the contrary. A few good examples of one-time, no longer true statements for most people are that the world is flat, Venus is covered with lush vegetation, and marijuana induces violence.

A few good examples of statements that are still true for most people are the big bang theory, the idea that the government can protect us from terrorist attacks, and the theory that interstellar travel is impossible in a human lifetime. For some people evolution is truth, for others creation is truth.

If we want to advance the drug law reform cause, then we have to start realizing that we won't succeed merely by changing the minds of a few politicians. In order to succeed we must change the truth accepted by the general public.

Our strength lies in the growing body of evidence in our favor. In our path lies seven decades of superstition, misinformation, and fears fed by those greedy for power. These are the things which have created the truth which we must alter.

The typical person will change their truth if enough of the people around them start to espouse an opposing view. Have you ever wondered why a third of the population isn't enough to make the rest of us wonder if this viewpoint might have a little substance?

What most of us don't realize is that "the drug war should be reformed" isn't the truth that we're trying to spread. What we're trying to spread is WHY the drug war should be reformed. We think that hitting people with a lot of reasons increases the chance that they'll pick up on one of them, but truth doesn't work that way.

As stated above, truth is acquired when you hear something from enough people. Because each of us espouses a separate reason, none of these reasons get spoken often enough for people to listen, to accept, to adjust their world view. In the minds of the listeners it looks like we're grasping at straws.

If we really want to expand the drug law reform movement we need to pick a single truth, a single reason, and stand unanimously behind it. Like a chorus of Horton's Whos on a dust speck speaking one single truth in unison, it can't help but sink in.

Picking that one truth is just a matter of learning from history. Medical marijuana has worked that way, but it has only resulted in changes in the laws for medical use. Similarly, hemp, dietary, and energy arguments would only result in changes in how non-THC hemp is distributed, with no impact on the larger drug war issue.

What we need is a single truth that strikes at the very heart of the drug war, or even at the idea of prohibition itself. We need a truth that will stand up to the closest examination, and be supported by untainted research. We need a truth that will tell people that the war on drugs is not just inconvenient, not just wasteful, but is outright harmful even to those it is supposed to protect.

When we find that truth, we all need to hold onto it and speak it with regularity and conviction. Those around us will hear it, and they will tell others. The truth will spread until we are a strong enough majority that the government can no longer dismiss us as selfish, as deluded, as insignificant. In this way, we can bring into existence a world where one more policy is based on fact instead of fear.

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