Canvassing for Opinion - aka "Blairs Brain on Cannabis"

IMHO prohibition sentiment requires inherent addiction to status quo, an incapacity to visualise beyond the here and now and a desperate desire to know others might feel the same... Reform is not revolutionary, rather it is evolutionary. Having survived banging your head against a brick wall the evolutionist relishes having stopped. / Blair

Friday, November 10, 2006

Americans For Drug Free Youth (open letter)

Americans For Drug Free Youth

Dear Sir/Madam

I was supplied your website by a fellow educator who provided it to me in my capacity as a director of educators for sensible drug policy after a student reviewed critically your U-Tube video and presented her analysis to her class. While I am proud of any student for whom a teacher takes a special interest in his/her work, in this case the analysis was an exemplar.

Consider, were she applying for a job with me in my capacity as a technology and social policy analyst she surely would have been on the interview list.

The bones of her analysis was that everything your organisation claims about the voracity of those for whom drug reform is important, she points out that existing drug policy fails youth and this problem occurs on your watch and not that of the reformers for whom your organisation appears to hold responsible. She says, quite logically the burden of proof is not on reform(ers) but rather on those for whom argue the existing policy base is a success.

Her work showed that the money used for state and other local initiatives pales in significance to the money spent by federal and other sources 'to prevent harm' yet yields little in return. Her research thoroughly garnered from public sources showed the total revenue related to the delivery of DARE program alone exceeded that donated by Messrs Sperling. Soros and friends, many fold. Further, expenditures on faith based intervention programmes again challenges your argument. What was particularly insightful was the perpetuation of and continuing failure to do any cost benefit analysis prohibition per se. If it saves just one child is not good enough. [see]

I know from experience in advocating for educational reform your in all likelyhood not going to 'get it', but when young people who examine from first principles 'get it' and they understand that the failure is on your watch, they see that it is you and yours that are part of the problem. Now that's a tough one I know. I'm just the messenger here.

It might be helpful if you came to understand, as our own New Zealand House of Representatives [Health] Select Committee evidentially reviewed pretty much the same rules as you have in the USA, (we too ascribe to UN international conventions) and found amongst other things, that the double standards in respect of alcohol and tobacco are an impediment to credible (anti) drug education.

Further the same conservative committee recommended that the laws pertaining to cannabis (the primary thrust of drug policy law reformers, both here and as has been your experience in the recent US midterm elections) be reviewed. (see

Before you dismiss and possibly bin this correspondence, I courteously ask you to consider that I, and all my colleagues in the international organisation share the same desires and outcomes as you do... that our children make it to adulthood safe and well, that our society serves to function optimally in delivering the best possible outcomes and recognise that no matter what we do, kids will do some pretty daft things that no matter how hard we try... we just cannot save them all.

What we at EFSDP collectively hold true is that what we are doing now is a disaster. It incentivises the very outcomes we set out to prevent.
That makes US collectively accountable for this mess we render upon our kids, and for my part I don't want a bar of that burden.

I have studied this vexing problem for more than thirty years. If what was supposed to be working was, surely we would see evidence of it by now.
In this regard, the evidence for drug policy reform is on our side. What we are doing is not sustainable.

Which brings me to the final point addressed by the students analysis. Thank you for informing people of the important contribution to informed debate of Messrs Zeese, Cowan, Rosenbaum and others. We now have one young lass who is better informed WHY reform is necessary. She looked these folk up on the net and found out about SAFETY FIRST and BEYOND ZERO TOLERANCE. She found that DARE for example actually encouraged early drug experimentation. She found that we cannot innoculate our kids from reality. Now we have a fully informed (and empowered) bunch of her peers who are critically aware that there is more to drug policy than a friendly policeman whose lectures overstated the harms.

For that is the message from an independently minded young woman of a mere 16 years whose introduction to drug policy was

Finally, on a personal note, I trust this is being addressed to whom it may concern.

I am sorry to hear about your son Steven.

I have been involved in drug policy reform for a very long time now, much longer than my 28 year old daughter or 19 year old son. They know what their Dad does. Neither of them have anything but the most fleeting of drug experiences. Both have never come to the attention of the law, never exhibited 'deviant behaviours', remain (as best as they will admit to their Dad!) STD free, don't have a problem with alcohol, don't smoke and haven't fallen foul of the criminal culture maintained by prohibition nor as at the time of writing, committed suicide. There is nothing special in this example I provide you, just as the media wouldn't report any other good news story... but keep in mind that their peers in the Netherlands [where as you know drug policy is far less draconian than in the USA], my children were at 4 to 5 times less the risk of all the behaviours I have mentioned. As a parent I find this differential in risk harms entirely unacceptable. As an educator, it poses another dilemma. How to I explain to an informed parent, let alone an informed youth, that we have to do it 'the prohibitory way' because it is a government mandate and 'them's the rules, no matter how poor the result''.

Educators quite rightly have a problem with lying. It is inherently unhealthy and compromises everything we do. It appears the Police don't have this problem, they can exaggerate and lie (about drug harms) with impunity and we are asked to pretend there is no social cost to this.

How does one convince sceptics that the Dutch drug policy model.isn't responsible for the far better outcomes across the health and justice spectrum than those experienced either by yourself, your fellow Americans for Drug Free Youth and of course us here in New Zealand. (we do have the highest cannabis consumption in the fact the 2004 OECD report validates the comparative youth health and justice information I am asserting here, how's that for institutionalised failure!)

If there is a lesson there for us all it is this, where the rules are the same (as the USA) the outcomes are much the same, it is predictable that someones kids are getting into trouble, some very badly, some will come to harm and some will never heal; and some are dying... this occurs all to frequently and we need to 'collectively' do something about it.

It leaves an uncomfortable taste in my mouth to say this, but your personal circumstance is but one of these all to frequent tragic outcomes. I share your grief, just not your solution.

Should you and yours wish to discuss the work we do further, I am happy to call you at a time that suits.

Have an utterly magnificent day.

Yours sincerely,

Blair Anderson
New Zealand Director, Educators for Sensible Drug Policy,
ph (643) 389 4065 cell 027 265 7219
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