War On Drugs, A War On Ourselves

ABC News – Media Awareness Project

War On Drugs, A War On Ourselves

Show hosted by John Stossel

Note: This documentary is on line as audio files at
and a video file at

Note: Prepared by Burrelle’s Information Services, which takes sole
responsibility for accuracy of transcription.
Cited: Judge James Gray Sanho Tree

Thanks: To everybody who helped make this documentary possible, is
spreading the word about it; and also to DRCNet
NORML and others for their follow-up alerts to


ANNOUNCER This is an ABC News Special. The world is going to pot.
Country by country, drug laws are going up in smoke.

ANNOUNCER In Amsterdam, we found a new Dutch treat: coffee shops with
marijuana on the menu. RED Chocolate bon-bons. We have them in all three
kinds of chocolate.

ANNOUNCER And a church basement where addicts have their prayers

JOHN STOSSEL, ABC NEWS Feel good? (Man nods)

JOHN STOSSEL Feel great?

ANNOUNCER But in America, police smash down doors, filling prisons with
thousands of drug offenders.

GIRL I just say my mom’s living in New York. I don’t like to tell them
where she is.

ANNOUNCER Now this police chief says it’s a losing battle.

doing the same thing over and over again. ANNOUNCER Should America be leading the war on drugs or following Europe’s new tolerance?

JUR VERBEEKS When we interfere, then the problem is more bigger.

ANNOUNCER The president says we have to spend billions to fight drugs

PRESIDENT GEORGE W BUSH Drug use threatens everything. Everything.

ANNOUNCER But this judge says it’s time to make drugs legal.

to adults–brown packaging, no glamour.

JOHN STOSSEL It means government as drug dealer.

ANNOUNCER So much time and money spent, is it hurting the drug trade or
Americans? Tonight, War On Drugs, A War On Ourselves.

ANNOUNCER Here is John Stossel.

JOHN STOSSEL, ABC NEWS Have you used illegal drugs? The government says
a third of you have, and about 5 percent of you use them regularly. It’s
probably more, because how many people answer honestly when the
governmentasks? So what do we do about this? America’s approach has been to go to war.

1ST OFFSCREEN VOICE What’s the time?

GROUP OF POLICE OFFICERS (In unison) It’s show time!

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Police departments fight the war every day.

1ST POLICE OFFICER Put your hands up.

2ND POLICE OFFICER Turn the car off!

3RD POLICE OFFICER Police! Lay on the floor.

4TH POLICE OFFICER Lay down. Lay down.

5TH POLICE OFFICER Police! Search warrant!

PRESIDENT GEORGE W BUSH When we fight against drugs, we fight for the
soulsof our fellow Americans.

6TH POLICE OFFICER Get down. Get down.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) There’s pressure on police to do more.

politicians or pressure from the community to do something about it.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Jerry Oliver is Detroit’s police chief.

JERRY OLIVER It puts policing in the position of being involved in
tactics that are desperate.


JOHN STOSSEL (VO) What does he mean by desperate?

JERRY OLIVER Since the transactions are normally between a willing buyer
and a willing seller, it causes the police to snoop. (In police car) Out
of state tag, 9-5… (To reporter) …to sneak, to stoop and to snare
individuals sometimes in ways which, even though I’m in the business and
I know that it is legal, it’s questionable. (In police car) It’s clear
downthere. You can send those decoys in.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) He may say it’s questionable, but on this day his
officers are out on the street pretending to be dealers. Dozens of
people drive up and ask to buy drugs. Then the cops radio ahead.

JERRY OLIVER Fourteen, she’s out now. You can come make your move.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) They tell uniformed officers, ‘Arrest the customer.’

1ST WOMAN What’s the problem?

8TH POLICE OFFICER You know what you did there, right?

1ST WOMAN Nothing. I was attempting to buy some marijuana.

8TH POLICE OFFICER That’s all you had to say, ma’am.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Fifty police officers were involved in this sting,
although most of those arrested were trying to buy less than $25 worth
of pot. Even when they make a big seizure, the head of narcotics isn’t
convinced that they’re making progress.

1ST MAN Last year we had probably our largest cocaine seizure in
However, it hasn’t seemed to have an impact on drying up the amount of
drugs are that actually coming into the city.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) “Hasn’t had an impact.” That’s the story all over
America. In the past 10 years arrests have gone up nearly 50 percent,
But the number of users and the supply of drugs has stayed about the same.


