Anti-Drug-War Activist to Testify Before US Senate

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The head of the nation’s leading drug policy reform organization will testify before a key Congressional panel on Wednesday.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), will appear before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs as part of a roundtable looking at America’s demand for drugs and alternative policy approaches.

Following a series of House and Senate votes in favor of marijuana policy reform, the hearing, and the especially inclusion of DPA, is a signal that Congress intends to continue reexamining policies of the war on drugs.

“I’ve waited a very long time to be invited by Congress to testify on these issues,” Nadelmann said in a press release. “I think it’s a positive sign that political leaders, not just in the states but even on Capitol Hill, now recognize both the failure of the drug war and the need to think outside the box in addressing our country’s drug problems.”

In written testimony submitted to the committee, Nadelmann decries racial disparities in drug arrests, violence caused by illegal markets and the general lack of efficacy of prohibition-based approaches to drug control. He cheers the successful implementation of marijuana legalization in a growing number of states but says he is “torn” on the question of legalizing other drugs.

“There’s the possibility that more people would become addicted but also no doubt that legally regulating and taxing most of the drugs that are now criminalized would radically reduce the crime, violence, corruption and black markets, and the problems of adulterated and unregulated drugs, and improve public safety, and allow taxpayer resources to be developed to more useful purposes,” Nadelmann writes.

Also testifying at the hearing is ardent prohibitionist David Murray, a former staffer for the White House drug czar’s office under President George W. Bush, which could result in some feisty exchanges.

Nadelmann founded DPA in 2000, the result of a merger of the Lindesmith Center, which he started in 1994 and another organization, the Drug Policy Foundation. Previously, he studied the issue as an academic at Princeton University.

“Repeating the mistakes of the past will not improve the future,” he says in testimony to the Senate committee. “A new approach is needed, one that reduces both the harm caused by drugs and the harm caused by current drug control policies. We need to decriminalize drug use and possession and ensure that people who use drugs have access to good health services. We need to encourage different models for regulating marijuana. And we need, more broadly, to reduce the role of criminalization and criminal justice to the extent truly required to protect health and safety. It is time to put all options on the table and have a robust debate about the direction of U.S. drug policy.”

The panel includes Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), both vocal critics of the war on drugs and co-sponsors of comprehensive medical cannabis legislation.

Photo Courtesy of flysnowfly.

About Author

Tom Angell covers policy and politics for Marijuana.com. Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit organization Marijuana Majority, which works to ensure that elected officials and the media treat legalization as a serious, mainstream issue. Marijuana Majority led the effort to get the U.S. Conference of Mayors to pass a resolution telling the federal government to respect state marijuana laws, and orchestrated the first-ever endorsement for marijuana legalization by a U.S. Supreme Court justice (John Paul Stevens). Previously, Tom worked for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (All organizations are listed for identification purposes only.)

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