The Nation Exclusive Profiles Soros/Nadelmann Role in Drug Policy

Press Release September 6, 1999
Media Contact

Tony Newman at 510-208-7711

NEW YORK–In an exclusive article in The Nation magazine’s special drug policy issue, which hit newsstands this week (available online at, writer Russ Baker takes a first ever comprehensive look at the George Soros funded Lindesmith Center and its director Ethan Nadelmann. The article titled, “A Philanthropist Defies Drug War Orthodoxy,” thoroughly explores the role that the Lindesmith Center and Nadelmann have played in moving the drug policy debate on a national and international level. Highlighted is the center and Nadelmann’s involvement in such high profile issues as leading the criticism of last year’s United Nation global drug summit, the fight over federal funding for needle exchange, and the debate over the continuation of stiff mandatory minimum sentences. In addition, the article explores Soros and Nadelmann’s involvement in crafting the intellectual and political strategies for medical marijuana and other drug policy initiatives throughout the U.S.. The following are excerpts from the article:

“By far the most conspicuous part of Soros’s empire is the Lindesmith Center. That’s largely because it is directed by Nadelmann, who has a knack for saying things that others can’t–or won’t–say.”

“As an alternative to locking people up, most Soros-backed groups advocate what they call “harm reduction”–a common-sense approach to drug policy that would nonetheless represent a radical departure from current practice. ‘The basic idea,’ Nadelmann says, ‘is that you have a fallback strategy for dealing with people who are engaged in behavior that can be risky or dangerous. So if you’re smoking cigarettes, smoke less or don’t smoke around kids or don’t throw your ashes in dry timber. If you’re drinking alcohol, doesn’t drink and drive. You ride a bicycle–use a helmet. That’s harm reduction.'”

“[Nadelmann] argues that the drug war has devastated civil liberties, given police unprecedented new powers and penalized unevenly the preferred vices of various ethnic, racial and social groups. He complains that the massive rise in drug-related incarceration has decimated communities, destroyed families and put society’s most vulnerable people not in a therapeutic environment but in one that actually fosters long-term drug use and related violence.”

“Nadelmann has become somewhat of a pariah to the drug-policy establishment–signaling his effectiveness as a critic but also the hurdles he must overcome. ‘The drug czar has refused to be at any public event where Nadelmann is,’ says Reinarman. ‘[McCaffrey] is probably smart enough to avoid embarrassment.’ Calvina Fay, deputy executive director at the Drug Free America Foundation, who has never been on a panel with Nadelmann, says, ‘We don’t think debating is a very good idea.'”

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

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