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Nadelmann Puts Drug Policy Reform In Historical Perspective


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The fight to reform drug policy parallels other movements in United States
history, according to a national leader of the effort. "We see ourselves
standing on the shoulders of and learning from other movements for
political and social justice in American history," said Ethan Nadelmann,
founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, in a Tuesday
night lecture in C.V. Starr Auditorium.

The lecture, which drew about 80 students and community members, began with
Nadelmann asking how many people in attendance supported the war on drugs.
One student raised his hand.

Nadelmann provided a litany of reasons for his opposition to the war on
drugs, including its creation of a violence-ridden black market, its effect
on HIV transmission and its incarceration of millions of Americans.

But he said the core principle driving his work is his belief in people's
sovereignty over their own bodies.

"No one deserves to lose what's precious to them -- their freedom, their
families, their livelihood -- because of what they choose to put in their
body," Nadelmann said.

The anti-drug camp in the United States has taken on a fanatical character,
he said, calling the war on drugs "the dark side of the American psyche."

"It's a quasi-religious feeling," he said. "It's this conviction that
there's something viscerally, morally, biblically wrong" with putting drugs
in one's body, he said.

Nadelmann, who taught at Princeton University before moving into drug
policy, also spoke about the origins and future of the movement. He
stressed the importance of building coalitions with a wide range of
communities and keeping a long-term focus.

"There is a growing movement, a growing number of people in the U.S. who
believe that the war on drugs is doing more harm than good," he said.
"Building a powerful national advocacy organization is fundamental to our

Nadelmann compared marijuana legalization efforts to the gay rights
movement, saying "cultural transformation" can result in acceptance for
drug users. Media images of drug users as moral, successful people are
crucial to the effort, he said.

Nathaniel Lepp '06, vice president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy,
which organized the lecture, said Nadelmann's message begins with awareness
of current drug policy.

"We're hoping that people understand the importance of opposing the drug
war as it's currently being waged," Lepp said.

Earlier in the day, Nadelmann delivered a speech to students in PS40:
"Conflict and Cooperation in International Politics." Nadelmann also spoke
before the medical community at Memorial Hospital and took part in a local
talk-radio show.

SSDP hosted a reception with Nadelmann for faculty, legislators, doctors
and students Monday night.

Lepp said he was pleased with the turnout at the event.

"I'm thrilled to see a lot of new faces here," he said.

Pubdate: Wed, 17 Mar 2004
Source: Brown Daily Herald, The (RI Edu)
Copyright: 2004 The Brown Daily Herald
Contact: letters@browndailyherald.com
Website: The Brown Daily Herald
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