10TH POLICE OFFICER Got it? Got some more?

JOHN STOSSEL Are we making progress?


JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Asa Hutchinson, President Bush’s choice to run the
DEA–the Drug Enforcement Administration–travels the world telling
People we’re winning the drug war.

ASA HUTCHINSON Overall drug use in the United States has been reduced by
50 percent over the last 20 years.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) But was that because of government’s policies, or was
it just people wising up after the binges of the ’70s. (OC) Drug use is
down.It’s not down lately. The last 10 years, it hasn’t dropped.

ASA HUTCHINSON The–we have flat-lined. I believe we lost our focus to a
certain extent.

JOHN STOSSEL It is hard to see how we lost focus because you’re spending

ASA HUTCHINSON I don’t believe that we had the same type of energy
devoted to it as we have in certain times in the past.


JOHN STOSSEL (VO) It’s not clear how you’d measure energy, but federal
spending on the drug war has kept going up. It’s up 50 percent over the
past 10 years. And President Bush wants still more.

GEORGE W BUSH …to reduce illegal drug use in America.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) And that’s just the Washington money. Cities and
states spend still more.

JERRY OLIVER Up to three-quarters of our budget can somehow be traced
back to fighting this war on drugs.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Three-quarters of the budget, yet the drugs are
available as ever.

12TH POLICE OFFICER Didn’t I just ask you if you had some heroin on you?

2ND MAN That was–that–I–I didn’t even have this in my pocket, man.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Since the arrests fail to stop the sellers, a newer
tactic is to have authorities go after buyers.

13TH POLICE OFFICER Have a good day.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Here in Detroit, they’re confiscating cars.

JERRY OLIVER This vehicle now belongs to city of Detroit’s Narcotic

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) This officer’s car–now chasing down a drug buyer–was
confiscated on a previous raid. They’ve taken so many cars, the police
lot looks like a dealership.

3RD MAN Can I take my truck home or no?


JOHN STOSSEL (VO) It costs people $900 to get their car back.

JERRY OLIVER We’re taking cars, we’re taking property, we’re taking

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Taking them and selling them. They bust up the
furniturejust to get rid of it. They don’t even save the TV sets. Too much
trouble, say the police. We just want to clear out the house and sell it.

2ND WOMAN Wonderful, wonderful. They should take it.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Most of the neighbors are thrilled.

2ND WOMAN Good, take the house. Take the one next to it. Take the
furniture and take the owners to court.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) But when government confiscates houses or cars and
sellsthem, it keeps the money. The drug war gives officials an incentive to take more. Is this what we want, all the seizures, all the arrests?

JERRY OLIVER We will never arrest our way out of this problem. All you
haveto do is go to almost any corner in any city, it will tell you that.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Oliver was once a big believer in the drug war. Not

JERRY OLIVER If we did not have this drug war going on, we could spend
more time going after robbers and rapists and burglars and murderers. That’s what we really should be geared up to do. Clearly we’re losing the war on drugs in this country. (To suspect) You told me you wasn’t going to–you was going to stop selling dope. (To reporter) It’s insanity to keep doing the same thing over and over again.

JOHN STOSSEL “Insanity?” It’s an odd statement from a police chief, but
we hear the same frustration from others. In 1998 we visited this
neighborhoodin the Bronx, a neighborhood struggling with drugs and crime. Four yearsand 15,000 narcotics arrests later, the drug dealers are still
everywhere.The kids know where they are.

4TH MAN Every single block, find over there, over there, down there.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) And the violence is constant. Every week they hear

3RD WOMAN I fear for my child. I mean, every morning she walks to
What–what am I supposed to do, buy her a bulletproof vest? I mean, this
is really serious.

4TH WOMAN Gunshots going off, 9:30, 10:30, 11:30. I’m scared.

JOHN STOSSEL The government says we’re winning the war on drugs.

4TH WOMAN Well, not on Briggs Avenue and 196th Street, they’re not.

JOHN STOSSEL Overall, crime is down in America and in the South Bronx,
But drug use, the drug supply? Plentiful. If we’re waging a war, it is
hardto see how we’re winning.

