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Conservative National Review Endorses Drug Policy Reform, Legalization; New York Magazine Features Harm Reduction Cover Story


March 1996

The National Review recently featured a cover story critical of the "war on drugs" and in favor of drug policy alternatives ("The War on Drugs Is Lost," National Review, February 12, 1996, p. 34-48).

In an introduction to a series of articles about drug policy, the editors of the National Review wrote of the importance of taking a position on drug policy. "To put off declarative judgement would be morally and intellectually weak-kneed," they wrote. " ... it is our judgment that the war on drugs has failed, that it is diverting intelligent energy away from how to deal with the problem of addiction, that it is wasting our resources, and that it is encouraging civil, judicial, and penal procedures associated with police states."

National Review Editor-at-large William F. Buckley wrote that the financial and emotional costs of the nation's current drug policies are far too high. If drugs were sold at a "federal drugstore," the costs to addicts of obtaining their drugs would decrease dramatically, he argued. There would be fewer robberies (and less emotional pain and suffering of robbery victims), fewer deaths as a result of drug use, and fewer police officers required to maintain public safety. In a financial analysis, "the cost of the drug war is many times more painful, in all its manifestations, than would be the licensing of drugs combined with an intensive education of non-users and intensive education designed to warn those who experiment with drugs."

Buckley told the New York Times that he expects to hold three debates on drug legalization on his PBS television show "Firing Line" (Christopher S. Wren, "Leading Conservative Voice Endorses Legalizing Narcotics," New York Times, January 23, 1996, p. A13).

The National Review issue features short articles about various aspects of the drug policy problem. Authors include: Dr. Ethan Nadelmann, director of The Lindesmith Center; Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke; Dr. Joseph McNamara, former chief of police for Kansas City, Missouri and San Jose, California and now a research fellow at the Hoover Institution; U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet of the Southern District of New York; Dr. Thomas Szasz of the Department of Psychiatry at Syracuse University; and Steven Duke, the Law of Science and Technology Professor at Yale Law School.

The same week, the National Review issue hit the newsstands, New York Magazine published an article by Craig Horowitz about drug policy politics and reform (Craig Horowitz, "The No-Win War," New York, February 5, 1996, p. 22-33). Horowitz analyzes drug use trends, prison population and sentencing data, and why people use drugs. His article presents interviews with people on both sides of the drug policy reform debate.

[For a copy of either the National Review or the New York article, contact the NewsBriefs office.]