Stossel Special Spurs War of Letters to ABC 8/2/02

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ABC news correspondent John Stossel's primetime Wednesday night special, "Just Say No: Government's War on Drugs Fails," a slashing indictment of the drug war and a ringing call for serious consideration of legalization of drugs, has provoked a flutter of excitement among drug reformers and much wailing, gnashing of teeth and rending of garments among the drug war set.

Featuring Detroit Police Chief Jerry Oliver, Southern California Judge James P. Gray, NYC Rev. Joe Kane and the Institute for Policy Studies drug policy analyst Sanho Tree, with DEA chief Asa Hutchison representing the other side, the hour-long Stossel special ripped gaping holes in the already tattered cloak of prohibitionist orthodoxy. Stossel raised cutting questions such as whether claimed drug use drops are truly the result of government policies and whether the US can wisely fight simultaneously on the two fronts of drugs and terrorism, and hammered hard on the violence created by prohibition in the US and abroad.

Drug prohibitionists, not surprisingly, were displeased, and some of them have voiced their displeasure. Clinton era drug policy spokesman Bob Weiner reacted like a jack-in-the-box, springing out of his Washington lair with an apoplectic press release defending the Clinton drug war and blasting Stossel. "It was a distorted and inaccurate excuse for drug legalization," Weiner wrote, continuing, "It blows off the successes and real reductions in use generated both by government drug policy and efforts by parents, teachers, coaches, businesses, community coalitions, religious leaders, and law enforcement."

The Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (, a federally seeded "demand reduction" organization, also lobbed a stink bomb Stossel's way via press release, accusing the program of lack of balance because it failed to discuss demand reduction. General Arthur T. Dean, Chairman and CEO of CADCA, then explained the real problem: "While I believe there is a need for discussions in the public arena, I firmly and unequivocally believe that all illegal drugs must remain illegal, and there is no room for negotiation on that."

And that, perhaps, is what's really eating these guys. Stossel and his guests dared to try to make room for an intelligent discussion of drug policy, driven by rational analysis instead of adherence to hoary propaganda. That's too much for the likes of CADCA, Weiner and their ilk, who know they must maintain a monopoly on the terms of public discourse to have any chance of defending their positions.

Now drug reformers and drug warriors are engaged in a battle of letters to ABC. After CADCA issued a warning to its members the day before the program aired, followed by an action alert the next day, at least three drug reform groups -- DRCNet, the Libertarian Party and Drugsense -- have done likewise, reporting unusually high response rates by their members. At DRCNet, for example, an action alert distributed late yesterday afternoon had yielded 15 copies of members' letters to ABC, delivered to DRCNet by fax within two hours when the office was vacated for the night. The fax machine was still ringing.

The L-word is breaking into the mainstream. Perhaps America is getting ready to begin a debate that its Latin American and European counterparts have explored in depth.

ALERT: Drug warrior organizations like the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (which is more rabidly prohibitionist than many of its members) are now waging a letter writing campaign to ABC to pressure them against questioning drug war dogma in the future. Your help is needed to show ABC that good drug war reporting like Stossel's is not only appreciated by viewers but is needed.

Please write a letter in support of the Stossel special to:

David Westin, President
ABC News
47 West 66th Street
New York, NY 10023
Please fax us a copy of your letter to (202) 293-8344, e-mail it to [email protected] or mail to: DRCNet, 2000 P St., NW, Suite 210, Washington, DC 20036.

If you don't have time to write a paper letter (the most effective method for making an impression), please visit to submit your comments to ABC News online. You can also visit
to state and discuss your views on ABC's web board devoted to the Stossel special.

DRCNet will provide info on ordering a video of the program in the near future. In the meantime, you can read an excerpt from it at online.

The following is a sample letter you can use (preferably modified and personalized) in your communication to ABC, provided by Marc Brandl of the Libertarian Party's Drug War Task Force:

Dear Mr. Westin:

I wanted to thank you for your excellent choice to air John Stossel's segment entitled "The War on Drugs: A War on Ourselves" on Tuesday, July 30th. I found it to be a fresh, engaging look at the issue of drug policy, and I believe it represented a level of journalistic integrity that has not been seen on the issue of drug reform for quite some time.

I hope you will not believe any who might tell you that airing Mr. Stossel's piece was a poor choice. Indeed, it is of the utmost importance that Americans see both sides of an issue that has gone practically uncontested for far too long.

Thank you again for your choice in programming like John Stossel's. I sincerely hope that ABC News will continue this level of quality analysis in the future, and I will be watching more frequently in the hope that it does.


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Issue #248, 8/2/02 Editorial: Getting from Here to There | Despite Supreme Court Ruling, No Wave of High School Drug Testing Foreseen | US Prison Population Leveling Off, Feds Drive Small Increase | Needle Exchange 2002:00:00 A Long Way Traveled, A Long Way to Go | Baltimore Killings Continue as Politicians Continue to Ignore Role of Prohibition | Stossel Special Spurs War of Letters to ABC | Newsbrief: Cooking Speed Equals Child Abuse Under New Tennessee Law | Massachusetts Governor Vetoes Decriminalization Provisions | Newsbrief: Afghan Crop Report Says Opium Eradication a Joke | Newsbrief: Leading British Comedian Says Legalize It All | Newsbrief: Alabama Rape Victim Ordered to Provide Urine Sample for Drug Test | Newsbrief: Tennessee School Board Ordered to Back Off on Zero Tolerance -- Right to Public Education at Issue | Newsbrief: Seattle Marijuana Enforcement Initiative Signatures Submitted | Web Scan:, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Harry Levine, Ethan Nadelmann, Medical Marijuana Research, School Daily | Legislative Alerts: Rave Bill, Medical Marijuana, Higher Education Act Drug Provision | The Reformer's Calendar

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