HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Is Legalization The Answer?
Pubdate: Wed, 01 Sep 1999
Source: CNN (US)
Copyright: 1999 Cable News Network, Inc. A Time Warner Company



GOV. GARY JOHNSON (R), NEW MEXICO: I've said let's open this up to
discussion, and I think that logically speaking, if you're going to talk
about decriminalization or legalization, I think you're going to start out
with the soft drugs. You're going to start out with marijuana.


BOBBIE BATTISTA, HOST: New Mexico's Republican governor, Gary Johnson, is
talking about legalizing drugs. He says the war on drugs is a failure and
people shouldn't go to jail for smoking pot.

Are drug laws a waste of time, money and manpower? How would your world
change if marijuana and possibly other drugs were as available as, say,
cigarettes and alcohol?


Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to TALKBACK LIVE.

New Mexico's governor, Gary Johnson, thinks it is time to end the war on
drugs. On one hand, Johnson, who admits that he used marijuana and cocaine
in college in the 1970s, says doing drugs is a bad choice. On the other, he
does not think it should be criminal.

The governor was expected to join us today. However, he was forced to cancel
due to a prison uprising in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. We do, however, have
some of his comments from a recent "CROSSFIRE."


We are having audio problems with the governor's comments. So we'll try to
get those up for you in just a few moments.

Here to respond, though, is Dr. Don Vereen, deputy director of the White
House National Drug Policy Office. Dr. Vereen, welcome.

I think we all pretty much got the gist of what Governor Johnson is
advocating. The point being that he has put this idea of legalizing drugs
back out there on the table again. Does it at least merit discussion? DR.
can talk about it if they want to, but we have some evidence and data to
back up why we are moving away from legalization. It's wrong. You talk to
parents; you look at the data. It says that you're going to increase
availability when drugs are legalized.

Take alcohol, for example. We have increased car crashes. We have major
health care consequences because people drink too much and then drive. Those
are clear evidence points that legalizing an abusable and an addictive
substance causes trouble.

The folks who talk about wanting to end the so-called "war on drugs" are
usually looking for one single solution. One one-sided, one-dimensional
solution. And that's not the way it works.

We have a national strategy that's comprehensive. It's based on data, not
dogma, and it's working.

We have a 13 percent decrease in kids using drugs just over the last year.
We have a 50 percent decrease in the overall past month drug use in the
country over the past two decades. We have a comprehensive drug strategy
that is working. Have those folks look at the data.

BATTISTA: I want to talk more about the nation's drug strategy in just a
moment. But in fairness to the governor, we do have his remarks now. So
let's roll them again.


JOHNSON: The goal of the war on drugs should be to reduce drug use. I mean,
that's the goal here.

Are we achieving that? I personally don't think we are.

We've got to open this up to talk about, hey...



BATTISTA: Well, we are evidently having some technical problems with those
comments from the governor. Dr. Vereen, we just heard a bunch of statistics
from you that indicated that drug use is down over the last 10 years or so.
But isn't it also true that drug use tends to be cyclical in society and
that it could just -- you know, the current campaign that you're using could
be working, but in the long term it may not work?

VEREEN: It depends on how you look at that. We have a drug strategy that is
10 years in length. We believe that the drug problem in 10 years will be a
little different than it is today.


VEREEN: We think it'll be time -- it's hard to tell. But right now, we're
seeing an increase in methamphetamine use across the country. We're seeing
heroin use increasing. We have designer drugs that seem to be coming on the
scene. We have to have a strategy that's flexible enough and uses data in a
dynamic way to be able to move and deal with those problems before they
become epidemics.

BATTISTA: Do you have such a plan yet?

VEREEN: Sure. Our national strategy is just as the governor suggested. The
primary goal is to cut drug use by 50 percent over the next 10 years.

BATTISTA: These -- yes. These current ad campaigns that are part -- they're
probably the most visible part of the White House drug policy. Do you feel
like they're working?

VEREEN: We're having early evidence that they are working. The mission of
the campaign is to raise awareness about the dangers of drugs and the
consequences of using drugs. With that information, we want to change
attitudes and then change behavior. The changing behavior is the tough part.

The research that we've done so far on the ads indicates that people are
getting the message. Kids are getting the message, our target group, and
their parents and their coaches. The campaign will mature into a campaign
that will include the Internet, community-based anti-drug coalitions,
working with our clergy and other community leaders, and it'll be a
comprehensive anti-drug media campaign.

BATTISTA: In your mind, or in the research that you've done, when you hit
kids between the age, well, as young as possible -- until, let's say, the
age of 17 -- and you get this message across, does it stay with them or does
it become a different thing after they become young adults and old enough to
make their own decisions?

VEREEN: Very good question, and we know quite a bit about that. Whenever you
give a public health message like the one we're getting out there, you do
have to hit kids early before they use. You have to teach them and ingrain
in them an attitude that drugs do harm to them. You provide them information
and knowledge that drugs do harm the brain. They change the brain. We have
pictures to prove that now.

But the message that you give a 6-year-old is different from the message
that you'd give to a 16-year-old, and the years in between, you have to be
supporting the messages that they're getting and it has to happen at a
number of different levels.

You hit them with what's happening on television, because a lot of kids are
in front of the television. You hit them in school where they spend most of
their waking hours. The parents have messages for the kids as well. All of
these need to work together. Community values have to reflect what the
research is showing, what parents are saying, what teachers and coaches are
saying and what kids are learning in school.

BATTISTA: Should drug users be considered criminals? I remember reading
something the governor had said on "CROSSFIRE" the other night about how
some 700,000 people in his state are in jail for smoking marijuana. Does
that seem right to you?

VEREEN: The numbers indicate that there are very few people who are -- who
are in our prisons just for possession. Law enforcement has figured out a
way to deal realistically with these folks.

But to address the criminality issue, it's important to understand from a
health perspective first what happens when a person becomes an addict. Their
brain has changed.

Anyone out there who thinks that the war that we have to drugs is a failure
needs to look at the research that's coming out of the National Institute on
Drug Abuse, the research out of our own Department of Justice's National
Institute of Justice.

We have evidence showing that sustained drug use actually changes the brain,
and therefore, behavior. You ask any criminal justice expert, a cop, and
they'll tell you that a person who is just coming off of a drug can't keep
an appointment. They can't think about complex things.

A lot of what we're doing doesn't address the fact that addiction is about
brain change. It needs to be treated. And that's why in December, we'll be
having a major conference right here in Washington where we'll have
representatives from every state to help formulate a plan to help deal with
folks who are in prison and our jails who have a problem with addiction, and
the plan that they're going to put in place to deal with that addiction
problem so that when they return to our communities, they're more
responsible citizens, that they're actually hooked up with a system of care
that ensures they can be contributing law-abiding citizens when they return
to their communities.

BATTISTA: All right. Dr. Vereen, thanks very much for joining us today.
Appreciate your time.

VEREEN: I appreciate it as well.

BATTISTA: With us now is Mike Gray. He is a writer and filmmaker. His latest
book is "Drug Crazy: How We Got in This Mess and How We Can Get out of It."
Also in Chicago, we're joined by Kevin Sabet, co-founder of International
Students in Action. Its agenda is to counter efforts to legalize drugs.

Mike, I had a lot of questions about some of the things Dr. Vereen said.
Unfortunately, he could not stay with us. But you are very vocal about the
fact that you do not think this war on drugs is working. Why?

MIKE GRAY, "DRUG WAR" CRITIC: Well, it's a total fraud, Bobbie. The -- let
me -- when we began this war in 1914, the rate of addiction was -- I'm
sorry. I'm hearing an echo here. The rate of addiction in 1914 was three
people per thousand. Today, it's 15 people per thousand. And that is a
five-fold increase. You can't consider that a success.

