Sign the Resolution for a Federal Commission on Drug Policy
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by Clifford A. Schaffer
This is my view of what is the current most important step in promoting drug policy reform. This includes some suggestions on how you can help.
A few people have asked the basic question, What's next? What is the main priority at this point?
A good question. In order to answer it correctly we have to back up and review the current state of affairs.
First, it is necessary to establish where we are with respect to our goals. Atlanta has come and gone. I don't think the drug warriors got as much publicity as perhaps they wanted, and it looks like a flash in the pan. No doubt they will try to use their resolution as proof of something
when they are pressed in the debate. In their rather simplistic view of the issue they have confused the main point and will continue to lose debates as time goes on. As Drug Czar Lee Brown has recently stated, their strategy will be to pretend that the issue doesn't exist. They just don't want to hear about it.
The bottom line is that Atlanta won't do much to change the long term trend in public thinking, particularly if we are intelligent about what we do. The trend is going our way and will continue to go our way. Little by little, we are working our way to a majority.
Alan asks if the main priority at this point should be to push the Hoover Resolution. In a sense, that should be the main priority, but we have to recognize the underlying issues involved.
The Hoover Resolution was built upon the recognition of the single biggest flaw behind the drug war -- ignorance. No one could support these kinds of policies if they had even read the evidence, so I knew that every drug warrior could be defeated if you could just get to the evidence. A good knowledge of the evidence is enough to publicly destroy any of them.
The Hoover Resolution has already been successful to a certain extent. The last Crime Bill provided for a commission which is due to start work in 1996. They are now selecting people to sit on the commission, but I have no idea of their progress on selecting any members. There is still some question about whether it will come off or, if it does, who will be on it or how deeply it will delve into the issues.
Regardless of the commission, we should be prepared with the information the commission should read, or that anyone should read on this issue. We should have such complete evidence and research on the issue that anyone who wants information on the issue will have to come to us.
No, but I often do it anyway.
Sure. As long as we follow all of the original rules of the Hoover Resolution -- that is, it must be very clear what the people are agreeing to -- only what the Resolution states. Signatures must include name, title, mailing address, and the form should ask them if they would like to join any of the various national organizations.
We should have an independent membership page for each of the organizations covered under our group. People should be allowed to subscribe on-line. We don't have to hassle the problems with credit cards or anything yet, just let them enter their name and address and the organization can send them an envelope.
The drug war will eventually fall for the same reason that communism fell. That is, they are both repressive systems which depend upon hiding or ignoring knowledge iin pursuit of an ideological goal. As such they are wildly impractical, and that impracticality becomes more apparent as more knowledge becomes available. The Soviet Union fell because, in order to enforce their restrictions on knowledge, they had to put photocopy machines under lock and key and require forms to be filled out every time someone wanted to make a copy. You can imagine the effect that would have on a modern competitive business. The invention of the personal computer was their complete downfall. It became apparent that they could not have a modern economy if they did not have person computers, fax machines, and the like. But, of course, that meant that everyone was a publisher. If everyone is a publisher, sooner or later the truth is going to get out.
Computers and the Internet will be the key elements which bring down the drug war. Political systems based on ignorance will come down because of the information which can be made available to anyone through computers. That is also the fundamental idea behind the CD ROM -- widespread public education of the facts. We will win our struggle as soon as the public knows the facts. We have taken the first steps with the formal establishment of our org.
Our Number One Priority at this point should be to locate all of the information on drug policy that we can find, convert it to computer format, and post it in a commonly accessed place on the web. We should set up an interlinked network of web pages accessible from a single web page which serves as a directory. Behind these web pages should be all of the information we can get. Remember all the times that people on the net have asked questions or argued about some aspect of the drug issue? No more. Any time anyone has a question, we should be able to point directly to documents on-line which provide an immediate answer.
Anything relevant to the subject. We have nothing at all to fear from the truth and you will notice that, on my web pages, I will include materials which are propaganda of the opposition. Ultimately, we gain the most from the broadest range of information. We should scan, retrieve, enter by hand, or do whatever we can to build the best library anyone has ever seen on the subject. We have to make our web sites an absolute must-see for any member of the media who wants to do anything on the subject. (Please note that, even while the public as a whole may not be on the net yet, the media is far more likely to be connected to the net. This is an issue on which we can, in effect, force their behavior. If our web pages have enough information, they will be forced to come to us.)
Think of it this way. In the course of these conversations we have passed back and forth a lot of good solid information to each other, such as the information put forth on hemp, or the backgrounds of Voth and Nahas. That kind of information should be posted so it is available to anyone who wants it, any time they need it. The only real difference is that we should use a less conversational style. That is, when we post the information to the library, it should be in "encyclopedia style"
Right now, if we want to tell the media about our growing library of on-line information, we would have to give them the names of a multitude of web sites and tell them to go poke around on their own. We need one main menu page to give them for the library.
We should establish a central entry point to all the web sites of interest. This one home page would list all of the other web pages which have factual information of interest on the subject. This will make it easy for us to give the media a single access point where they can find all of the information. That is important in uniformly advertising it to the media around the world.
That central point should have an index (updated once a month perhaps) which will point to each of the web sites and provide some sort of explanation as to what kind of materials are behind it.
Then we will have to make sure that ALL the media knows that they have to go to our page if they are going to discuss the drug issue. That will require a dedicated campaign to publish the location of our unified home page to all media sources. Our next priority will be to make sure that everyone in the media knows where to look. We will each have to contact our local news sources and make sure they know. It should be mentioned as a standard reference in every letter to the editor, for example. We should mention our unified home page everywhere we go. Print it on your letterhead and business cards.
