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We Have a Golden Opportunity to End the War on Drugs: Can You Help?

We can't end the despicable "war on drugs" without an effective media that can mobilize our citizenry and spread the word.
 
 
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Day in and day out, AlterNet reaches more people with powerful and convincing drug reform messages than any other media in America. That's right. We produce, gather and distribute the most articles to the biggest audiences, and we reach people far beyond the established drug reform crowd.

And on top of it, we support all the key advocates in the drug reform movement and bring people to their campaigns. We help the Marijuana Policy Project, Drug Policy Alliance, NORML, and DRC Net among others, to get their messages out.

And we do all this as a slim and trim, non-profit organization that depends on you, our readers for our success.

We hope you agree that our communication capacity is worth a lot in the battle for drug reform. Are you willing to give us your support? We can't end the despicable "war on drugs" without an effective media that can mobilize our citizenry and spread the word.

We Have a Golden Opportunity

It is clear. We have the biggest opportunity in history to truly transform public policy about drugs.

Dramatically different political circumstances -- a new president and increasingly dire domestic and global economic crises -- give us a fresh opportunity to challenge the basic premises of the failed and destructive drug war.

But in order to seize the moment, we need to educate and mobilize the largest audience possible for drug reform in the next few months -- before the drug warriors reassert their influence. And to do that we need your help.

We Must Stop the Failure Breeds Failure Syndrome

There is an infuriating theme in American politics. When many of our leaders fail at something, they keep on repeating the same mistakes over and over -- only to make the failure even more tragic. And rarely in history has there ever been a failure as substantial as that of America's drug policies -- and it's been an expensive one as well.

America is the world's biggest jailer, and our prison populations continue to grow, costing tens of billions of dollars in large part because of the disastrous drug policies. And to what end? A recent report by The World Health Organization found that Americans use more pot and cocaine than anyone else in the world -- and they use more now than when the war on drugs began.

And We Must Stop Picking on the Weakest

And the prison drug repression complex preys on the weakest and least dangerous. As the Washington Post and others have reported, the focus of the drug war in the U.S. has shifted significantly over the past decade from hard drugs to marijuana. In 2007, almost nine out of 10 of the (all-time record) 829,627 pot arrests were for possession, not for sale. One pot arrest is made every 38 seconds. Why? Because the pot smoker is the easiest prey for prisons and prosecution machines, which require large numbers of victims to justify their funding. As a result drug war has increasingly become a war on young people as well. According to a 2005 study commissioned by the NORML Foundation, 74 percent of all Americans busted for pot are under age 30, and 1 out of 4 are age 18 or younger.

Let's Take Advantage of the Situation

During the Great Depression, alcohol prohibition went the way of the dodo bird. The same can happen with the pot laws. In California, State Rep. Tom Ammiano has proposed a bill to tax and regulate legal pot, in the face of an "unprecedented economic emergency." Polls show record support for legalization. Pot is decriminalized in 13 states. We have the makings of a Big Mo -- Momentum. Let's do it.

Let's Tell Our New President What Should Be Done

As president, Barack Obama is not likely to be a "drug reformer" -- at least not at first. But Americans' ability -- largely motivated by their economic fears -- to rethink many of their assumptions will fuel a reassessment and a new degree of pragmatism about drug use. Obama's choice of R. Gil Kerlikowske, police chief of Seattle, to become the new drug czar has been met with cautious optimism from drug reformers. We need law enforcement officials to get more in tune with the wishes of those 13 states that have legalized the physician-supervised use of medicinal marijuana. It is crucial that the militaristic attitude toward drug use be replaced by an orientation about health. Drug leadership should reflect more the values of a surgeon general than a military general.

So Will you Help AlterNet?

You may wonder, how does AlterNet we reach so many people? It's mainly our readers and fans who spread the word. A recent article about the bong experience of Olympic star Michael Phelps, by Tony Newman, was voted onto on the front page of Digg for 7 Days and was seen by more than 250,000 readers.

Many drug-related articles are read by more than 100k people and are spread by e-mail. Bloggers link to the stories. Our readers post them to their Facebook pages. And of course AlterNet has a big natural audience -- an average of 3 million visitors a month during 2008 -- that gobbles up stories about drugs.

But we can't do it all for free. And the economic crisis is hitting us, as it is hitting you too. Can we count on you to help us keep getting the word out?

Our goal is to raise $25k by April 15th, to ensure that we have a staff person devoted to helping end the drug war during 2009. This is a small amount of money compared to the many millions of dollars that have been invested over the years, both in the drug war and in the fight against it. Let's keep our eye on the ball and change public opinion person by person.

The biggest opportunity in history for fundamental drug reform is sitting in front of us. Together we can make the changes. We at AlterNet are ready. Can we count on you to help?

Don Hazen is the executive editor of AlterNet.
 
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