All the people who hate the War on Drugs


Activist Ethan Nadelmann is against the War on Drugs, but it’s not just because he enjoys the occasional joint—though he does.

“People will look at me and say, ‘I know why you do this. It’s because you like your marijuana, or those hallucinogens’…and what I have say to them is: There’s a little truth to that,” Nadelmann told the American Business Council Continuity Forum in a video released Monday. “The fact of the matter is there are millions, tens of millions of people, all around the world, including me, who do like the occasional joint, or hallucinogens for vision-questing.” 

But Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, went on to explain that more kinds of people than just drug users oppose the “failed prohibitionist policies” that undergird the United States’ 40-year-old War on Drugs. 

The coalition against that war includes people who hate drugs too, he said.

“We’re the people who have seen the worst that drugs can do,” Nadelmann said. “We’re the people who grew up cleaning up the puke of alcoholic parents, and worrying about our drug-addicted kid, and having a sibling die of an overdose…We are the ones who wish that we could have a drug free society—wouldn’t that be wonderful!—but who know that that is a mirage.”

Even people who don’t really care about drugs can be opponents of the failed strategies that have hurt so many: “You know what we care about? We care about the harms that the War on Drugs and its failed prohibitionist policy is doing in our homes, in our communities, in our society, in our country and around the world,” he said.

Nadelmann says the drug policy reform movement attracts Americans who, for example, think it’s shameful their country has the highest incarceration rate in the world, largely thanks to draconian drug laws. And the movement attracts those who see the War on Drugs as racially-biased, locking up African-Americans “in a way that would make Apartheid South Africa seem like child’s play.”

A recent report from the ACLU confirms that that African-Americans have been disproportionately hit by the drug war, being four times more likely to get arrested for marijuana possession – even though black Americans and white Americans smoke the drug in equal amounts. 

“This growing drug policy reform movement–we’re the people who love drugs, we’re the people who hate drugs, we’re the people who don’t give a damn about drugs. But every one of us believes that the War on Drugs is not the way to deal with this reality in our society.”