ANNOUNCER Next, “Reefer Madness.” (Clip shown from “Reefer Madness”)

ANNOUNCER The movie, the myth and the truth, when we return. (Commercial

ANNOUNCER War On Drugs, A War On Ourselves, continues. Once again, John

JOHN STOSSEL We know the terrible things drugs can do. We’ve seen the
despair, the sunken face of the junky. No wonder those in government say
we’ve got to stop that, we have to fight drugs. (Clip shown from drug

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) The government-subsidized ads are a vivid reminder of
what drugs can do to people and their families. (Clip shown from drug

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Polls show most Americans agree, drug use should be
illegal. (Clip shown from drug commercial)

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Or as former drug czar Bill Bennett put it…

BILL BENNETT This is a deadly and poisonous activity, it should be
Against the law. People should be in prison for long periods of time for doing
it. It’s a–it’s a matter of right and wrong.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) But when right and wrong conflict with supply and
demand, nasty things happen. Government declaring drugs illegal doesn’t mean
people can’t get them. It just means they get them on the black market where
they pay much more for them.

FATHER JOSEPH KANE The only reason that coke is worth that much money is
that it’s illegal. Pure cocaine is three times the cost of gold. Now, if
that’s the case, how are you going to stop people from selling cocaine?

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Father Joseph Kane is a priest in that Bronx
Neighborhood we saw earlier.

JOSEPH KANE Peace, my brother. God bless you.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) He’s come to believe that while drug abuse is bad,
drug prohibition is worse because the black market does horrible things to
his community.

JOSEPH KANE There’s so much money in it. I mean, it’s staggering.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) The war on drugs designed to help Americans has had
three unintended consequences. First, it sucks children into the underworld.
Second it corrupts cops. And third, it creates crime. Let’s take them in

in the Bronx, in–in barrios, all over the nation because of drug money.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Judge James Gray is a superior court judge in Orange
County, California, who spent years locking drug dealers up. But now
he’s concluded it’s pointless, because drug prohibition makes the drugs so
absurdly valuable.

JAMES GRAY The money to be made from the sale of the illegal drugs is a
bigger problem than the drugs themselves.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Judge Gray drove with us through Father Kane’s

JAMES GRAY Why should a kid in this neighborhood work in this corner
grocery when he can make five times the amount of money in an afternoon
selling drugs?

JOHN STOSSEL Is that right? Is the money that good?


5TH MAN That’s how it started out. I saw every–I saw all the things
that the drug money would get other people.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) These young men, now ex-cons, say they were sucked
into the drug trade by their local role models: the dealers. (OC) They were
the cool people in the neighborhood?

5TH MAN Yeah, you could say–that people looked up to.

6TH MAN You see somebody, you know, they got a fancy car and they got
nice jewelry and all the girls are after them, you know? And you just get
that, you know, that mentality that that’s–that’s the right thing to do.

JOSEPH KANE What guy would look for a job if you can make $300 an night?
I mean, it’s almost un-American to say, ‘I can make this much money, but
I’m not going to do it.’

JAMES GRAY It’s economics 1-A. The drug money is corrupting our
It is corrupting ow law enforcement officers.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Corrupt cops, that’s the second unintended consequence
of drug prohibition. Cops like these are seduced by drug money. They have
been for years.

3RD OFFSCREEN VOICE While you were in uniform and on duty, did you
commit thefts?

7TH MAN Yeah.

3RD OFFSCREEN VOICE What would you steal?

7TH MAN Money and drugs. JOHN STOSSEL (VO) “Money and drugs.” The
temptation is so huge.

DRUG DEALER (From hidden camera) One hundred, 200, three, four, five,

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Here, the man on the right, a San Antonio cop, waits
be paid after delivering what he was told was 20 pounds of cocaine. His
take is $3,000.

DRUG DEALER (From hidden camera) Three thousand.

14TH POLICE OFFICER (From hidden camera) Goddamn.

DRUG DEALER (From hidden camera) All right, man. That’s yours.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) He eagerly scoops up the money.

JERRY OLIVER With all of the money, with all of the cash, it’s easy,
then, to purchase police officers, to purchase prosecutors, to purchase

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) This drug dealer used to make $20,000 a weekend with
the help of the police. (OC) So the cops know and just…

8TH MAN Of course. How else can you exist? It’s not like it’s a big
covert operation. It’s out in the open. The cops are just another gang.

JOHN STOSSEL Most of the time when you dealt you had some cops on your

8TH MAN Of course.

