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Questions for Our "Leaders"

Do you think we've won the Drug War?
Do you think we're winning the Drug War?
If we keep doing what we're doing now, in 10 years, will we have won the Drug War?
Kurt Schmoke, then Mayor of Baltimore (1988)

In the same spirit, we invite legislators and policy makers to address the following questions regarding the "War on Drugs."

  1. We spend $50 billion per year trying to eradicate drugs from this country. According to DEA estimates we capture less than 10 percent of all illicit drugs. In this regard, I have a two part question 1) How much do you think it will cost to stop the other ninety percent? 2) Does $50 billion a year for a 90% failure rate seem like a good investment to you?


  2. White people buy most of the illegal drugs in this country. Yet, seventy four percent of those receiving prison sentences for drug possession are African-American and other minorities. Is race a factor in the enforcement of drug laws, and if not, how can we prove that to skeptics?


  3. Has the cost of the War on Drugs in terms of billions of dollars, blighted lives, jammed prisons, intensified racism, needless deaths, loss of freedom etc., produced any significant change in drug availability or perceived patterns of drug use?


  4. It is estimated that 77 million U.S. citizens have tried an illicit drug at least once. How many of the 77 million drug users do you feel we must incarcerate in order to win the war on drugs?


  5. Why does the FDA stand up for the right of adults to smoke tobacco, which is highly addictive and causes over 400,000 deaths per year, while decreeing that adults have no right to smoke marijuana, which is non-addictive and kills no one?


  6. Drug use is an acknowledged fact of life in every prison in the country. If we can't stop prisoner' use of drugs, how can we rationally expect to stop average free citizens from using them?


  7. What lessons from alcohol prohibition lead you to believe that the current drug war will end in victory?


  8. Fifty-two federal judges, the district attorney of San Francisco, The mayor of Baltimore, the vast majority of prison wardens, and numerous other respected officials consider the war on drugs an abject failure. More than a few important Americans are opposed to the drug war. Since no other US laws or policies are inspiring such resistance, shouldn't we be listening to the many voices which are saying that continuing the war on drugs may be a grave threat to the long-term health of this nation?


  9. At a time when working people are being asked to tighten our belts in order to help balance the budget, how do you justify increasing the funding to the drug law enforcement bureaucracy? Explain why supporting a failed policy of drug law enforcement has a greater priority than student loans or drug education programs.


  10. If illegal drugs are so obviously harmful to people's health, why is it necessary to put so many American adults in prison to prevent them from using these drugs?


  11. In drug policy discussions we hear a lot about the "message" that certain policies may send to children. What message is sent to inner city children who witness illegal drug sales on their way to school each day?


  12. The modern drug war began in the 1960s, and for thirty five years it has failed to reduce drug access to school-aged children. Which is better for America during the next 35 years, prohibition with continued school-aged access to drugs OR reform policies that ease prohibition but reduce school-age access?


  13. Drug prohibition has been one of the biggest U.S. domestic policy failures of the late twentieth century. Why is a perpetuation of this failure more desirable than serious consideration of alternative policy options?


  14. Why should 270 million citizens continue to pay $50 billion per year to try to change the habits of 20 million people, considering that this policy has not been able to change those habits in 82 years and at a total cost of nearly one trillion dollars?


  15. Even granting these drugs are as harmful as claimed, how does persistence in the policy which created and perpetuates the lucrative criminal markets now supplying them make any sense; especially in light of all the collateral damage done by our (unsuccessful) attempt to control them and the abundant historical record that such markets have never been controlled?


  16. For what other health issues do we use police, prosecutors, and prisons as the primary means of 'helping' a sick person? Isn't that just as silly as using a baseball bat to cure someone of clinical depression? (Smile and get happy or I'll whack you again)



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