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New York Times Columnist A.M. Rosenthal Calls Legalization Movement "Cruel and Selfish"


February 1995

In a Jan. 3, 1995 column in the New York Times, columnist A.M. Rosenthal blasted the drug legalization movement and suggested that while mainstream America ignores the movement it grows in strength (A.M. Rosenthal, "The Cruelest Hoax," The New York Times, Jan. 3, 1995, p. A19).

He blames the legalization movement for creating an atmosphere of drug acceptance among young people, leading to increases in their drug use. Further, drug legalization will inevitably lead to more of a drug problem -- more addicts and more drug-related crime.

The campaign for drug legalization grows in wallet and prestige. But, as it picks up journalistic and academic endorsement and foundation money, one thing stays constant. It remains now, as it has always been, one of the most cruel and selfish movements in America.

The great majority of Americans are against legalization. So are the politicians they elect to office.

And Americans who believe in using government power and public opinion to fight narcotics are drowsily inclined to believe that to pay attention to the legalization movement would strengthen it. So let's not.

While we slumber, the movement becomes respectable ...

Far more important, it is clear that the legalizers can make important headway without passing laws. They strive to weaken the essential national resolve that the drug war must be fought with as many weapons and for as long as it takes.

This is backdoor acceptance, almost as dangerous as legalization. The U.S. is still paying in broken lives, fear, violence, and damaged newborn for the tacit decriminalization won by the counterculture in the 60's.

Aryeh Neier, president of the Soros Foundations responded to Rosenthal's column on Jan. 10, 1995 (Aryeh Neier, "Real Debate on Drug Legalization is Overdue," The New York Times, Jan. 10, 1995, p. A18).

Neier wrote that the Soros Foundation (which was mentioned by name in Rosenthal's column as a drug legalization movement funder) provides money to "groups with different viewpoints on drug issues so as to promote a debate." Decriminalization or legalization may or may not be the right approaches to the problems associated with drug abuse in America, he argues, but these approaches should at least be discussed.

"Mr. Rosenthal thinks there is no chance legalization will prevail, but says that raising the issue could weaken the resolve of enforcers," Neier writes. "He wants no debate. This is the argument of many orthodoxies for tolerating no dissent. We oppose taboos and favor debates. A real debate over drugs in long overdue."

[To respond, contact The New York Times at 229 West 43rd Street, New York, New York, 10036, 212-556-1234.]