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A Response to the DEA web site

DRCNet Response to the
Drug Enforcement Administration
Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization


Though compiled from many sources, this guide evolved from a single event: the Anti-Legalization Forum held at the FBI/DEA Training Academy in August 1994. Five major city police officials provided invaluable assistance to the project: Superintendent Matt L. Rodriguez, Chicago Police Department; Chief Ruben Ortega, Salt Lake City Police Department; Chief William K Finney, St. Paul Police Department; Chief Joe Samuels, Oakland Police Department; and Chief Dennis E. Nowicki, Charlotte Police Department. Other participants, whose contributions to the discussions are acknowledged with gratitude, were from:

Office of National Drug Control Policy National Institute on Drug Abuse National Families in Action California Office of Criminal Justice Planning Office of Drug Control Policy, State of Michigan Office of the District Attorney, Multomah County, Oregon Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University BOTEC Analysis Corporation, Cambridge, Massachusetts DEA Headquarters DEA Seattle, Miami, and Chicago Field Divisions
Facilitators: Kenneth F. Heckey, Esq., Washington, D.C. Kunz and Company, Arlington, Virginia The Walsh Group, Bethesda, Maryland

Letter of Introduction

DEA Statement

Our Response

Dear Reader:

You and I are frequently faced with the need to address many of the positions which are advocated by those calling for the legalization of drugs. More and more, the debate on legalization is being given public airing in the media. Average citizens, fed up with crime and drugs, are being told that legalization is a reasonable alternative to the crime problem that so many communities are struggling against.


The DEA really has no business spending taxpayer dollars to promote their own political agenda. The DEA acts as lobbyist and public relations firm for themselves and other special interest groups which benefit from the drug war and it should be stopped.

In the course of this public advocacy the DEA distorts the truth on many occasions, lies shamefully at times and draws invalid conclusions from what is true. The purpose of this booklet was to try to stop the damage being done when the drug warriors were caught in public spouting the old mythology of the drug war, but we will demonstrate clear examples of the lies and distortions here in their book.

You and I know that legalization is not an alternative, but rather a surrender which will further reduce our quality of life. It is typical of the DEA to characterize any change from the most repressive policies as a "surrender." This sort of attitude, in itself, is a major hindrance to realistic efforts to improve drug policy.

This argument is typical of the rhetoric which has been used by prohibitionists over the years. For further information on the history of this piece of rhetoric see Themes in Chemical Prohibition -- a short history of the arguments used by prohibitionists.

Ninety percent of the American people agree that legalization of drugs would complicate an already devastating situation. Surveys consistently show that the number of people opposed to "legalization" is closer to two-thirds, depending upon how the question is asked. In the online world, however, where informational resources are far greater, the numbers are quite different. One recent survey on America Online, for example, showed 91 percent of respondents favoring legalization of marijuana, with 5 percent opposed, and 4 percent undecided.
Health and social costs associated with the increased availability of drugs would break our economy. This is simply not supported by the evidence. Studies by the Rand Corporation show that treatment is at least seven times as cost effective as prison in dealing with drug problems.

The Federal Government's own financial analysis of legalization shows that legalization would result in (conservatively) annual savings of 37 billion dollars.

Crime would not decrease. There is substantial evidence that a better drug policy would produce reductions in crime. See, for example, the results achieved in Liverpool with heroin maintenance clinics - RX Drugs, 60 Minutes transcript.
The moral fiber of our country would be torn apart.   The DEA is doing enough damage to the moral fiber of our country as it is.
Those who advocate legalization have many motives. But they frequently do not have answers to a lot of the questions we are asking. Legalization is an abstract to many of them. But I can tell you first-hand, from my thirty-four years' experience as a law-enforcement officer at the state level, the damage caused by drugs is real and lasting. It's not the drug laws, or the enforcement of the drug laws, of our nation that are causing harm-- it's the drugs themselves.  We have the answers, as we are demonstrating right here. It is the DEA which doesn't want to discuss these issues in public.

There is no doubt that drugs can be harmful both to individuals and to society. However, that does not mean that these problems are best addressed by throwing massive numbers of people in prison. The best example of this is our experience with the prohibition of alcohol. See, for example, The History of Alcohol Prohibition, from the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, 1972.

Because we're often called on to speak to the issues, I asked a number of professionals from the law enforcement, health, and academic communities to come together for two days to discuss how we can best address the arguments against legalization. I am well aware that local law enforcement officials are on the front line in the battle against drug abuse. For that reason I asked several police chiefs to participate in the Quantico Conference to give their expertise and guidance as we formulated our response to these issues. This guide represents most of the issues and arguments raised during that time. It is intended as a resource for you as you are faced with the questions and issues associated with the debate on the legalization of drugs. While many professionals participated in the session, the views represented in this document are the position of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

They represent the consensus of the assembled group without necessarily attributing each and every position to the personal views of each participant.