BATTISTA: Let me see if we can clear up your -- are you still getting
feedback in your ear?

GRAY: No, that's good.

BATTISTA: Are you OK now?

GRAY: No, I'm sorry. What I'm hearing is my voice delayed.

BATTISTA: Are you still hearing that now?

GRAY: Yes I am.

BATTISTA: OK. You know what, let's take a break really quick. We'll clear
that up and come back in just a moment.


BATTISTA: OK, we're back. And trying to work out all these little technical
snafus today. Mike Gray, let's kind of start over again here. How did we get
into this mess and why do you think the current policy isn't working?

GRAY: As I said, Bobbie, the problem is that when we began this mess we did
not have a drug problem in the United States. In 1914, the rate of addiction
was three people per thousand; now it's 15 people per thousand, that's a
five-fold increase. That's what we bought with a trillion dollar drug war
that took 80 years. The Dutch have had quite a different experience.

Back about 20 years ago, when the United States really started cracking down
drugs, the Dutch decided to go the other direction and they made marijuana
freely available to anybody over 18 and they stopped cracking down on
hard-drug users as long as they weren't a public nuisance. And today, the
difference is dramatic. We in the United States, our drug use is -- we use
twice as much marijuana as the average Dutch. We use three times as much
heroin. We snort five times as much cocaine. And so this is a clear
indication that our policies of repression don't work and the Dutch policies
which are much more liberal are tremendously successfully in decreasing the
rate of addiction.

BATTISTA: Are you advocating legalization then as part of the answer?

GRAY: Absolutely. Legalization is the only answer. Now, when I say
legalization, I'm not using the term like Bill Bennett or the White House
would use the term. It's not -- I don't mean free crack-vending machines in
the school lunchroom. I'm talking about tightly regulated government
control. Right now, the mob is in control.

The one thing that we all should be able to agree on is we should be able to
get -- keep drugs out of the hands of our children. And the policies that
we've been using for the last 80 years have not only made drugs readily
available to children, they've put children in the frontline as drug runners
in the marketplace so dangerous they have to be armed. BATTISTA: Well let me
ask one of those young people, because Kevin is 20 years old, and Kevin, you
feel like young people are at the heart of this whole discussion, and that
you should be the ones holding the dialogue on where this goes, correct? Why
do you feel that way?

it's important that youth have a, you know, are not put to the side during
the anti-drug debate, and really put to the forefront of the agenda, which
is what we're seeing going on right now. But to comment on what Mr. Gray was
saying about our -- the drug war, unfortunately, you know, we're not living
in the early 1900s anymore and 1914 is what he eluded to. We're living in
the 1990s and on the brink of the 21st century, where there are
sophisticated criminal, ruthless cartels that are invading our streets and
our inner cities, where there's a multi-billion dollar movement to legalize
all drugs and make them available here in the United States. So I think it's
really important to look at the context of the time, and if we want to take
about the Dutch example, their percentages among youth and among children
and adolescents during the time where before they didn't have these policies
until the time where they really liberalized it, really just destroyed the
whole Dutch generation with 15 percent use in '84. Here we are now at 45
percent in '96. They've caught up with Americans, who always traditionally
had larger uses of marijuana.

BATTISTA: You know what, let me take a phone call from Robert in Georgia,
who says he lived in Amsterdam. Robert?

ROBERT: Hi, Bobbie. Well, what I noticed when I was living in Amsterdam is
that the parents of the children educated the children from a very young age
and warned them about the use of drugs. And when you would walk down the
streets or be in cafes, and you smoked a joint in a restaurant or a place
like that, it was taboo, you know, it was culturally taboo. You know,
there's a time and place for everything, but it was treated like alcohol or

Another thing is, I've had AIDS for 17 years and I'd have to go through two
bouts of chemotherapy with two different types of cancer, and I would not
have made it through the chemotherapy without smoking marijuana. In fact, my
doctor told me to smoke marijuana because the traditional medications did
not work. So you know, I think it's insane to be, you know...