This is a list, somewhat incomplete as yet, of the top items we intend to put on the web pages as soon as we can. We ask everyone to help us by contributing this information in electronic form. If you have it, you can e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org. And thanks!
If all you have is a paper copy, we would appreciate that too. You can send stuff to Dave Borden at Drug Policy Foundation, 4455 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Suite B-500, Washington, DC 20008-2302.
You can snail-mail stuff to me at: Cliff Schaffer, P.O. Box 1430, Canyon Country, CA 91386-1430
1. Information for Dave Bordens "Tour of the War on Drugs". Use your imagination here, but if you were going to give someone a tour of the War on Drugs, what would you include? It should have lots of interesting facts, graphics, documents, etc.
2. A video file which contains a good quality copy of "Hemp for Victory". We would like to put in online where it can be distributed to the world. If you already have a computer and a VCR, the cost of the video capture board is currently running around $500 to $700. Or maybe you know someone who has one . . .
3. The full text of any of the reference sources listed in the Biggest Studies of Drug Policy. We much prefer the electronic format but if all you have is a good paper copy, we will try to work with it.
4. The full text of the Congressional Record for the portions relevant to both the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914 and the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937.
5. Charts, pictures, etc., which show the current statistics for all of the issues related to drug policy.
We have a huge task ahead of us. We must convert tens of thousands of pages of information to computer format. Most of the information, such as the major studies of drug policy, never was in computer format and some of the documents are quite large. The task will probably take man years of scanning effort to be properly accomplished. The only way we will get it done (with our limited financial resources) is if everyone does a little bit. I strongly recommend that you get a scanner as soon as possible. You don't need much, a simple gray scale scanner with OCR will do the trick. Shop around and you can install a minimum page-feed scanner in an existing computer system, with OCR for about $250. A good quality flat-bed color scanner with a page feed option currently runs about $1,000. I have found from my own experience that the handheld scanners are not adequate to the task.
Does anyone know where we can get scanners cheaply (free) to distribute to volunteers who will commit to using them?
We will need volunteers who will help us get the word out to the lawmakers and the media when we are ready to launch. Anyone can help here, if they have a telephone, a stamp, or an e-mail address.
We will also need people to specialize in the librarian function. That is, we must have people who are willing to spend the time to:
Organize the data so it has a logical structure and is easy to find.
Establish links from references in one document to the actual text of the cited documents.
Format good looking web pages according to a standard format
We will need standards for how the web pages will be constructed and their overall look. (Please understand, it is not that I want to limit your creativity with web pages, it is just that we want to present to the public the look of a uniform, organized library.) I recommend that anyone who is interested in working on this end of the task should buy a copy of Teach Yourself Web Publishing With HTML In A Week, by Laura Lemay from Sams Publishing. I just got a copy and found it quite helpful.
There will be a lot of information on line. We will need people to read through volumes of information and prepare accurate summaries on a chapter by chapter basis.
Someone will have to program the membership forms and other stuff required by this little venture.
1. Information from other on-line services. We must accumulate all of the information in a place we control and organize.
2. Government sources. A lot of the government agencies are now publishing information in computer format, including CD-ROM. We should make it a point to get all of this information we can and bring it together in a logical organization which makes it easy for people to find.
3. Historical records. A good project for anyone would be to go to the library and browse through the newspapers of anywhere from 1860 to the present and get copies of all the articles they can find relating to drugs.
4. Private collections of documents. I have already contacted a number of prominent people to ask them if we can get their personal records which relate to drug policy. We want to develop a depth of information which cannot be challenged and the private records of individuals involved in the drug war is a good way to do it.
5. NIDA research. The National Instiute on Drug Abuse has published volumes of data on all sorts of issues. We should start with the most interesting stuff.
6. The Congressional Record. We need to get on-line the entire text of the Congressional Record relating to all of our current drug laws. Most important-- we must get the text of the original proceedings behind these laws. Harry Anslinger's words should be posted in a place where all the world can read them.
7. Current Media. Scan and/or summarize articles from your local newspaper. Include the full citations of the name of the newspaper, the headline of the article and the date it was published. Also include a summary, length as appropriate, of the major points made in the article. If we can get permission to reprint, we should do so. If not, we will publish a summary of the points made in the article, but retain the scanned text in a private library for backup.
8. Videos and movies. We should convert things such as Hemp for Victory to computer format. This can be done with a computer, a VCR, and a video capture board (now down to as low as $179.00)
I suggest the following as a preliminary suggestion for web page standards. More complete standards, including a template, should be developed by a committee working on the formatting and organizing team.
1. All web pages should include both the name of the current page plus the name of the central home page. This will make sure that anyone who prints out the information will know where it came from. The name of the central home page should also be included as a header in all text files on the net.
2. All menus should contain links back to your own home page as well as the central home page.
3. All menu pages should include the title of the document, and a description of the author and the contents of the work.
4. All web pages under your own home page should have a consistent layout. The layout should be simple and without excessive graphics, so it doesn't take a month to download them.
Under current copyright law we cannot post anything which is copyrighted without the permission of the copyright owner. Here is how to get around this restriction and still have a complete on-line library.
1) Any material produced by any government agency, or the texts of official statements by public officials is in the public domain and may be posted without any problems.
2) The current copyright law is that copyrights are effective for the life of the creator plus fifty years. The old law was that copyrights were valid for 28 years with a renewal of 28 years. What this means is (with some exceptions) materials published before about 1940 have probably fallen into the public domain.
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