HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Author Assails Drug War
Pubdate: Mon, 30 Apr 2001
Source: Capital Times, The  (WI)
Copyright: 2001 The Capital Times
Author: Samara Kalk


Mike Gray Claims Government Puts Out Bogus Info

Mike Gray, a spokesman for the drug legalization movement, came to Madison 
to dispel what he says are drug myths.

In 1992, when he started research on his book, "Drug Crazy: How We Got Into 
This Mess and How We Can Get Out," he was skeptical about the drug 
information released by the federal government.

Although Gray had little use for the war on drugs beforehand, researching 
his book was eye-opening, he said.

When he started looking into the dangers of drug use, Gray said, he had an 
awakening. On Sunday he told a group of about 75 students, for instance, 
that he learned heroin is only addictive for 10 percent of people who try it.

"Absolutely everything I knew or thought I knew about drugs was totally 
bogus," he said. "Once you understand you can't trust your government, it 
opens up all channels of inquiry."

Gray was the keynote speaker for the conference titled "Illuminating 
Reality: Social, Intellectual, Economic and Faith Based Approaches to the 
War on Drugs in the 21st Century" held over the weekend at Union South.

"Illuminating Reality," sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Madison 
chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, was the first drug policy 
reform conference ever held on campus.

Student groups such as SSDP are central to reforming drug policy, said Gray.

"Your organization has the potential to assist in turning this stupid 
process around," he said.

Gray repeatedly slammed former drug czar Barry McCaffrey, who he said is 
responsible for major drug misinformation.

"There is no evidence for the other side, not a stat," he said.

Gray cited the success of the Netherlands in decriminalizing some drugs: 
The rate of addiction in Holland is one-third of what it is in the United 

Marijuana is used 30 percent less there than it is here, he said. Plus, the 
average age of a heroin addict is getting older there. In 1980 the average 
age was 25 in both countries, he said. Now it's 36 in the Netherlands and 
19 in the United States.

Gray said the drug war is dissolving the country. Yet he was optimistic, 
saying marijuana is the pivotal issue in drug reform and medical marijuana 
is the front line.

"We are winning daily," he said.

Madison's most prominent anti-drug figure, Ben Masel, who was in the 
audience, referred to Gray's background in energy issues.

"If we were to move our marijuana operations out of the closets and into 
the sunlight, could we solve California's energy problem?" he asked.

In an earlier panel discussion moderated by UW Professor Donald Downs, four 
religious leaders talked about their unease with the war on drugs.

"Our drug policy is a replay of Prohibition, which was an utter failure. 
Drug policies are failing in the same ways," said Cecil Findley, a retired 
United Methodist pastor who serves part time on campus.

The drug war involves discriminatory policing, the demonization of users 
and posturing and grandstanding by politicians, he said.

Where is the emphasis on treatment and education? Findley asked.

"We are filling up our prisons with drug users," he said.

Mary Ann Macklin of the First Unitarian Society of Madison also urged 

"We have lost the art of being together, of being a community," she said.

Jenny Baumgardner of Eau Claire said she learned a lot from the two-day 

"It affects everyone. They call it a war on drugs but it is really a war on 
families, where young women are being sent to jail and prison - and 80 
percent of them are mothers," she said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart