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Empower America Warns of "Drug Legalization"


March-April 1998

On March 12, Empower America held a press conference in Washington, DC titled "Drug Legalization: Exploring the Threat to American Society." Former "drug-czar" William J. Bennett chaired the event which included remarks from DEA Administrator Thomas Constantine; Ernst Aeschbach, MD, a Swiss psychiatrist; Christy A. McCampbell, senior special agent in charge the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement at the California Department of Justice; and psychiatrist Robert Dupont, MD. NewsBriefs attended the conference.

Thomas Constantine said "legalizers" are very well-funded and come from a social and economic class that would not be affected by the policies they endorse. Constantine remarked that the "legalization" agenda is couched in terms like "harm reduction" and "medicalization" to hide the true subject from the public. He said he has yet to see a mother in the inner city say that she wants more drugs available for her kids. It is the wealthy people living on the east side of Manhattan pushing legalization because they don't have to live with it, according to Constantine.

Dr. Aeschbach claimed that the reported favorable results of heroin maintenance trials in Switzerland were actually rather poor. Aeschbach claims that improvements in addicts' health and employment came from care given to them in the program, not from the heroin maintenance.

Christy A. McCampbell said Proposition 215, California's medical marijuana law, has created "a man-made disaster." McCampbell said the medical marijuana law eliminates consumer protection, ties the hands of law enforcement, creates a conflict between federal and state law, and sends the "wrong message." The reason why opponents of Proposition 215 failed, she said, were: (1) Proposition 215 advertising was false and misleading and exploited public compassion. (2) Opponents' voices were not heard; they did not receive equal media coverage. (3) Opponents were not well organized. (4) Opponents did not have a financial base. McCampbell said opponents only raised $30,000.

Dr. Dupont, who was head of NIDA during the U.S. government's research on marijuana during the 1970s, said that a 1976 report, "Therapeutic Potential of Marihuana" says that "cannabis will never be adopted for medical indications", but that its main psychoactive ingredient, delta-9-THC, is a possible candidate. According to Dupont, any medically effective chemical in marijuana smoke would be approved for use as a synthetic analogue, like Marinol®. Opponents of this approach do not want medical access, but are only interested in getting high, Dupont said. He added that real "harm reduction" is "use reduction" because drug use is what kills.

Dupont said that America can stop drug profits by drying up the demand. Changing attitudes through drug testing and "socially imposed consequences" is the best approach, he said. He added that drug testing is needed in the workplace and on the highways with any drivers testing positive losing their license.

Unlike drug reform measures Proposition 200 in Arizona and Proposition 215 in California, the drug reform initiative (I-685) in Washington state failed because opponents "got the message out," according to Bennett. Empower America held a press conference with statements from the entire Washington congressional delegation opposing the initiative just weeks before the vote.

Bennett said that if you can bring the tobacco industry leaders to Capitol Hill, you can bring those who are pouring millions of dollars into state drug reform campaigns to be confronted by Congressional Committees.

Bennett added that when he was drug czar he visited 105 cities and asked to be taken to where the problems were, which were in the inner city. He said he never heard people discuss "legalization" in the inner city but heard it at Harvard, at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, and at the National Review.

Notes taken by staff from the Drug Policy Foundation were also used in compiling this report.

William Bennett, PhD - Empower America , 1776 I Street, NW, Suite 890, Washington, DC 20006, Tel: (202) 452-8200 ext. 253, Fax: (202) 833-0388.

Administrator Thomas Constantine - DEA, 700 Army Navy Dr., Arlington, VA 22202, Tel: (202) 307-1000.

Ernst Aeschbach, MD - Tel: (011) (411) 350-4999, Fax: (011) (411) 350-4998, E-mail: <>.

Christy A. McCampbell - 2025 Gateway Place, Suite 474, San Jose, CA 95110, Tel: (408) 452-7360, Fax: (408) 452-7285.

Robert Dupont, MD - Dupont Associates, 6191 Executive Blvd., Rockville, MD 20852, Tel: (301) 770-6876.