#257 John Walters’ Reefer Madness

Date: Sun, 01 Dec 2002
Subject: #257 John Walters’ Reefer Madness


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DrugSense FOCUS Alert #257 1 Dec 2002

As Richard Cowan reminds us, the primary reason for the continued War
against marijuana users is ‘bad journalism’. It appears in recent
weeks that this may be changing.

First, Walters was a speaker in Vancouver at a major gathering of
local business leaders, including the present and incoming mayors of
the city. His speech was interrupted by Marc Emery and friends, but
the main story was afterwards, when both mayors denounced his message
and expressed concern about how he misrepresents marijuana. A number
of Vancouver and Canadian newspapers provided full coverage and also
supportive editorial comments criticizing Walters and the U.S. drug

Then the Pittsburgh PA Tribune-Review printed a scathing review of a
visit their editorial board received from Walters, again denouncing
his lies.

Now the New York Times joins the fray, with a no-punches pulled review
of Walters’ lies and exaggerations about marijuana and it’s impact on

The only way we can see this type of journalism increase is to let the
newspapers know that we appreciate it and to encourage them to more
fully investigate and fact-check the words that come out of Walters’

While being criticized in Vancouver, Walters’ defended his statements
by maintaining that …”I am subject to the scrutiny of the press…”,
implying that he would not lie in such a case.

The more we encourage the press to call him out, the more he will be
forced to change his message. While expecting the Drug Czar to EVER
tell the whole truth is wishful thinking, we can be confident he will
not be left alone by the press if we reinforce them when they do their
job correctly.

Thanks for your effort and support.


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Pubdate: Sat, 30 Nov 2002
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2002 The New York Times Company
Contact: letters@nytimes.com
Author: Bill Keller


We interrupt our coverage of the war on terrorism to check in with
that other permanent conflict against a stateless enemy, the war on

To judge by the glee at the White House Office of National Drug
Control Policy, the drug warriors have just accomplished the moral
equivalent of routing the Taliban – helping to halt a relentless jihad
against the nation’s drug laws.

Ballot initiatives in Ohio (treatment rather than prison for
nonviolent drug offenders), Arizona (the same, plus making marijuana
possession the equivalent of a traffic ticket, and providing free pot
for medical use) and Nevada (full legalization of marijuana) lost
decisively this month. Liberalization measures in Florida and Michigan
never even made it to the ballot.

Some of this was due to the Republican election tide. Some was
generational – boomer parents like me, fearful of seeing our teenagers
become drug-addled slackers. (John Walters, the White House drug czar,
shrewdly played on this anxiety by hyping the higher potency of
today’s pot with the line, “This is not your father’s marijuana.”)
Some may have been a reluctance to loosen any social safety belts when
the nation is under threat. Certainly a major factor was that
proponents of change, who had been winning carefully poll-tested
ballot measures, state by state, since California in 1996, found
themselves facing a serious and well-financed opposition, cheered on
by Mr. Walters.

The truly amazing thing is that 30 years into the modern war on drugs,
the discourse is still focused disproportionately on marijuana rather
than more important and excruciatingly hard problems like heroin,
cocaine and methamphetamines.

The drug liberalizers – an alliance of legal reformers, liberals,
libertarians and potheads – dwell on marijuana in part because a lot
of the energy and money in their campaign comes from people who like
to smoke pot and want the government off their backs.

Also, marijuana has provided them with their most marketable wedge
issue, the use of pot to relieve the suffering of AIDS and cancer patients.

Never mind that the medical benefits of smoking marijuana are still
mostly unproven (in part because the F.D.A. almost never approves the
research and the pharmaceuticals industry sees no money in it). The
issue may be peripheral, but it appeals to our compassion, especially
when the administration plays the heartless heavy by sending SWAT
teams to arrest people in wheelchairs. Thus a movement that started,
at least in the minds of reform sponsors like the billionaire George
Soros, as an effort to reduce the ravages of both drugs and the war on
drugs, has become mostly about pot smoking.

The more interesting question is why the White House is so obsessed
with marijuana.


Continues: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v02/n2178/a10.html



The average daily circulation of the New York Times, available
throughout the United States, is 1.2 million copies, largest of any
seven day a week newspaper. An editorial page ad runs $1,350 per
column inch, so even a short published letter is a donation in ad
value to reform of over $2,000.

The average published letter is short and to the point, only 123
words, with a maximum of 150 words.



(Please note: If you choose to use this letter as a model please
modify it at least somewhat so that the paper does not receive
numerous copies of the same letter and so that the original author
receives credit for his/her work.)

Dear Editor:

To the editors of The New York Times:

Columnist Bill Keller does Americans a real service by questioning the
lies spread by drug czar John Walters.

Opening his 2002 advertising campaign with the stating that marijuana
users indirectly finance terrorism, Walters has gone on to misused his
office to lobby against voter initiatives.

He attempts to recreate marijuana as a ‘new super drug.’ The 90+
million Americans who have tired it know that the real danger is
arrest, prosecution and a jail cage.

It is responsible to deliver a message about the true risks of using

But when the facts show that marijuana is clearly less dangerous than
the legal drugs alcohol and tobacco, we know that Walters is just
desperate to provide rationale for police arresting almost 2000
Americans daily (over 1000 per week in NYC alone) for marijuana possession.

(contact info)

(Always include your address and phone number for newspaper

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This article was discussed by for 25 minutes on C-SPANs Washington
Journal Saturday morning http://www.c-span.org/journal/ It starts at
1 hour and 35 minutes into the show at this video file:

Please also send a note to the Washington Journal thanking them for
covering the topic of legalizing marijuana. Contact: journal@c-span.org


Prepared by: Stephen Heath, Drug Policy Forum of Florida ,
http://www.dpffl.org, Focus Alert Specialist