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Drug Control: National Policies

Dr. A.C. Germann, Professor Emeritus
Department of Criminal Justice
California State University, Long Beach

     While teaching a course on drug abuse and the law to pre-service students and working practitioners, it was obvious to me, as might be expected, that the level of sophistication about drug use and abuse varied from the naively ignorant to the superbly informed. Many well intentioned government publications accurately describe harmful addictive drug abuse, and support blanket repression and zero tolerance of many widely used substances. This results in the incarceration of many violent and non-violent, addicted and non -addicted, dangerous and cooperative offenders. Today, a reassessment of current drug policy is widely debated, and the criminal justice system subjected to critical policy analysis in terms of its basic effectiveness and fairness.

     We need adult, serious, balanced, and dignified coverage of information that is not distorted, paranoid, self-serving, politicized, or seriously misleading. If the ears of all the people in the nation who had ingested illicit substances in the past six months were to turn bright green for one whole week, the nation would be amazed, confused, astounded, and quickly taught something very important as they identified friends, relatives, neighbors, doctors, lawyers, accountants, priests, nuns, ministers, rabbis, soldiers, policemen, firemen, military personnel, businessmen, teachers, students, politicians, respected policy makers, administrators, supervisors, and workers from a variety of private and government institutions everywhere. The nation could, reasonably, come to realize that there is such a thing as useful, pleasurable and responsible drug use, as well as useless, damaging and irresponsible drug abuse.

     It is a national embarrassment that many of our approaches to drug use and drug abuse remain so puerile, ignorant, and vindictive. We need truthful information about responsible drug use and irresponsible drug abuse, of both licit and illicit drugs. We need alternatives to the repressive and demonizing uses of police, prosecution, and prison, and to consider reasoned and compassionate uses of education treatment, and rehabilitation. And we need all media professionals to probe the reliability of drug data sources, and to refuse to write or print questionable, exaggerated, anachronistic, self-serving material. Such alternatives would clearly demonstrate that the current policies of zero tolerance are counterproductive, worsen a horrible situation, waste public monies, corrupt agencies, and serve only the interests of the drug conglomerates, the prison-criminal justice industrial complex, and unfair agency forfeiture acquisitions.

     The repetitive refrain "We need to hire more police, pass tougher laws, get tougher judges, pass longer sentences, and build more jails and prisons" is a popular and addictive ditty, but unrealistic and self-defeating, and only a politically mandated "loyalty oath." We seem unable to learn from the painful history of alcohol prohibition, filled with violence and corruption.

     The informed person is in a position to bring light where there is darkness, hope where there is frustration, and compassion where there is coldhearted indifference. Courage and confidence can lead the nation to rational recovery from a national disgrace, and lead the world to more humane control policies, while at the same time changing and outmoded "national war on drugs" to an "international teaching concerning drug use and abuse.

     Military pragmatism can "destroy a village in order to save it" and likewise, a drug war can destroy people in order to save them, be savagely draconian, ruthless in application, inanely mechanical, and ruin salvageable lives by incarcerating non-violent, non-predatory addicts, and cost far more than educational programs.

     Education, as a process for changing minds, beliefs, and actions, is more effective, less wasteful of resources, and more edifying than the horrors of war, wherever and however utilized. Education honors the potential of every human being, and is much more fitting for the new millennium and the loving, sharing, peaceful planet that we all yearn to see for ourselves, our children, and those yet to be.

     The following list of useful WWW sites and publications may be helpful in many ways, in terms of public speaking, library acquisitions, research, reorientation of beliefs, and assessment of current policy, processes, successes, or failures. Some of the materials may be regarded as objectionable by some, and very controversial, but, if obtaining a wide perspective is necessary for informed judgment in a democracy, they can be considered useful in an information oriented age. They are concerned voices, truthful voices, and a welcome alternative to the flood of misinformation about a very serious threat to the health and freedom of our citizens.

Web Sites

[NOTE: In addition to Dr. Germann's list of Web sites we would like to add the following three very important sites, which were not fully developed at the time this essay was written.]


Baum, Dan, Smoke and Mirrors, Little, Brown, NY, 1996

Devereux, Paul, The Long Trip: A Prehistory of Psychedelia, Penguin/Arkana, NY, 1997

Eldridge, Dirk Chase, Ending the War on Drugs: A Solution for America, Bridge Works, 1998

Friedman, Milton & Thomas S. Szasz, On Liberty and Drugs, Drug Policy Foundation Press, NY, 1992

Gray, Mike, Drug Crazy: How We Got Into This Mess & How We Can Get Out, Random House, NY, 1998

Grinspoon, Lester and James B. Bakalar, Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered, The Lindesmith Center, NY 1997

Hanna, John, Psychedelic Resource List, 2nd Edition, Soma Graphics, Sacramento, CA, 1998

McNamara, Joseph, Gangster Cops: The Hidden Cost of America's War on Drugs, 1999

Massing, Michael, The Fix, Simon & Schuster, NY, 1998

McKenna, Terence K., Food of the Gods, Bantam, NY, 1992

Narby, Jeremy, The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge, Tarcher/Putnam, NY, 1998

Pellerin, Cheryl, Trips: How Hallucinogens Work in Your Brain, Seven Stories Press, NY, 1998

Shulgin, Alexander and Ann Shulgin, PIHKAL: A Chemical Love Story, Transform Press, Berkeley, CA, 1991, TIHKAL: The Continuation, Transform Press, Berkeley, CA, 1996.

Stamets, Paul, Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World: An Identification Guide, TenSpeed Press, Berkeley, CA 1996

Stolaroff, Myron J., The Secret Chief, MAPS, Charlotte, N.C., 1997

Szasz, Thomas, Ceremonial Chemistry, Learning Publications, Holmes Beach, FL, 1985

Trebach, Arnold S., The Great Drug War, Mcmillan, NY, 1987

Trimpey, Jack, Rational Recovery: The New Cure for Substance Addiction, Pocket Books, NY, 1986

U.S. Department of Justice: National Institute of Justice, Drug Education, (NCJ 104557), Drug Trafficking, (NCJ104555)

Weil, Andrew, From Chocolate to Morphine, Houghton/Mifflin, NY, 1998

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