Pubdate: Sun, 11 Jun 2000
Source: Post-Standard, The (NY)
Address: P.O.  Box 4915, Syracuse, N.Y.  13221-4915
Copyright: 2000, Syracuse Post-Standard
Author: Gene Tinelli, M.D., Ph.D., ReconsiDer, Forum on Drug Policy
Note: The author is an  Addiction Psychiatrist at Upstate Medical 
University, Syracuse
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To the Editor:

Sometimes, a single statement can encapsulate a previously complex and 
confusing set of policies.

The Florida drug czar, Jim McDonough, released "death statistics" from 
illegal drugs to justify his draconian state drug war. On May 21, the 
Orlando Sentinel published an well-balanced article debunking his 
"statistics," stating not only were they inflated, they were fraudulent.

Responding to proof of his mistakes, McDonough reacted by asking "why a 
reporter would question shortcomings in the research instead of helping his 
staff fight drug abuse," apparently justifying his ignorance by arrogance. 
McDonough thus exceeded the previous height of drug war arrogance, that of 
former U.S. drug czar William Bennett, who stated, "The mere U.S. 
Constitution should not stand in the way of the war on drugs."

There is an old maxim: Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts 
absolutely. I do not find that to be true. The maxim I find very accurate 
is: Immunity corrupts and absolute immunity corrupts absolutely.

The statements of the drug czars illustrate a frightening trend in our 
country which should especially worry a (currently) free press. 
Justification of any behavior in the name of the war on drugs results in 
absolute immunity. Worse, any questioning of the war on drugs is 
blasphemous and labels the questioner a heretic.

Our war on drugs is nothing more than a holy war, where the dedication to 
the cause and the battle are the only requirements and any ongoing 
attention to the results and outcomes of the war are the equivalent of 
treason if they deviate from the "truth."

Evaluating results and outcomes is the bread and butter of scientific 
research, which, from a public health viewpoint, is what is desperately 
needed to reduce the harms of substance use. It is also exactly the thing 
the drug czars want to avoid.

If the people of America don't rise up and stop this pernicious and evil 
War on Drugs, the equivalent of the Salem witch trials will surely follow 
and a free press can kiss itself good-bye.

Gene Tinelli, M.D., Ph.D., ReconsiDer, Forum on Drug Policy, Addiction 
Psychiatrist, Upstate Medical University, Syracuse
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