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The Drug Legalization Debate

The Chicken Page

What this page is all about

Debate? What debate? In the last year or so, the people and organizations who support the War on Some Drugs have realized that they simply cannot win an open and honest debate on drug policy. As a rational matter, there is no rational defense for our current policy. As a result, they have gone into a hunkered-down mode where they are refusing to engage in any dialogue at all on drug policy - because they realize they will lose badly.

We think it is important to point out and name all the people and organizations who want to try to tell the world what we ought to be doing about drugs, but then refuse to engage in constructive debate or dialogue with anyone who might propose any modification to the current system. In short, they have pushed themselves into an extremist corner, and we think it ought to be publicly known.

Therefore, we are listing below the people and organizations who have been invited for a polite, open, and honest public debate on drug policy but have so far refused. We think they are chicken - afraid to debate because they know they will be soundly beaten. We feel that the media and everyone else who reads this page should call it to their attention that their refusal to discuss drug policy is unreasonable and counter-productive. If they are really interested in finding a drug policy which works, then we ought to be talking together, not hiding as these people are doing.


We wholeheartedly invite any of the people or organizations listed below to respond and participate in this debate by posting their responses, arguments, or whatever. We have already established links to their web pages so readers may compare the respective arguments, and understand why these people don't want to debate. We will post whatever responses they want to make.

The Chickens

The Drug Enforcement Administration

The DEA refuses to discuss drug policy in any environment where they might be subjected to either honest debate or direct, probing questions about our drug policies. This is despite the fact that they held a major conference in August, 1994, to try to teach their people how to survive in a drug policy debate and even wrote a book called "How to Hold Your Own in a Drug Legalization Debate". Why do they refuse to debate? Very simple - they know from past history that they will get their butts kicked without any question.

Prove it to yourself. Call your local DEA office and tell them you are setting up a public forum and would like them to come to speak to whatever community group. They will gladly volunteer - because they have public relations officers with that specific task - until they hear the rest. Then tell them that there will be people from the drug policy reform movement there, and you would like to set up an open and honest discussion/debate. Their answer will be short and simple: "We don't debate." If you ask them why, they will tell you it is because it would lend credibility to the other side. Of course, they will still refuse even if you have recognized medical authorities, Nobel prize winners, or anyone else who already has credibility. The real reason is: They are chicken!

Thomas Constantine

Administrator, Drug Enforcement Administration

After putting his pretty face on the book he masterminded - "How to Hold Your Own in a Drug Legalization Debate" - Mr. Constantine has apparently wisely decided not to try it himself. We have posted his book, along with our reply which, among other things, found that they had cited books which didn't even exist. That's no way to win a debate! In recent months he has openly admitted that the drug war of the 1980s has had little, if any, effect on the flow of drugs despite all the billions spent. Mr. Constantine may now be frightened to come out and debate this policy on any rational basis, or he may just be getting his resume ready because he realizes that, sooner or later, the jig is up.

Robert Bonner

Former Administrator, Drug Enforcement Administration

Mr. Bonner relies on the same standard old arguments in supporting the drug war but, curiously, doesn't want to put himself in a position where anyone can question him about what he says. He has been given numerous opportunities to debate credible proponents of drug policy reform but rarely accepts any invitation where he has any opposition at all. We believe it is because he realizes he really can't "hold his own" in the drug policy debate.

Senator Joseph Biden of the US Senate

"What we do not need is a debate that treats our nation's serious drug problem as a political football; what we do not need are more charges of who should do more and who hasn't done enough." -Sen Joseph Biden April 28, 1996 Wilmington News Journal page A8

Joe, you really don't get the point, do you? The point, Joe, is your fundamental ignorance of many facets of the issues. The purpose of a debate is to educate people like you. Open and honest discussion of the issues has always been a fundamental part of the American political process - clear back to the days when George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were still growing hemp.

The following are some of his quotes, or close to them: (Most of this section is supplied by Scott Ehlers.)

  • "General McCaffrey, you should take this administration by the ears...If they don't give you real power, then you should quit"; (That ought to be a short job.)
  • "this war must be fought on the streets of every community"; (That's OUR community you are talking about fighting a war in, Joe.)
  • "hard-core addicts must face swift and tough punishment even if they are first-time or nonviolent offenders"; (OK, there are about 2.7 million of them and not a single available jail cell. Tell me how that works out, Joe.)
  • "gratuituous violence is due to cocaine users...you can bet they're on cocaine" (Joe, you just proved you haven't read the Federal Government's own reports on this issue. Start with Psychoactive Substances and Violence by the Department of Justice, -- click on the title there and you can read the whole thing.)
  • "Bill Bennett was the best drug czar because he hollered, and I hope you'll holler as well Gen. McCaffrey" (Personally, I want more out of Government officials than the ability to holler - especially when what he is hollering doesn't make any sense anyway.)
  • "Just act, we don't need any more studies...we've done plenty of studies...don't listen to the people." (Would you care to share with us any of those studies that you have read? I have a number of them on these web pages and not one of them agrees with this drug policy. See the list - Major Studies of Drug Policy)

Biden also added some interesting new "facts" to the record that I was not aware of, namely: the Harrison Act was passed in 1917; there was more drug education in 1923 than there is today; and 10 to 20 times more drugs were confiscated under McCaffrey than under his predecessors. (Yes, this is a U.S. Senator and according to him, he's been studying the drug problem for 20 years!)

Joe Biden has been a major supporter of the War on Some Drugs for many years. His obvious ignorance of the basic facts about the issue is all the more shocking, considering he is one of the major congressional leaders and has been ranting about this for years. He has admitted on several occasions that our drug policy clearly leaves something to be desired but, for Joe at least, an honest discussion of the issues - and how to make our policy better - is out of the question. Unless you already agree with his preconceived notions, don't bother to call.