 I can only say that I wish they really would face the issues in public. They refuse every invitation.
Please feel free to use the guide in whatever way you feel is appropriate. The debate on the legalization of drugs cannot be won if we remain silent.


We agree that the debate on the legalization of drugs cannot be won by anyone who remains silent. That is why we challenge the DEA to bring forth their best against our best in an open public environment where these issues can be discussed at length. We have asked for an open debate on this issue since February 23, 1993 when the Resolution for a Federal Commission on Drug Policy was first signed. It is only the DEA who is afraid to debate this issue in public.

We challenge the DEA to show the strength and truth of their arguments by supporting our call for an objective Federal Commission where all of the issues and evidence can be fully examined. If they are right, the evidence will show it.

All readers should take note that the DEA consistently refuses all invitations to debate this issue in public.


Thomas A. Constantine
Drug Enforcement Administration

Why This Guide Is Necessary

DEA Statement

Our Response

Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization was developed by the Drug Enforcement Administration in response to requests by law enforcement executives, community leaders, substance abuse prevention counselors, parent and family advocates, and others for DEA's help in responding to legalization issues and questions.


It is clear that they are losing the public debate, largely because of the informational resources available on the Internet.
We well understand that responding to these issues and answering the questions can be a challenge. Questions about legalization often touch on many issues: crime, violence, criminal justice and economic costs; health, behavior and development; the quality of family, community and social life; and employment and productivity.


Few are prepared to answer such diverse questions thoroughly, let alone stay current on the research and spot the flaws and distortions in others' arguments. Yet, questions are asked and they must be answered. This booklet offers you a strategy and resource for doing so.


Discussions about legalization are usually abstract and theoretical, which suits proponents of legalization fine. A dialogue without boundaries or benchmarks works to their advantage. For those engaged in the day-to-day work of the real solution to America's drug problem--;reducing the supply and the demand for illegal drugs, as well as addressing the criminal activity caused by drug trafficking and use--taking time out to discuss legalization questions can be a frustrating undertaking. Speaking Out offers you the resource information to discuss this issue in a reasonable and informed manner.


 This discussion will be different. Here we will play entirely within the boundaries and benchmarks laid out by the DEA. In short, we will sink them with their own evidence.

The DEA Position

DEA Statement

Our Response

DEA is unequivocally opposed to the legalization of illicit drugs.

Legalization in any form would likely:

  1. reduce the perception of the risks and costs of use;

As the DEA states later in this book, there is no clear definition of "legalization" but, whatever it is, they are against it. What it really means is that they are against any attempt at reform.

Actually, "legalization" is not the issue, because we really don't know if we will ever do it. The issue is really whether we need serious reform of the current policy, no matter what that reform may be called. It would be more accurate to state that the DEA is unequivocally opposed to any reform at all.

Whether drugs are perceived as dangerous is a product of public education, not the law.

How many people do we have to put in prison to maintain just the right perception of the risks and costs of use?


  • increase availability of and access to harmful drugs;

 At the present time, the DEA, by its own figures, seizes perhaps five or ten percent of all the drugs in this country. It should also be noted that their impact on the market is so low that even a 20-ton cocaine bust in the Los Angeles area did not change the price of cocaine on the street.

It is clear from the DEA's own statements that they have no significant impact on the availability of drugs. That is shown most clearly by the Federal Government's own surveys on drug use which show that teens find it easier to get the illegal drugs than the legal ones.

  • increase demand, use, abuse and addiction; and

There is no evidence of this. In fact, the evidence shows that proper policies can reduce drug use. Evidence also shows that this policy in itself can produce drug epidemics simply by the appeal of the sensational publicity for these drugs. See, for example:

How to Launch a Nationwide Drug Menace

How LSD Was Popularized

 How Speed Was Popularized

  • remove the social sanction against drug abuse that is reinforced in legislation.

 There are many ways to have social sanctions reinforced in legislation and everyone would agree that some laws are necessary to achieve best results with the drug problem. The question is whether it does any good to enforce those social sanctions with prison. All the evidence says that prison does more harm than good for the drug problem. 
The present social problems in the United States, including crime, health problems and poverty, are substantial and can only worsen if drugs become legal. The arguments for legalization are a sad and bitter offering to the most vulnerable segment of our population. Legalization would increase risks and costs to individuals, families and communities--indeed, to every part of the nation--without compensating benefits.

Any proposal with the potential to do these things is unacceptable. As public policy, it is fundamentally flawed.


 It is quite clear that Thomas Constantine and the DEA have not read the major research on the subject. We refer you to Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy.


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