If You Think Legalization Is Just about Marijuana, Think Again


Ethan Nadelmann is the founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), the nation’s richest drug legalization organization with a budget of some $45 million last year. It has financed ballot initiatives in states to legalize first “medical,” now “recreational” marijuana.

Riding high on his success of fully legalizing pot in four states and D.C., Mr. Nadelmann cannot resist applying the DPA legalization strategy to other drugs now.

“Marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine are global commodities,” he told his TED audience. “Legally regulating and taxing most of the drugs that are now criminalized would radically reduce crime, violence, corruption, and black markets.” He cites no evidence to support this statement, perhaps because there is none.

Nonetheless, he says he has dedicated his life “to building an organization and a movement of people who believe we need to turn our backs on the failed prohibitions of the past and embrace new drug policies based on science, compassion, health, and human rights.”

Who doesn’t want drug policies based on those admirable goals? But commercializing heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine–the end result of legalization, as we are seeing in Colorado with marijuana–won’t get us there. Mr.Nadelmann also asserts that “our desire to alter our consciousness may be as fundamental as our desire for food, companionship, and sex.”

We don’t argue that the desire for food, companionship, and sex is universal, but the desire to be stoned?

  • 7.5% of Americans ages 12 or older used marijuana in the past month, according to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health. That means 92.5% of Americans didn’t.

  • 0.6% used cocaine in the past month; 99.4% didn’t.

  • 0.2% used methamphetamine; 99.8% didn’t.

  • 0.1% used heroin, the drug that now kills more Americans than traffic crashes; 99.9% didn’t.

Ethan Nadelmann may find the desire to be stoned as fundamental as food and sex, but please, Ethan, leave the rest of us out of it! Dedicate your life to something else.

See Mr. Nadelmann’s TED Talk

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