Families in Action
A Guide to the Drug Legalization Movement
Fool the Public About Legalization
In a little-noticed passage of his autobiography, George Soros says that if it were up to him, "I would establish a strictly controlled distribution network through which I would make most drugs, excluding the most dangerous ones like crack, legally available [emphasis added]. Initially, I would keep prices low enough to destroy the drug trade. Once that objective was attained I would keep raising the prices, very much like the excise duty on cigarettes, but I would make an exception for registered addicts in order to discourage crime. I would use a portion of the income for prevention and treatment. And I would foster social opprobrium of drug use." (1)
At about the time Soros wrote this, he also began funding the drug-legalization movement, contributing some $500,000 in 1992-93 to the Drug Policy Foundation. With polls showing that 4 out of 5 Americans oppose drug legalization, however, Soros publicly denied that legalization was his goal. He denies it to this day.
After his initial gifts to the Drug Policy Foundation, he set forth conditions to obtain additional funding from his Open Society Institute: "Come up with an approach that emphasizes treatment and humanitarian endeavors,' he said, hire someone with the political savvy to sit down and negotiate with government officials, and target a few winnable issues, like medical marijuana and the repeal of mandatory minimums." (2)
Legalization leaders got the message. The word "legalization" disappeared from their vocabulary, and a short time later, George Soros gave the first of many multi-million-dollar donations to legalization groups. Thus began the reframing of the issue:
Advocates no longer want to legalize drugs. They just want to end the drug war.
They no longer want to legalize drugs. They just want us to learn to live with drugs and reduce the harm they do. (3)
They no longer want to legalize marijuana. They just want to legalize marijuana as medicine, despite the fact that little scientific evidence exists to support the safety or efficacy of the crude drug.
They no longer want to legalize heroin. They just want to maintain addicts on heroin, indefinitely. (4)
They no longer
want to legalize drugs. They just want to normalize drug use.
They no longer want to legalize drugs. They just want to recall elected officials who prosecute growers cultivating hundreds of marijuana plants. (6)
Advocates no longer want to legalize drugs. "But behind closed doors,' concludes Cynthia Cotts in Rolling Stone in 1994, "they're talking about Legalization 2000." (7)
Did they make it? Not yet, but they're well on their way. Between 1994 and the present, Soros hired Ethan Nadelmann to establish The Lindesmith Center at Soros' Open Society Institute. (The Lindesmith Center and the Drug Policy Foundation recently merged.) Soros and Nadelmann viewed the state ballot initiative process as the vehicle to advance their newly reframed goals.
Soros persuaded two long-term funders of legalization groups, John Sperling and Peter Lewis, to help him finance the initiative drive. (Sperling and Lewis say they are doing this because they "hate the drug laws.") These men formed Californians for Medical Rights and hired political operative Bill Zimmerman to run it. They contributed some $3 million to sponsor the nation's first two medical marijuana initiatives in 1996, California's Proposition 215 and Arizona's Proposition 200.
Some of that $3 million paid for signature gathering to get the propositions on the ballot. Some was spent on focus groups to learn how to frame the initiatives to appeal to voters. Some bought TV commercials and air time to sell the initiatives to voters.
The difference between the "spin" and the actual language of the initiatives is stunning. Proponents spun California's proposition as making marijuana available to dying cancer and AIDS patients, but the initiative language legalizes the drug for "any illness for which marijuana provides relief." It was only after the election that the proposition's author told the press that everyone who uses marijuana is "self-medicating" and therefore all marijuana use is medical. (8)
Arizona's proposition allegedly legalized marijuana as medicine, but actually legalized all Schedule I drugs for medical use. Proponents told voters the proposition also contained a 3-strikes-and-you're-out clause, when in fact it prohibits judges from sending drug offenders to jail until their third conviction in a court of law.
Derailed: Initiative Campaigns and the Power of Money, David Broder
warns that the normal checks and balances of the legislative process in
our democracy are gravely threatened by the corruption of the initiative
process. In the legalization movement's takeover of this process, the
only checks are those written on their bank accounts by Soros, Sperling,
and Lewis. There are no balances.
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