Drug Czar’s Office to Spend Millions During Super Bowl Misleading Public About Drug War – Terrorism Connection

Press Release January 31, 2002
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Tony Newman at 510-208-7711 or Matt Briggs at 212-548-1147

The Drug Czar’s office will spend almost $3.5 million in advertising during the Super Bowl suggesting that non-violent Americans who use drugs are responsible for funding terrorism, according to reports.

The Drug Policy Alliance, formerly known as the Lindesmith Center – Drug Policy Foundation, today called the ads a politically motivated misrepresentation of the actual relationship between terrorism and illegal drugs. The Alliance points out that the drug war – not drugs themselves – creates the illegal markets which help fund criminal and terrorist networks.

“Blaming terrorism on non-violent Americans who use drugs is like blaming beer drinkers for Al Capone’s murders. Xanax profits don’t end up in the hands of terrorists,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Alliance. “The failed war on drugs is a terrible model for the war on terrorism — and causes the very problem it claims to solve.”

Drug policy reformers say the drug czar’s office is distorting the link between the war on drugs and the war on terrorism in order to justify its failed mission in a new political climate. According to recent polls, 70% of the public believes the war on drugs has failed. In the months following the attacks, as the war on terrorism has become the nation’s top priority, drug war backers have seemed increasingly out of touch to many Americans. The DEA’s most high profile news event after September 11 was its raid of an organization providing medical marijuana to sick and dying patients in Los Angeles – though the organization was supported by local police. And across the nation, arrests of non-violent drug offenders, which totaled 1.6 million last year alone, continue to pile up.

Yet despite a federal drug budget of nearly $20 billion annually, illegal drugs remain as cheap, pure and readily available as ever. And more than half of the people who need drug treatment in the U.S. can’t get it.

As national priorities increasingly focus on questions of actual security, says the Alliance, drug war-backers are wary of declining public support — and eager to protect their questionable share of the federal budget pie. Hence, say reformers, the largest single event ad-buy in the nation’s history.

“$3.5 million would pay for a lot of treatment slots,” said Nadelmann. “But instead, sadly, it will be spent on a P.R. campaign to demonize non-violent Americans.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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