Will Joe Biden ever have the courage to face someone from the "legalization" camp in an open and honest debate? I seriously doubt it. An open and honest debate would mean that those long, rambling, say-nothing statements he makes would be subject to some real examination. My personal opinion is that he would look like a major fool in short order against any of the top advocates for reform.

Send Joe Biden some e-mail - Tell him he is listed here, and Cliff Schaffer is calling him out for a debate. The only thing you will get in response is a massive clucking sound.

Dr. Eric Voth

Dr. Voth's List of Research - wherein he finds support for his position. The list is most curious because much of the information listed plainly does not support his point of view.

Dr. Voth is one of the Grand Poobahs of Drug Watch International and a few other pro-prison organizations and is well-known for histrionic appearances before congressional committees where, to hear him tell it, the entire future of civilization rests on the grand plan to incarcerate every pot smoker. (Dr. Voth, when you read this, please remember that I will be glad to post any statements you want to make about the issue, including a rebuttal of everything I say here - but look out, because that will probably start the debate you are trying so hard to avoid.)

I have had several private e-mail conversations with him and it is quite clear that Dr. Voth would be no match for me or anyone I have trained and would quickly look quite foolish in front of all but the most extreme audiences.

Dr. Voth's initial tactic, like those of the Drug Watch International folks in general, is to try to turn the whole debate into a series of personal attacks. I had extreme difficulty in getting him to address any substantive issue about drugs because he kept making accusations against everyone in the drug-policy reform movement. For example:

  • He said that the drug policy reform movement was composed of a bunch of drug addicts. I pointed out to him that simple logic should tell him this was wrong. Why would anyone want to try to organize a bunch of drug addicts? The reasons they would not be good activists seem pretty obvious to me.
  • He said that the real force behind the movement was a bunch of people like Dick Cowan (formerly head of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) who wanted the laws changed just so they could get stoned and so they could get rich selling pot after the laws were changed. I can't tell you all of Dick Cowan's reasoning for wanting the laws changed but it is my clear impression that neither one of these two reasons are high up on the list. As for making money from pot after it is legal, I don't think Dick Cowan is stupid enough to believe that he could. (Dick can correct me, if I am wrong.) If anyone wanted to make money from pot, the best time to do it would be under the current policy.
    But, the bottom line is that Dick Cowan's motives (or any other individual's motives) don't really have much to do with the issue of whether it makes sense to incarcerate millions of people for drug offenses. As I pointed out to Dr. Voth, Dick Cowan may not know any more about this issue than Dr. Voth does.

Dr. Voth persisted in this kind of routine for quite some time, until I finally hit him with a long list of corruption and dishonesty on the other side, starting with the lies told by Harry Anslinger starting in 1937. People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

Once I hit him back, he stopped that routine (a little) and we went on to some *real* issues, but the conversation was marked by his inability to answer almost any question I asked him. For example:

  • He claims he is a "world-renowned expert" on marijuana, and especially marijuana addiction. Yet, it is obvious to me that he has never read many of the basic research texts that I have posted on this web page and is woefully ignorant of many other facets of the subject. As one small example, he is not familiar with the various ways in which cannabis can be consumed medically. I pointed him to the web pages, especially the work of Dr. Tod Mikuriya, but it is doubtful if he will ever bother to read it.
  • I asked him to provide me with his credentials and the full text of any research he has done on the issue, or that he thinks is important to understanding the issue. I assured him that I would post anything he sends me unaltered. So far he hasn't come forth with a single page of anything but his personal opinions. On the other hand, I have received reams of information from many other "experts" on the issue, including people with better medical credentials than Dr. Voth.
  • He says that he supports the use of cannabinoids as medicine but wants people to use "medicines", not "potions." It occurred to me that, since the active ingredient in Marinol, an FDA-approved prescription drug, comes directly from the marijuana plant, that the difference between a "medicine" and a "potion", was very much the same as the difference between a Vitamin C tablet and an orange. Some patients, it would seem, would naturally prefer the "medicine" (the tablet), while others would prefer the "potion" (the orange). I asked him to explain what I had missed, but he had no response.

Most interesting is Dr. Voth's response to my request for a debate. He said the conditions would have to be right. I told him that my conditions were pretty simple: Any time, any place, any audience, any rules - just show up.

Dr. Voth's terms for a debate were quite a bit different. They are:

  1. The forum needs to be high visibility such as a major media event like national talk show, news show, etc. I suggested any number of possible forums, including online, taped radio or TV appearances, etc. He said all of them could be edited to make him look foolish. (No editing required for that.) I even suggested that we do it online and then post matching transcripts on our respective web pages with links to each other - just so we could make sure that neither one of us had done any editing. No dice.
  2. No pro-legalization forum. Either a totally neutral audience or something on his turf. (One should note that a totally neutral audience would be almost impossible to find. I don't really see what the audience has to do with it anyway - they just watch, they don't participate.)
  3. He wants all his costs covered. (That shouldn't be a problem, I know lots of people who would buy tickets just to watch him fall).

In short, Dr. Voth just isn't very eager for a public debate with any knowledgeable opponent. He seems to have a lot to say when nobody has the microphone but him, but he quickly craps out when faced with any significant opposition.

If you happen to read about Dr. Voth in the newspaper, or see him on the media, make it a point to write to the media source and include a copy of this segment of the Chicken Page.

Dr. Kim Edward Light

Dr. Light has a relatively small (by comparison to any of ours) web site devoted to a few articles making poorly documented and plainly illogical arguments against "legalization." His web page invites responses and even purports to maintain a commentary area where people can comment, but he has never responded to any invitation to debate, or even any comments on his web page that anyone can determine. We invite Dr. Light to join us in debate. We don't expect that he will do so any time soon.

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