DEA UNWILLING TO DEBATE DRUG POLICY
The Drug Enforcement Administration won't hesitate to throw doctors
into prison for humanely prescribing opiates to patients in severe
chronic pain. The DEA will seize property from everyday citizens
without ever charging them with a crime. And the DEA sees nothing
wrong with trampling on democracy when California voters approve the
medical use of marijuana.
But ask DEA agents to discuss the pros and cons of America's drug
policy in a public debate, and they run off with their tails between
Such was the case last week when the UNM chapter of Students for a
Sensible Drug Policy organized a drug-policy debate in the Student
Union Building. Drug war opponent, Howard Wooldridge, a former police
officer and board member for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, was
more than happy to debate Finn Selander, demand-reduction coordinator
for the DEA. Both sides agreed upon the questions and the debate
structure weeks in advance. Everything was set to go.
The debate, though, didn't happen. The whole fiasco went from strange
to bizarre. At the last minute, Selander backed out citing some vague
unspecified DEA policy that forbids debates. Not wanting to cancel the
event entirely, SSDP did everything it could to accommodate the DEA's
requests. The DEA would only agree to a non-debate forum with
30-minute presentations from each side followed by questions from the
audience. Furthermore, the DEA demanded the media be barred from
attending the event.
Selander was unable to attend, so Special Agent Paul Stone gave the
DEA's presentation. When audience members tried to film Stone
speaking, he demanded they shut off their cameras saying it could
compromise his undercover work. Why would the DEA ban the media and
send an undercover agent who couldn't be filmed to a public forum?
When I asked Stone about the DEA's policy forbidding debates, he
refused to answer my questions and could not direct me to anyone in
the DEA who would. What prompted the agency's paranoia remains a mystery.
The absence of drug-war supporters in the drug-policy debate is
becoming increasingly common. All across the nation, organizations
advocating drug policy reform from the Marijuana Policy Project to the
Drug Policy Foundation have tried to have these debates. Without fail,
drug warriors are either too busy to participate or don't respond to
the requests. Where reform advocates have facts, drug warriors have
nothing but excuses.
Considering the growing controversy surrounding the war on drugs, you
would think drug-war supporters would love a public forum to justify
America's drug policy and tout its alleged successes. Only in a forum
where their claims can't be challenged will drug warriors speak
publicly on drug policy. Apparently, the war on drugs is as
embarrassing for them as it is for the whole nation.
If there is a group that supports the war on drugs and would like to
debate the policy publicly, SSDP and many other reform groups would
love to hear from you. You won't have any trouble getting advocates of
drug-policy reform to debate. We have only two conditions: any place,