How to end the war on drugs
Amanda of Pandagon often says that the far right taught us everything we need to revolutionize society. I agree. The Repubican Noise Machine and What's the Matter With Kansas have strongly influenced my thinking on tactics for drug sanity.
This is a post about concrete action to help end the drug war while where a minority that's out of power. Obviously, if we retake control of Congress in 2006, or the White House in 2008 all kinds of new options will become available. But here's what we can start doing right away.
1. Local action. The religious right wasn't afraid to start small. At first, they started taking over school boards, city councils, and other relatively low-profile offices. We could use a similar approach improve drug policy. If we can get accurate drug education materials into school health curriculums, we'd help protect the next generation from drug abuse and help diffuse the hysteria that fuels the drug war. At this point, it's probably not realistic to run school board candidates on "accurate drug information" platforms, but we progressives should still try to build relationships with progressive local politicians.
Depending on the jurisdiction, local authorities may have even more direct control drug policy. For example, if judges and prosecutors are elected in our area, these races would be a logical place to start agitating for change. In some places, coroner and medical examiner are elected offices. These officials don't necessarily set policy but they can have a significant impact by calling inquests, interacting with the media, liaising with law enforcement, etc.
2. Another way to leverage power for drug sanity is to forge deeper ties with existing institutions. The key is to cultivate alliances based on common interests. As usual, there's a union angle here. First off, most unions are unfriendly to random workplace drug testing. It's intrusive and unreliable and it gives management an excuse to fire people. Second, teachers' unions are among the most powerful unions in America. Teachers are acutely concerned about the health and well-being of young people, and many are in a position to see how the current drug policies are failing young people.
Those of us who are already union members can get involved directly. Otherwise, reform-Democrats can raise drug issues as part of our general outreach to the unions.
3. As the friends of Intelligent Design discovered in the 20th century, it is vital to cloak your radical ideal in a mantle of legitimacy in order to gain widespread acceptance. We want to make sane drug policy the conventional wisdom. One way to do that is to fostering more think tanks and research organizations like The Drug Policy Alliance. We need to hire people with academic credentials to create policy reports, scholarly books, and popular resource materials. We must also train these experts to be media savvy and to present their views forcefully in the mainstream media. Thinktanks can also sponsor innovative educational and outreach programs. For example, essay contests or conferences on alternative drug policy solutions for criminal justice majors.
4. Approaching the mainstream media. Write letters to the editor about drug issues your local paper. Don't pull punches, but don't forget to offer praise where it's due. If a reporter does an especially good piece, send them an email of congratulations.
5. Blog. Here are a few bloggers who are doing outstanding work on drug war issues: TalkLeft, Drug War Rant, and Grits for Breakfast. Feel free to suggest your favorite voices of reason in the comments below.
Keep those post requests coming. Thanks so much for your support.