JOHN STOSSEL The third and probably worst unintended consequence is the
drug crime. Films like “Reefer Madness” have told us people take drugs,
just go crazy (sic). (Clip shown from “Reefer Madness”)

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) But think about it. In reality, do people go crazy,
get violent because they’re high on drugs? Rarely.

JOSEPH KANE First of all, violence comes from the fact that it’s

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) The violence happens because dealers arm themselves
and have shoot-outs over turf.

REPORTER (From unidentified news program) An innocent bystander is hit
during a shoot-out.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) And the violence happens because addicts steal to pay
the high prices for drugs. Nicotine is about as addictive as cocaine or
But no one’s knocking over 7-11s to get Marlboros or Budweiser.

JOSEPH KANE Most people are not afraid of the legal “pushers.” They’re
not afraid of the supermarkets selling alcohol. I don’t see them shooting
each other. But if you make the substance illegal, they will use violence
because there’s no other way of handling the problem.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) That’s what happened in the 1920s when government made
alcohol illegal.

FILM ANNOUNCER (From unidentified film) For 13 years the idiocy

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) It was alcohol prohibition that gave rise to criminals
like Al Capone.

FILM ANNOUNCER (From unidentified film) Gangsterism was the national
sequel, and battles for exclusive territories erupted with a violence
unparalleled in the history of law enforcement.

JOSEPH KANE The people who were against alcohol were sincere, I suspect.
But they didn’t see the implications. We know the implications in the
Year 2002. We know that prohibition doesn’t work for alcohol. Why would it
work for anything else?

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) The profits from today’s drug prohibition now funds
terrorism. The State Department says that’s how bin Laden got some of
his problems.

JAMES GRAY It’s the money that’s really causing the problems here. The
drugs are dangerous, without question. But the drug money is turn a
disease into a plague.

ANNOUNCER Next, America’s ferocious effort to cut the drug connection at
its source.

JOHN STOSSEL How much do you stop?

ASA HUTCHINSON What we’re doing is increasing the risk to the

JOHN STOSSEL Is this a way of saying that we don’t stop much?

ANNOUNCER When John Stossel continues. (Commercial break)

ANNOUNCER War On Drugs, A War On Ourselves, continues. Once again, John

JOHN STOSSEL The drug war, say critics, is not just a war on our own
people, it’s a war on other people, mostly poor people who live in
countries that produce our drugs. (VO) The United States spends billions
trying to keep drugs out of America. But no matter how much we spend or
how many special police units are trained and equipped, or how many drug
shipments police disrupt or intercept. It’s had little impact on the
amount of drugs found on America’s streets. They keep coming. This videotape
was made by an American drug buyer as he received a home delivery.

4TH OFFSCREEN VOICE (From video) Taking it on home to Grandma. It was a
perfect drop. Put it right in the middle of the strip.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) So where do most of these drugs come from? (OC) Here
in Colombia, South America. This is a coca plant. It grows everywhere here.
It’s like a weed. The opium poppies are growing over there. (VO)
Colombia produces most of America’s heroin and most of its cocaine.
The coca plantsare are cultivated by farmers like these men who carve out fields in the remote jungle. Every four months or so, they strip the plants of their leaves and use a weed whacker to shred them. Then they squeeze the juice
out of the leaves which this farmer refined into coca powder. It took
him about a third of a year to produce a pound of it. What will he get for

9TH MAN (Through translator) It’s worth approximately $2,200.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) They don’t know exactly how much they’ll get until
they go by horseback or walk–sometimes for days in the jungle–until they
get to remote marketplaces like this one. Growing coca and selling cocaine
is illegal in Colombia, but here drug traffickers openly bid for the
farmers’ products. Rebel soldiers who control this area keep watch as the
bartering begins. Weight and purity are checked. This bag of powder, once made into cocaine, will be worth about a quarter of a million dollars on the streets of America. Now, these people know that some Americans may abuse their product. They know it’s against the law. (OC) So why are you still growing coca?

10TH MAN (Through translator) For me and any other peasant in the
region, it’s impossible to substitute what we make growing coca.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) America spent millions trying to persuade these
farmers to grow anything else, but because of drug prohibition coca and poppies are so profitable, they’ve kept growing them. (OC) But the Clinton administration had a plan. It was called Plan Colombia. They’d persuade coca farmers to stop growing coca, to grow bananas and sugar cane

How? Well, they’d use a carrot and a stick. The carrot would be that
they’d pay them something, give them some farm instruments. The stick would be,
if they didn’t stop growing coca, we’d spray their fields. (VO) And we are, spraying them with herbicide that kills the coca and many other plants, too. The peasants have come to hate the planes.

