NewsBriefs BUTTONS

New Group Proposes Moderate Drug Policy Course


September-October 1997

Thirty-four prominent scientists, drug policy experts and public officials, are advocating a moderate, "third way" to solve the nation's drug problems (Christopher Wren, "New voice in drug debate seeks to lower the volume," The New York Times, September 1, 1997, p. A10).

On September 2, the thirty-four released a statement of 14 "principles for practical drug policies." The statement said drug policies should be tailored for different drugs because every drug carries its own risks and has its own pattern of use. Policies to curtail drugs should be judged by the results they produce and not their intentions. Group member Charles R. Schuster, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse under Presidents Reagan and Bush, said, "Talking sense about drug policy in today's climate of opinion can be political suicide. We need to create some space, and some silence, in which reason and scientific evidence can make themselves heard." The group said, "Polarization and strong emotions give rise to misrepresentations of facts and motives. Oversimplification of complex issues and denial of uncertainty" (Federation of American Scientists, "Drug experts call for "third way" -- neither drug war nor legalization," U.S. Newswire, September 2, 1997).

The signatories said they are more concerned with reducing the damage of drugs to society, rather than the harm reduction approach which they said is concerned with reducing the damage to the drug user. The group said drug policies should be designed to minimize both the damage done by drugs and the damage created by drug control measures.

The statement also criticized both sides of the legalization debate. Philip J. Cook, a professor of policy studies at Duke University said, "Legalization isn't just the wrong answer. It's the wrong question." John O'Hair, prosecuting attorney of Wayne County (Detroit), Mich., said that "The drug laws are necessary. Enforcing them is necessary. But everyone who works in law enforcement knows we can't arrest or imprison our way out of this problem." The group was assisted by the Federation of American Scientists in disseminating their statement.

Contact Alison Ames of the Federation of American Scientists at (202) 546-3300, or E-mail at: