NewsBriefs BUTTONS

Supporters of Drug Policy Reform Should Be Considered
for RICO Prosecutions; Compared to Pedophiles and 
Rapists at House Hearing


Summer 1999

At a House hearing titled "The Pros and Cons of Drug Legalization, Decriminalization and Harm Reduction," Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) suggested that federal racketeering (RICO) laws should be used to prosecute persons who advocate reform of drug policies. The hearing in the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee's Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources was chaired by Rep. John Mica (R-FL) on June 16. NewsBriefs staff attended the hearing (Christopher Wren, "The Opposing Camps Square Off at a Congressional Hearing About Drug Legalization," New York Times, June 20, 1999).

Gen. Barry McCaffrey, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, testified under oath that medical marijuana initiatives are "sheer buffoonery from an ivory tower." He said, "We're getting rolled in the public arena by very clever people." McCaffrey said there is "a carefully camouflaged, well funded, tightly knit core of people whose goal is to legalize drugs in the United States." McCaffrey assured the subcommittee that "I am not open-minded about drug abuse in America."

"We don't debate the pros and cons of rape or child abuse," said Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), who expressed anger that the hearing was called. "We don't bring rapists in here to explain their views" (Frank Davies, "GOP Stands Firm Against Drug Legalization," Miami Herald, June 18, 1999). When asked whether he saw any difference between advocates for legalization and advocated for pedophiles, Donnie Marshall, Deputy Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), responded that he did not see a difference.

Some Republicans pressed McCaffrey to redirect ONDCP's $185 million anti-drug media campaign to counter medical marijuana initiatives in several states. "We can't go head to head with a referendum," responded McCaffrey, citing legal obstacles with using tax dollars to combat a citizens initiative (Laura R. Vanderkam, "McCaffrey resolute: No pot as medicine," Washington Times, June 17, 1999, p. A6).

Several advocates of drug policy reform testified: Ira Glasser, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), David Boaz, executive vice president of the CATO Institute, and Scott Ehlers, then-senior policy analyst at the Drug Policy Foundation. "The Government has demonized all drug use without differentiation, has systematically and hysterically resisted science and has turned millions of stable and productive citizens into criminals," Glasser testified.

The hearing prompted an editorial from the Salt Lake Tribune: "Given the nature of the hearings, the most serious failures of the lengthy war on drugs received short shrift or were not even mentioned." The paper wrote, "Unlawful searches, abnormal prison sentences and illicit property seizures are tolerated even endorsed as necessary for a war the government is no closer to winning than it was 30 years ago. The United States never has been engaged in a real war with such disastrous losses. No foreign power has even been able to divorce American citizens from or limit the individual liberties this nation's founders said were inalienable. The drug war has created no victors, but has left a plenitude of losers, not least of whom are the citizenry who have been forced to finance it and have seen their liberties tweaked to the point that their lives and property can be stripped from them at the caprice of any government agency if it invokes the drug war" (Editorial, "Lost War on Drugs," Salt Lake Tribune, June 25, 1999).

Rep. John Mica, Chairman, Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources - B-373 RHOB, Washington, DC 20515, Tel: (202) 225-2577, Fax: (202) 225-1154.

Rep. Bob Barr - 1207 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515, Tel: (202) 225-2931, Fax: (202) 225-2944.

Rep. Mark Souder - 109 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515, Tel: (202) 225-4436, Fax: (202) 225-3479.

Gen. Barry McCaffrey - Office of National Drug Control Policy, 750 17th St., NW, 8th Floor, Washington, DC 20006, Tel: (202) 395- 6618, Web: <>.