BATTISTA: Robert, you bring up a good point, and best of luck to you, by the
way, and that -- this whole issue does come to the forefront again because
of the medicinal use of marijuana also being heavily on the discussion
agenda these days. Kevin, your organization is largely against any
legalization of drugs I would presume? Is it more of a moral stand or...

SABET: No, it's not more of a moral stand. A lot of it is based on science.
If you look at the -- matter of fact, all of it is based on science. If you
look at the report that was commissioned by the White House -- finally, we
had a report by the Institute of Medicine, which came out last year. It took
about one year, about $1 million report. Their own report and known study
said that smoked marijuana should generally not be recommended for medical
use, because of the harsh delivery system that you do when you smoke a

BATTISTA: But when you have a terminal disease do you think that matters to

SABET: No. I think if we do short-term clinical trials and we do -- we
really call marijuana medicine and make it medicine, which would do
double-blind studies and that kind of research with informed consent, and
like I said, for people that are -- have debilitating illness, which -- when
it's clearly not about just drug recreational use, which is about what most
of what this medical marijuana is about, then no one is opposed to medical
marijuana. But we have already synthesized the powerful component in
marijuana, THC, into Marinol, which is now actually a schedule-three drug,
and that's been around for quite sometime with some proven results.

Regarding what he said about Amsterdam and the Netherlands, he said, you
know, to treat it like alcohol and tobacco. Well, we better make sure that
marijuana is not treated like alcohol and tobacco here in the states. We see
the tremendous, terrible problems that go along with legalizing a drug, even
for people over 18 or 21. There is just widespread rampant availability and
use of both of those two legal drugs, which are the cause of most of our
deaths, because of their availability. So let's hope we don't do that.

BATTISTA: Let me get Mike in here quickly before the break.

Mike, do you want to address that?

GRAY: Kevin, I would just recommend that you read my book. It'll be an eye
opener for you.

During alcohol prohibition, the murder rate in the United States doubled,
went up by a factor of 10. We went from, in 1900, one murder per 100,000 to
10 per 100,000 by 1932. And in 1933, we ended alcohol prohibition and the
murder rate dropped precipitously over the next 11 years to half of what it
had been before. Now it's back up where it was in 1933, at 10 per 100,000,
due largely to the drug war.

The clear indication from these statistics is that we could cut our murder
rate in half by ending the drug war.

BATTISTA: We have to take a break. We'll talk more about this when we come

In December, voters in Switzerland rejected legalizing drugs in their
country with 73 percent saying no. Before the vote, the Swiss government
tried a needle park where open drug use was allowed. The area was shut down
due to increased crime and prostitution.


BATTISTA: In 1995, about 12.8 million Americans were illicit drug users,
meaning they had used and illicit drug in the month prior to the U.S. Health
Department's survey. That's about half the number of drug users in 1979,
when the number peaked at 25 million users.

Let me get some reaction from the audience here.

Tina, go ahead.

TINA: Well, I'd like to see the criminal element be removed. I'm not one to
condone drug use. I don't personally use drugs. But quite frankly, in
today's society, if you have the propensity to use drugs, you're going to be
able to find them, whether or not they're legal, and by making it legal or
somehow regulating usage to whom we can issue drugs, maybe we can get them
out of the schools, and maybe it'll be a safer place to live.

BATTISTA: Kevin, does eliminating -- theoretically, eliminating that --
well, one more person over here who agrees with her. Eliminating that
criminal element that you spoke of, does that perhaps go a long ways to
eliminating a bunch of other associated problems? I grant you, you're
probably exchanging one set of problems for another.

SABET: Exactly.

BATTISTA: But which is worse?

SABET: Well, you'll increase a lot of the harm. There's some good research
done about availability and how that is correlated with use, whether it be
alcohol, tobacco or on illegal drugs.

And if you look today, in terms of if you want to talk about the criminal
element, you look at our jails today, a report out of Columbia University,
the Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse, says that only 2.1 percent of
people in our jails are there for possession of a drug.

