Tony Newman at 646-335-5384 or Bill Piper at 202-669-6430
WASHINGTON, D.C. – At the country’s oldest and largest annual gathering of grassroots conservatives, a broad spectrum of political heavyweights will be meeting to network and discuss hot topics like the war on drugs, which is increasingly a flashpoint in Conservative circles. Co-Sponsors of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) include, the NRA, Americans for Tax Reform, the American Conservative Union, and Club for Growth.
For the second year in a row the nation’s largest drug policy reform organization, the Drug Policy Alliance, is co-sponsoring CPAC. The Alliance’s executive director, Ethan Nadelmann, will also speak about the failures of the war on drugs during a February 10th debate entitled, “A Conservative Drug Policy? A Mini Debate on the War on Drugs.” Nadelmann’s National Review cover story in 2004, titled “An end to Marijuana Prohibition,” challenged American conservatives to take a stand against the U.S. government’s expensive, ineffective and harmful prohibitionist policies. Subsequent columns in the leading conservative magazine featured Nadelmann going head to head with drug czar John Walters on the same issue.
As the war on drugs continues to waste taxpayer money, destroy families, and undermine the rule of law, more and more conservatives are speaking out. The Republican Study Committee (RSC), a Congressional caucus composed of more than 100 conservative House Republicans, recently came out for eliminating a number of failed drug war programs, including the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, the Safe and Drug-Free School programs, and the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. Last year, the American Conservative Union, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, and the National Taxpayers Union urged Congress to eliminate six failed drug war programs to save money in the wake of Katrina. Those program included the three programs RSC targeted for elimination, as well as student drug testing grants, the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program, and the Andean Counterdrug Initiative (aka Plan Colombia).
An increasing number of elected Republicans are taking the lead in reforming the country’s failed drug laws. In New Mexico, former Governor Gary Johnson was a staunch opponent of the war on drugs, and he passed landmark drug treatment and sterile syringe access legislation while he was in office.
Maryland Republican Governor Robert Erhlich also passed treatment instead of incarceration legislation in 2004 and is working on reforming so-called “mandatory minimum” drug sentences this year, and New York’s Republican Governor George Pataki passed modest reforms to that state’s notorious mandatory minimums, known as the Rockefeller drug laws, two years in a row. In addition, California Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed into law a number of drug policy reform measures that his Democratic predecessor vetoed, including a law making it legal for California pharmacies to sell clean syringes to reduce the spread of AIDS from injection drug use.
During the 2004 Republican National Convention, the Drug Policy Alliance ran an ad called “The Right Response to the War on Drugs” in the conservative daily the New York Sun. The ad quoted prominent figures like Grover Norquist, William F. Buckley, Jr., Milton Friedman, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, among others, critiquing the war on drugs.