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ABC News Special Looks for "Solutions" to the War on Drugs, Finds Controversy


April 1995

On April 6, ABC News aired a one-hour program featuring alternatives to the nation's current drug policy. "America's War On Drugs: Searching for Solutions," anchored by Catherine Crier, is a thoughful treatment of drug policy and is highly recommended.

The program discusses harm reduction, drug prohibition violence, law enforcement roles in drug policy, treatment, and European solutions to the problems associated with drug abuse. Featured in the show are Dr. Ethan Nadelmann, Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Former Drug Czar William Bennett, Ph.D., New Haven's Police Chief Nicholas Pastore, Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, and Judge James Gray.

Jimmy Montgomery, an Oklahoma man who uses marijuana to treat the symptoms of a broken back, was also interviewed for the program. Montgomery was sentenced to life imprisonment for possession with intent to deliver less than two ounces of marijuana. His sentence was cut to ten years, and Montgomery was on bail during his appeal when the interview was taped. Since the interview, his appeal was denied and he went back to prison.

The program was followed by a roundtable discussion on "Nightline."

The show was criticized by Thomas Constantine, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration and A.M. Rosenthal, columnist for The New York Times, who called it "simply a long promotion for the legalization of drugs" (Thomas Constantine, "The Cruel Hoax of Legalization," Washington Times, Apr. 19, 1995, p. A17; A. M. Rosenthal, "Stacking the Deck," New York Times, Apr. 14, 1995, p. A15).

David Borden of the Foundation for Drug Policy Awareness and the Drug Reform Coordination Network called the program "a brilliant overview of alternatives to the drug war orthodoxy."

[If you would like to obtain a tape of the program, call 1-800-913-3434. "America's War On Drugs: Searching for Solutions" costs $34.95 (plus shipping and handling). The "Nightline" special following the program costs $29.95, and the two tapes cost $54.90. Transcripts can be obtained from Journal Graphics, 1535 Grant Street, Denver, CO 80203, 1-800-ALL-NEWS. Transcripts for the program are $14, $12 for the "Nightline" discussion, and $21 for both.

Many organizations are calling for viewers to write to ABC News and express their feelings about the show. To contact the show, write to Jeff Diamond, ABC News, 77 W. 66th Street, New York, NY 10023, or call audience information at 212-456-7777.]