So it's not about putting everyone in jail about it. We want to get people
that are addicted treated, and we know that treatment can work, and we know
that addiction, like what Dr. Vereen said earlier, is a brain disease. It
changes the chemistry of the brain.

So anyone that thinks this drug war or our drug effort is uncompassionate
needs to really look back at the facts.

And I must say, going back to what Mr. Gray said about alcohol prohibition,
that analogy is really a false one and a deceiving one. First of all, during
alcohol prohibition it was not really prohibited; it was decriminalized,
meaning you couldn't sell it but you could possess it. Second, and most
importantly, alcohol has a long history of widespread accepted use in our
culture, dating back to the Old Testament in ancient Greece.

Drugs do not, and we've got to make sure that they don't. We've got to make
sure illegal drugs stay out of society, and don't become a norm, don't
become a cultural norm, or else you'll have the disaster of what you see in
the Netherlands.


BATTISTA: Mike. GRAY: Marijuana has been used for 5,000 years. It's in the
pharmacopia -- was prescribed in this country, manufactured by Merck and
other pharmaceuticals up until 1937.

The issue of compassion I want to address specifically, because one of the
thing that I think that everybody needs to focus on is the rate of
incarceration of black people in this country. We -- because of the drug
war, the black population in the United States is roughly 13 percent. And
they use drugs just about the same rate as white people. However, they
account for 75 percent of the drug war prisoners. And that means that a
black kid is five times more likely to go to prison for the same offense
under the same circumstances than a white kid.

I rode around with police officers in Chicago, undercover officers, for a
period of time, and I watched this in action. I know that this happens.
Anybody who is aware of this incredible disparity and continues to sustain
this policy is, in my opinion, guilty of augmenting a race war.

BATTISTA: Let me go Steve in the audience here. Oh, I'm sorry, Kevin, go
ahead. You go first.

SABET: I was just going to say that that's a very simplistic way to look at
drug use. Obviously, racism is probably the worst thing that we have this in
country right now, our worse problem, and it is linked very closely to
economic disparity, and that is a root cause of, many times, of drug use.

You go to a city like Baltimore, where you have policies that lean towards
harm reduction or legalization, and you go in there inner cities, and just
see what disastrous effects that even the little more availability and less
enforcement has done, and you won't agree with that.

There's no doubt that racism is a huge problem in this country and should be
addressed differently. Ending the drug war certainly isn't it.

BATTISTA: Steve, in the audience.

STEVE: Personally, I don't believe that marijuana or cocaine should be
legalized, because I don't believe that our country is mature enough to take
on something like that. There are enough problems with alcohol and cigarette
use. It's like, there is a small amount of people who are mature enough to
use alcohol in a moderate manner. But for the most part, it usually ends up
in some kind of violent act -- you know, speaking about alcohol. Drunk
driving, parent -- I mean, you know, abuse, child abuse.

BATTISTA: I understand what you're saying. I understand your point. Let me
try to get some more voices in here. On the phone with us, Chris (ph). Are
you there? South Dakota? Chris, are you there?

CHRIS: ... South Dakota. Little-bitty town here. I have a sister and her
husband on this crack, and I don't know where this Mr. Gray is coming from.
He's comparing statistics in Amsterdam to the United States of America. I
mean, Amsterdam is a tiny little country, tiny little town. They tried at
"Needle Park." It didn't work.

If they want to do something about the war on drugs, quit sending money to
Colombia for aid. Good God. When are we going learn to quit sending our
money to these countries that are producing these drugs and shipping them
into our young people.

I mean, I'm just -- I'm livid about this. This young man from Chicago, I
commend him. Mr. Gray, I mean, I don't where you're coming from. You're just
acting in la-la land somewhere. .

GRAY: Let me tell you where I'm coming from. I just got back from Colombia.
I was just down there. I spent two weeks in Bogota and interviewing
government experts and talking with U.S. embassy officials. And we've spent
a billion dollars down there and we've managed to double drug production in
Colombia. That's been the net effect of our efforts.