11TH MAN (Through translator) First of all, it was the helicopters. Then
it was the airplanes. Everything around us was wet. Two days after that,
the leaves started to fall off the plants.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) That convinced them to begin ripping up their coca
plants, and hope the planes won’t spray again.

KAREN HARBRED (ph) They know that–that–that–that the stick is there
and we are the carrot.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) US Aid official Karen Harbred says the carrot’s all
the money America gives Colombia in hopes farmers will grow something
besides coca.

KAREN HARBRED We can certainly try to help them return to a legal

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) But will they? Whenever a farmer does this, it just
makes coca more valuable to those who do grow it.

prohibition economics. When you try to constrict supply, then that
drives up the prices and the profits. And that lures more poor farmers into this economy.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Sanho Tree works for a Washington group that opposes
the drug war.

SANHO TREE So we’re talking about farmers who really have nothing left
to lose. This is not a moral failing on their part. They’re–they’re really up against the wall. And growing coca means the difference between being poor or starvation. And they’re not going to watch their children starve.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Even if they did obey the Americans and grew bananas
or pineapples, how would they sell them? The road we took into the coca
fields was one of the jungle’s best. Most of the area is accessible only by mule or foot. The farmers can carry coca paste this way, but it’s not practical to carry the bananas and pineapples we want them to grow.

12TH MAN (Through translator) Coca is the only thing that provides what
we need to support our families.

RAND BEERS So we will spray them again until they understand.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Rand Beers, undersecretary of state, says America is
not going to sit back and let farmers grow coca, no matter how poor they

RAND BEERS An illegal activity is an illegal activity. And one doesn’t
get a special pass for being poor. They have to recognize that every effort to grow coca will be challenged by the government. Every work effort, every dollar, every pound of sweat that goes in to growing that coca may be lost.

JOHN STOSSEL Even if the spraying isn’t killing all the coca, it at
least reduces the amount that flows to America.

SANHO TREE Actually…

JOHN STOSSEL Isn’t that good?

SANHO TREE Actually, it doesn’t. It–the more money we have put into
this program, the more we spray, the more coca there is. What we’ve been
doing with our drug war is–is like squeezing a balloon. If you squeeze end, it pops out the other.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) And the Bush administration now admits that after the
spraying the amount of coca under cultivation increased–increased by 25
percent last year says the CIA.

SANHO TREE Then these people just go further into the Amazon, they cut
down more rain forest and they plant more coca. And meanwhile, we’re chasing them with our spray planes.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) In addition, America pays for helicopters, guns and
and military advisors, and encourages Colombia to wage war on those little
jungle factories where people convert coca plants into coca paste. The
police destroy the paste and the chemicals, and then they they poor
gasoline on everything…

COLOMBIAN POLICE OFFICER (Foreign language spoken)

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) …and toss a grenade in to burn the shack down. They
shoot their guns to scare off any traffickers who may be watching. Then
they make a hasty retreat in case the traffickers shoot back. Did this
make a difference? Not really. Because for every factory destroyed, there are many more in the jungle.

ASA HUTCHINSON We have not had the measure of success in the eradication
program in Colombia that we need or that we want to have.

JOHN STOSSEL How much do you stop?

ASA HUTCHINSON Well, I know what we’re doing is increasing the risk to
the traffickers.

JOHN STOSSEL Is this a way of saying that we don’t stop much?

ASA HUTCHINSON No, I think we–I think we stop a substantial amount.

JOHN STOSSEL Ten percent?

ASA HUTCHINSON I mean, whether you look at it as 10 percent, 20 percent
or 30 percent, there is some teen-ager out there that will not be able to
afford the drug, and it results in saving somebody’s life on the streets
of the United States.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) And the spraying, the dumping of herbicide on acres of
Colombia? Since he admits this hasn’t worked, why keep doing it. (OC)
You’re squeezing the balloon. You say you’ve succeeded in Bolivia, but
that just moved it to Colombia. Now you’re spraying Colombia, it’ll move back to Bolivia.

ASA HUTCHINSON And the answer to that is we have to put pressure
everywhere if we’re going to have success. We’ve got to fight this battle

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) And we will continue to hunt down traffickers.

