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29/04/2003 | PROHIBITION FOREVER: Arnold S. Trebach, President, International Antiprohibitionist League, Opening remarks at a press conference, The National Press Club, Washington, D.C, April 29, 2003
Arnold S. Trebach
President, International Antiprohibitionist League
Opening remarks at a press conference
The National Press Club
April 29, 2003
GREETINGS. I AM ARNOLD TREBACH.
LET ME SUMMARIZE THREE IMPORTANT POINTS RIGHT AT THE BEGINNING OF THIS PRESS CONFERENCE.
1. THE US HAS DEMANDED FOR DECADES, WHATEVER PRESIDENT WAS IN THE WHITE HOUSE, THAT OTHER NATIONS FOLLOW ITS POLICY OF RIGID DRUG PROHIBITION AND A HARSH WAR ON DRUGS.
2. RECENTLY, CANADA HAS STRAYED FROM THAT RIGID PROHBITION THEOLOGY AND IS CONSIDERING DECRIMINALIZING OR EVEN LEGALIZING MARIJUANA. THE RESULT HAS BEEN A HARSH AND IRRATIONAL ATTACK ON CANADA BY LEADING US DRUG OFFICIALS, ESPECIALLY DRUG CZAR JOHN WALTERS, INCLUDING THREATS TO PARTIALLY CLOSE THE BORDERS.
**HOWEVER, I SUBMIT THAT IF THE UNITED STATES CAN DECLARE THAT IT BELIEVES IN THE FREEDOM OF THE PEOPLE OF IRAQ TO CHOOSE A WHOLE NEW GOVERNMENT, THEN IT DAMN WELL SHOULD DECLARE THAT IT BELIEVES IN THE FREEDOM OF THE PEOPLE OF CANADA TO CHOOSE THEIR OWN FORM OF DRUG POLICY.**
3. THE AMERICAN PRESS OUGHT TO LIVE UP TO ITS ESPONSIBILITIES AND CONSTANTLY EXPOSE THE DESTRUCTIVE CAMAPIGN AGAINST CANADA, WHICH IS BASED MAINLY ON OUTRIGHT LIES AND HYSTERIA.
Now back to the beginning.
The press conference is being held at the National Press Club in Washington. It is sponsored by the International Antiprohibitionist League (IAL) and its parent organization, the Transnational Radical Party (TRP). This event is being broadcast live by satellite to every television station in the United States and Canada for possible rebroadcast by those stations. I am Arnold Trebach, president of the IAL.
I am apparently addicted to supporting seemingly hopeless causes and I will confess to supporting yet another one: repeal of the United Nations drug prohibition treaties so as to allow for the full legalization of drugs along the alcohol and tobacco models.
As an old geezer I have the luxury of remembering that in the past I have also worked for seemingly hopeless causes. For example, during the Fifties and Sixties, I was a civil rights activist and protester in the American South. In addition, from 1960 to 1963, I served as a federal civil rights official in Washington and made many official investigative forays into such places as Birmingham, Alabama and Jackson, Mississippi. I met and talked with Martin Luther King, Jr. in Birmingham and saw with my own eyes the fervor and rigid irrationality of those who opposed him – and fought for maintaining forever a failed and destructive old system. Those who screamed “segregation forever” feared many things, but most of all they feared change.
Change did come – not total victory over racism but vast improvements – and we are all better of for it, including the “segregation forever” zealots.
For many decades now I have been working in a field closely related to the civil rights arena, that of drug policy reform. When I started out, I supported and worked for gradual change, or improvements at the edges of repression, so as to make the current rigid prohibition regime more humane. This meant better treatment for addicts, including for some of them the provision of prescribed heroin on medical prescription. I have also worked for allowing marijuana to be used as a medicine for the organically ill and I have also worked to have small amounts of marijuana decriminalized for personal use. This bundle of mid-range reforms has become known as harm reduction, and it is indeed harm reduction that characterizes the main thrust of the drug policy reform movement in the United States and in many other civilized nations.
As one of the early supporters and advocates of harm reduction, I remain steadfast in that position today. Over ten years ago, however, I concluded that harm reduction was not enough. Not enough, in many ways. Not enough because it left in place one of the worst inventions of the human mind – those provisions of the criminal law in every known national code of laws that make criminals of people who possess substances for ingestion into their own bodies. Not enough because by providing humane aspects to a destructive system it tends to help preserve and perpetuate that system.
For these and many other reasons I am now working for full legalization of drugs. Only in this way can the system of prohibition be replaced by a new and more rational legal drug-control system. As I have said many times, this amounts to replacing the law of the jungle with the rule of law.
A typical reaction by many is to almost scream “prohibition forever.” Of one thing I am certain: drug prohibition will not be forever. You can take that statement to the bank. In time, drug prohibition will only be a bad memory.
Whenever I or other reformers have openly advocated harm reduction measures, opponents often attempted to discredit us with the charge that we were secret legalizers, that we were part of the legalization lobby. That is the reason why the leaders of the main body of drug policy reformers do not want any of their members to even utter the L word. In fact until recent years there was not in reality a legalization lobby in America. Now there is and I am proud to be one of its leaders. The IAl is now working assiduously in America, North and South. Much of the educational work of the IAL in North America is carried on through the Trebach Institute, a 501 ©(3) charitable corporation. We are working closely with David Borden of DRCnet and the Out from the Shadows campaign, which seeks to end prohibition in this century.
Each of the two main speakers holds important parliamentary positions in a friendly foreign country, each has taken official positions advocating fundamental changes in the UN prohibition treaties and each is working for some form of drug legalization, not simply decriminalization.
The Honourable Pierre Claude Nolin is a distinguished Canadian lawyer, governmental leader, member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, and a member of the Canadian Senate. He chaired the Canadian Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs that produced an historic report in September of last year.
This massive report was professional, scholarly, objective, and courageous. It called for a complete overhaul of national drug policy, which would approach all drugs within a new and more rational framework, an approach requiring that the policy toward each drug be based upon objective scientific and public health facts. The first sentence of the part dealing with Public Policy Options contained these words: “The international drug control conventions [treaties] are, at least with respect to cannabis, an utterly irrational restraint that has nothing to do with scientific or public health considerations.” When the committee did its own research on those considerations, it concluded, among other things, that marijuana should be legalized, not decriminalized, within a set of new realistic controls.
The reaction of leading U.S. officials, such as Drug Czar John Walters, sounded to me like “Prohibition Forever!”
I would now like to call upon Senator Nolin to give us the benefit of his views.
[Senator Nolin speaks.]
Marco Cappato is the youngest Italian member of the European Parliament. He is also a leading member of the TRP. At the same time of his election in 1999, six other members of the TRP were elected to the EP as part of a concerted campaign under the banner of the Lista Bonino. Full disclosure requires me to say that I also am a member of the TRP and am also a fervent admirer of the unsinkable and heroic Emma Bonino. Full disclosure also requires that I note that Mr. Cappato has a criminal record as a result of his arrest and brief imprisonment for peacefully violating the marijuana possession laws of the UK. Mr. Cappato works very closely with our colleague, Marco Perduca, the esteemed Executive Director of the IAL, who is sitting here today ready to give us advice and to correct our mistakes. Both gentlemen spend a good deal of their time visiting other countries and directly lobbying officials to support amendment of the UN treaties and the legalization of drugs. One of their principal weapons is an IAL/TRP resolution calling for such changes, which has been signed by over twenty percent of the European Parliament. Our hope is to have the resolution introduced into every legislature and parliament in America and the world. I would now like to ask Mr. Cappato to take the podium. When he is finished, the floor will be open to questions.
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