The mistake that everyone here is making is assuming that prohibition works,
that we are actually accomplishing something.

I spent six years researching this project, and I can tell you that in the
history of prohibition on this planet it has never worked. It has
invariably, as it did with alcohol prohibition, it invariably produces
exactly the opposite of the intended results.

It creates heroes out of people like Al Capone and increases the gun play
and increases the availability of drugs all over the place. Before
prohibition, if you wanted drugs, you at least had to go to a drug store.
Now you can get anything you want from a neighbor's kid. You're in a small
town in North Dakota, I believe, you said. There are drugs available there
now that 10 years ago they had never even heard of drugs in small Midwestern
farm towns.

BATTISTA: All right. Mike, I'll tell you what, we're running out of time.
I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry we are out of time and I appreciate you're
joining us today, Mike. I'm sorry we had to pull the clock on you.

We'll be back in just a second.




BATTISTA: Welcome back. Let me take a quick phone call from Washington
State, because Kellan's (ph) been hanging on for a while. Go ahead.

KELLAN: Hi. I would just like to say I'm really tired of -- I've been a
smoker for over 23 years.

BATTISTA: Smoker meaning marijuana. KELLAN: Marijuana. I'm so tired of being
considered a criminal and part of the underbelly of society. I'm a good guy.
I don't do anything violent. I'm a nice, normal person. I read, I study, I

People are just, you know -- with them being illegal you have the criminal
society, you've got gangs, drive-by shootings, you've got all this violence
associated with drugs being illegal.

BATTISTA: Kellan, do you...

KELLAN: Decrimalize. They need to keep laws on them, age limits.

BATTISTA: Kellan, let me ask you, why do you smoke so much?

KELLAN: Because I like it myself. I've had a great time my whole life.

BATTISTA: Do you have any idea what it could be doing to you physically?

KELLAN: Yes. I've studied the health reports on both sides of the issue, and
yes, it's my life. For smoke, yes, smoking anything is bad.

BATTISTA: OK, Kellan, thanks very much. Joining us now is Kevin Zeese with
Common Sense for Drug Policy. The other Kevin is also still with us.

Kevin, what is your problem with the way this whole war, shall we say, is
being fought?

KEVIN ZEESE, DRUG WAR CRITIC: Well, I would say this war is not just a fraud
and failure, but a disaster, and it's resulted in record overdose deaths
from drugs. It's resulted in the spread of AIDS and hepatitis. It's created
an immense prison state with the highest incarceration rate we've ever had
in this country. We have hundreds of thousands of people behind bars, many
in the black community unfortunately.

If you look at the statistics of the federal enforcement, 55 percent of the
people in jail are in the youthful age group of 20 to 30, where Governor
Bush had his youthful indiscretions. Those people, though, that 55 percent
who are in jail are not getting a second chance. They're not going to get to
run for governor. They're going to have a 15-year term in jail that's going
to ruin their lives. And we're doing that all over the country.

We're seeing in urban areas around the country one out of two young black
men in their 20s incarcerated or under criminal justice supervision, one out
of two. What more do we need for police state?

If I was David Duke trying to create a racist America, I couldn't come up
with a better policy. So we're making disease worse. We're making racism
worse. We're making urban problems worse. And we're doing it at a cost of
$50 billion a year with federal, state and local tax dollars, and we're not
getting much bang for the buck.

We could do a better job with a legal market, regulating these substances.
I'm not saying kids should have access to these drugs. In fact, one reason
why I advocate looking at legal controls is because right now any kid who
wants to buy drugs can buy it in their school. In fact, many of the kids,
people who sell drugs, are kids on the street corners. In fact, studies by
that same group that Kevin in Chicago mentioned, Joe Califano's group in New
York, show that it's easier for kids to buy marijuana than buy beer.