ANNOUNCER (From “World News Tonight”) This is “World News Tonight” with
Peter Jennings.

PETER JENNINGS, ABC NEWS (From “World News Tonight”) Good evening. The
king is dead. Pablo Escobar, the Colombian drug king.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Authorities were excited when Pablo Escobar was

PETER JENNINGS (From “World News Tonight”) …gunned down today by
Colombian police.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) People said it would stop the supply of drugs. But it
didn’t, because the Cali cartel stepped in. Then they were arrested.

2ND REPORTER (From unidentified news program) The arrests are a mortal
blow to the drug cartels.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) But they weren’t a mortal blow because others
Immediately took their place.

ASA HUTCHINSON Yes, others came in, more independent operators, to take
The place because there are substantial profits in the cocaine business.

JOHN STOSSEL In addition, the vast profits created by drug prohibition
Are beginning to tear this country apart. Law is breaking down. You think we
have drug crime in America? Here there are 10 murders a day. And now, of
all the countries in the world, the one where you’re most likely to be
kidnapped is Colombia. (VO) Political leaders are especially at risk.
(Clip shown of shooting at political gathering)

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Here, a presidential candidate is gunned down by drug
traffickers at political rally. And there have already been 15 attempts
on the life of Colombia’s next president–here surrounded by his
He decided to leave the country. He’s staying in Europe until his
inauguration next month. Colombia today is besieged by warring
factions–heavily-armed warring factions. This group, the FARCs, the
biggest. They’ve been fighting the government for years, and now they
videotape their battles. That’s what this is. And now the fight, which
was once about politics, is mostly about drugs because the money’s so huge.
The United States has declared the FARC a narco terrorist group. But our
spraying, our war on drugs, is winning the FARC new friends.

SANHO TREE We’re providing optimal conditions for these armed groups
to—to recruit. Once their farms get destroyed, they have nowhere else to turn.
So they’re associating the United States with death and destruction. And
This is not a way to win hearts and minds.

JOHN STOSSEL We’ll come back to America in a moment.


5TH WOMAN I’m an attorney. I pay my taxes. I live a good, clean life,
and if I feel like smoking a joint when I feel like it, that’s by my

ANNOUNCER When we come back. (Commercial break)

ANNOUNCER War On Drugs, A War On Ourselves with John Stossel, continues
after this from our ABC stations. (Commercial break)

ANNOUNCER War On Drugs, A War On Ourselves, continues. Once again, John

JOHN STOSSEL People do abuse drugs. So, what do we do about it?
Government talks about treatment, but for the most part, our policy has been, `Lock them up.’ And we do arrest 4,000 people a day for selling or using

13TH MAN I was just sitting there. I didn’t even touch anything.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Most of these people will be booked and released, but
every year thousands of Americans are jailed just for using drugs. And
jails are filled with people who sold drugs. Like these girls’ mom.

1ST GIRL I want to be able to say, `Mom I need help with this problem in
my homework. Mom, can you help me get–can you help me get my bath
started?’ I just want to have my mom there.

JOHN STOSSEL What did your mom do?

2ND GIRL She sold drugs.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) She’s serving eight years to life.

1ST GIRL At my graduation, everybody was asking, like, `Where’s your

JOHN STOSSEL What do you tell them?

1ST GIRL I just say my mom’s living in New York. I don’t like to tell
them where she is.

JOHN STOSSEL Compared to other countries, America does lock lots of
People up. More than a million are arrested on drug charges every year. And now
about half a million are behind bars–just for drugs, not for doing
anything violent.

MANUEL What I did was harm to myself. I’ve never done harm to anybody in
My life.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Manuel’s is in jail for using drugs.(OC) Well, at
Least this will protect you from hurting yourself more. It’ll teach you a

MANUEL Jails are crowded with drugs. I mean, you get them as–just as
Easy as you do here as you do on the outside (sic).

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) These others are in for dealing.

14TH MAN I was jut doing it to support my habit.

JOHN STOSSEL By locking you up, at least we got rid of a dealer in your

15TH MAN I’m just one person. There’s a thousand more who are going to
follow my–in my footsteps and take my place.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) In many neighborhoods, when a dealer is locked up,
it’s not a deterrent. It’s a job opening.

