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Who We Are and Why We Fight: "People Who Do Drugs, and People Who Don't, Will End the War on Drugs"

The foremost U.S. authority on the harm of the drug war paints a clear and brilliant picture of the path to a better future.

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When we can envision a future... Sometimes I look at the societies that have fought wonderful fights against dictatorship. I look at South Africa and I look at the southern cone of Latin America and other places. And what happened when truth and justice went out? What did they do? Did they massacre the people who had oppressed them? No. They set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions. I dream of the day when we have the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions. And when the people who are participating in the War on Drugs will be brought before, to confront their victims; the people whose lives they destroyed because they were just part of the system and just doing their job. And when they be brought to confront what it is they did -- not with a threat, death or treating them as they treated others -- but we understand that we need to evolve towards a different future. And do you know who would be the advisors and consultants on those commissions? It will be the brave men and women of LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition). It will be the law enforcement officers who fought this battle for years and came to the realization that it wasn’t right.  

Now, of course, some people say, you know, “How do we do this?” Don’t we ultimately have to control drugs? Don’t we have to control them at the source? Look what’s going on right now. What is the future of drugs in our society and elsewhere? To some extent of course it’s the pharmaceutical drugs. I mean, we’re always going to have marijuana and cocaine and the opiates and the hallucinogens, right? They’re not going away. They’ve been around for thousands of years in those cases, and people are going to keep loving them and getting in trouble with them, right? The Center For Disease Control just came out yesterday and said that now, for the first time in history, more people die of an accidental overdose involving a drug, typically a pharmaceutical drug, than from an automobile accident. And our government can’t think of anything better to do than to crack down on pain mills this and pharmaceuticals that. All they can think about is reverting to supply control, supply control, punishment, punishment, punishment. They can’t think of anything else.  

You know, sometimes I think we might have a good modern way of dealing with drugs. There’s this substance out there. This substance, it’s a substance that almost every one of us consumes. It’s a substance that fills our life with joy and can also fill it with immense pain. It’s a substance we can’t live with and we can’t live without. It’s a substance that’s woven into our society, so it’s impossible to imagine a future without it. It is one that we use in moderation and one which so many of us are addicted to. What is that substance? The automobile.  

Now think about it. What has happened in the last 20 or 30 years? The number of automobiles on the road has increased, by what, 50%? The number of drivers by 30%, 40%? The number of miles driven, by 50 or 100%.  All the things going on; more cars, more drivers, more miles. Now, the conventional model would say that’s going to be more automobile related problems. But, what’s happened during that same 30 years? The number of  people that have died on roads has dropped. The amount of pollution being put into the air has dropped. The amount of injuries happening has dropped. It seems to me that automobiles, while not a perfect model, is an example of acknowledging the inevitable reality that something can proliferate in our society, can become more and more common and more and more used, but nonetheless, through intelligent policies, we can reduce the harms that are being caused, both to ourselves and to others. That automobiles provide a wonderful example of a harm reduction strategy.