So we are not protecting our kids with this policy. We're, in fact, hurting
our kids. So not a safer and healthier society because of the drug war.

BATTISTA: Kevin, go ahead.

SABET: Let me respond to that.

BATTISTA: Kevin Sabet, go ahead.

SABET: All of that really is not true. That is the kind of rhetoric that
this multibillion-dollar, well-financed, very well- calculated...

ZEESE: Multibillion-dollar!

SABET: ... legalization effort is trying to spew on to us.


SABET: What Mr. Gray said earlier about how he studied the history of the
drug war and what we've done obviously forgot to look at the period between
1979 and 1992 where we cut regular drug use by two-thirds in this country
because of concerted prevention movement with groups like National Families
in Action in Atlanta, groups like Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America
in Washington, D.C., Drug Use Is Life Abuse in Orange, California.

These prevention messages work. We cut drug use by two-thirds in '92. Soon
as the voice of the legalizers and financier like Mr. Soros came in with
financing all the money that he has toward drug legalization came in, the
voices got louder. The message was not as clear. It was more ambiguous, and
we had more abuse.

ZEESE: Kevin, can I ask you a couple of questions, Kevin? First off, I'd
love to look to see the numbers where that multibillion-dollar legalization
is, because it doesn't exist. There's a lot more money being spent on...


SABET: I'll tell you where that comes from. That... ZEESE: Let me ask you
this question, though: What did I say that was inaccurate? What did I say
that was inaccurate?

Do we have record overdose deaths? Yes or no? We do. Do we have AIDS
spreading? Yes or no? Of course, we do. Hepatitis? Yes, its' spreading.
Emergency room mentions (ph) in hospitals at a record highs.

What do you see right now you like about that? Do you like that the cartels
and the gangs are getting richer? Is that what you want to see?

SABET: The correlation between hepatitis, AIDS and the other -- racism and
the other things that he's saying I don't believe are correlated with the
drug war. And the multibillion-dollar effort...

ZEESE: Have you ever...


SABET: ... that I'm talking about -- let me answer about the
multibillion-dollar effort, because I think it's really important. I'm
talking about the money that people like the Lindesmith Center and others,
and people that want to legalize drugs like George Soros and others are
pouring into states like California, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, the
District of Columbia, Alaska and other states to try to soften our attitude
by saying: Well, we'll legalize it for medicinal purposes.

It's amazing, I'm from -- actually, I'm from California. I'm from Berkeley,
California, and in California, yes, we don't have anymore marijuana users:
they're all patients. And that's a fraud, and it's a shame that we have some
money going into pot that's only there to hurt my generation.

ZEESE: Kevin, you'll probably acknowledge, the most recent household survey
of drug use in the United States shows that drug use did not go up after
that initiative passed. So, it did not make California more of a drug haven
in passing that initiative.

I would, by the way, trade the drug czars PR budget for the reform
movement's PR budget and day because the drug czar is spending a lot more on
supporting prohibition even though the drug czar's representative did not
stick around to debate the issue, which I think is a real shame, because I
think they should abandon that policy.


BATTISTA: I've got to take a break here, quickly. I got to take a break, you
guys. We'll be back in just a few minutes.


BATTISTA: Let me -- I was just chatting with the audience really quickly,
and since we're a limited on time, let me just ask the question here,
whether Kevin -- Kevin Sabet, do you feel like -- maybe we ought to go back
to the core of the problem here -- and do you feel that we can have a
drug-free society, that drug use is not inevitable, that you absolutely can
eradicate it totally?

SABET: Well, first of all, that's a couple different points. Drug use is not
inevitable. That's more of the rhetoric that people who spew
decriminalization, harm reduction, legalization efforts like to say is that
everyone's going to do it so let's just make it easier, cut our taxes.

BATTISTA: Not everyone, but a big segment of society, right?

SABET: Right. Well, I think, I -- yes, I think I agree with the Office of
National Drug Control Policy, and referring back to what Dr. Vereen was
saying about, in 10 years, how our picture can look a lot different in this
country in getting our youths -- right now, we have about six percent of the
American public...

BATTISTA: But, you know what? He doesn't know. It could be worse.

SABET: That's right, it could be. But I'm saying if you -- we have six
percent of the American public using illicit drugs. If we get can that
figure down to about three percent or less, we've had a success. Of course
we will never fully, 100.0 percent, eradicate drug use. No one is saying
we're going to do that. But if we can get it low enough, down three percent,
not in our cultural, not making it a norm of society, then we've done our
job. And we need to focus on proper science-based treatment, science-based
evaluations for what a drug is and what medicine is; and also on drug
prevention, which we all know can work.

ZEESE: There's a lot I agree with what Kevin just said there, I must say.
He's right. We cannot have a drug-free society. That means, if we choose a
drug war, we're choosing a drug war forever. This is not a policy that's
temporary; we're going to have a law-enforcement approach to trying to
control drugs forever. So, if we recognize no drug-free society, we also
recognize drug war forever.

In addition, I think it's important to recognize that we really don't have
control right now. Right now, control is in the hand of mobsters, gangsters,
cartels. It's undermining foreign governments, it's pushing toward us into a
military entanglement in Colombia. It's very dangerous and counterproductive
the approach we're taking.

BATTISTA: But Kevin, if it's legalized, will those -- if it's legalized,
those Colombian cartels will still make money, yes?

ZEESE: Who knows. A legal market, I think, you have a regulated market where
legal is under the control of government; regulated businesses are selling
the products; you have a much better chance of keeping control. We were able
to reduce, for example, tobacco and alcohol use among youth this year.
Alcohol use and tobacco use went down for kids. We did it without
criminalizing people, without mass arrests, I mean a million arrests a year,
without mass incarcerations, and yet tobacco and alcohol use went down.

SABET: Again, that's a false comparison.

BATTISTA: Kevin Sabet, do you feel like alcohol, cigarettes, everything,
should be wiped out.

SABET: Of course not. No one is advocating for the prohibition, again, of
alcohol and tobacco, or at least most people, because, like I said, you have
to look at the other element, which is the cultural element; and like I
said, most people who get involved in alcohol don't get in trouble; most
people who get involved with illicit drugs do get in trouble, and I think
that's a problem.

ZEESE: Oh, that's so inaccurate. Oh, please, please, please. Alcohol is the
most dangerous of these drugs, as far as violence inducing, as far as
problems in families, as far as abuse goes; alcohol is much more prevalent
as far as homicides go than crack is.

SABET: It has a lot to do with its legality, too.

ZEESE: I think you're misunderstanding. And by the way, Kevin, I also want
to applaud you for something you said earlier about relying on science. If
we relied on science, we'd have a very different policy than we have today
because marijuana is one of the safer drugs.

SABET: Not at all.

BATTISTA: Well, maybe -- I have to take another break. I have to take
another break again, but perhaps all these cultures need to be studied
separately, whether it's alcohol, marijuana, cocaine.

And one of our audience members will talk about that in just a moment.


BATTISTA: OK. Let's -- we don't have that much time. Let's only get some
quick thoughts from the audience, Richard.

RICHARD: I was just saying that I think it's pretty very important that we
separate the drugs and consider each one in isolation. Marijuana, the drug
marijuana and its culture is very different from the drug cocaine and its
culture, which in turn is very different from, say, heroin and its culture.

I believe if we were to legalize marijuana it would not -- it would rid
America of these cartels and it would not have a major effect on the
degeneration of society, where perhaps if you legalize possibly cocaine and
certainly heroin the results of legalization would certainly have a major
effect on the degeneration of society in America.

BATTISTA: Thanks very much, Richard and Lillith (ph). I'm so sorry; we're
out of time. You'll have to come back. Kevin and Kevin, thank you both very
much for joining us today, appreciate both of your insights. And we'll see
you again tomorrow for more TALKBACK LIVE.


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