JOSEPH KANE These drugs are so profitable that you take Tony off the
street, Tony’s kid brother is selling the drugs the next day. Now, you
put Tony away, then you get the kid brother and then you get the cousin, and
then you get–why would they stop doing that?

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) They don’t stop doing it. So some people say, why have
this war?

6TH WOMAN (Protesting) Stop the drug war! Sixty years and we haven’t
It’s time to quit!

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) They say they should be able to do what they want with
their own bodies.

GROUP OF PROTESTORS (Chanting) It’s my body. It’s my choice.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) They say they ought to have the right to choose their

16TH MAN Do you know nobody has ever died from smoking a joint anywhere
in history?

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) This man lit up right in front of the cops.

16TH MAN It’s not–it’s not…

JOHN STOSSEL You’re willing to go to jail?

16TH MAN It’s not about the marijuana. It’s about the freedom. I have
the right to make up my mind without interference from the government.

5TH WOMAN There is no risk to the population when a person sits in their
living room at the end of a long day’s work and lights up a joint.

JOHN STOSSEL But it make us stupid. It makes you lazy.

5TH WOMAN Well–well–I don’t think I’m stupid, I don’t think I’m lazy.
And I’m a responsible adult. I’m an attorney, I pay my taxes. I live a good,
clean life, and if I feel like smoking a joint when I feel like it,
that’s my business.

JOSEPH KANE We’re making people criminals by calling it an illegal
substance. You have a narcotic agent, literally, with a very dangerous
substance in his hand called alcohol–(mimics drinking)–and another
dangerous substance–(mimics smoking)–and tell you, `Say no to drugs.’
And that’s a–I mean, we don’t even see the hypocrisy of that.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) At this rally, there were lots of police. They
Arrested anyone they saw with marijuana. In this age of terrorism, I have to
Wonder why were they here, so many of them? (OC) Do you ever wish you were out
chasing terrorists?

15TH POLICE OFFICER I’d rather be here than chasing terrorists, you
know, definitely.

JOHN STOSSEL Is this sort of a waste of your valuable time? I mean, are
these people a threat?

16TH POLICE OFFICER No, not at all. They’re just–something they want to
do. I mean, they’re not really a threat to us or a threat to–to each

JOHN STOSSEL Why is it illegal then?

16TH POLICE OFFICER I’m not the one that makes the laws. I just enforce
them. Why is it illegal? I don’t know. I have no idea.


17TH POLICE OFFICER Because it gets you high.

JOHN STOSSEL Is the drug war a war we should be fighting? Is there a
Better idea?

ANNOUNCER Europe’s new anti-drug slogan: Just say yes. Legal drugs.

17TH MAN It’s normal.

ANNOUNCER When John Stossel returns. (Commercial break)

ANNOUNCER War On Drugs, A War On Ourselves, continues.

JOHN STOSSEL There’s no question that drugs often do terrible things to
people. Lives have been wrecked. But the drug war wrecks lives, too,
costs billions, creates crime. Is there another way? Much of Europe now says
(VO) What would happen if we legalize drugs? (OC) Well, here in Holland,
in Amsterdam, it’s already happened. Using marijuana is legal here. What’s
that done? (VO) Holland now has dozens of `coffee shops’ they call them
where marijuana is officially tolerated.

18TH MAN Did you try that grass yesterday?

19TH MAN Yes, I did, as a matter of fact.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Red’s a regular user. She smokes several joints a day.
(OC) Every day?

RED Every day.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Red’s now a manager at this coffee shop which offers a
menu of marijuana choices from joints to chocolates.

RED Chocolate bonbons. We have them in all three kinds of chocolate made
with weed butter added to it.

18TH MAN How much would you like?

20TH MAN Just a gram.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) The police do regulate the marijuana sales. Shops may
sell no more than about five joints’ worth per person, and they’re not
allowed to sell to miners. And no hard drugs are allowed, just hash and

19TH MAN That’s good weed.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) So what’s the result? Is everyone getting stoned? No.
In America today 38 percent of adolescents have smoked pot. But here in
Holland, it’s only 20 percent.

JAMES GRAY They’ve taken the glamour out of it. In fact, the minister of
health of Holland has said, `We’ve succeeded in making pot boring.’

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Maybe that’s why half the people we talked to in these
coffee shops turned out to be American. (OC) You don’t feel bad breaking
your country’s laws?

21ST MAN No, I don’t. No, I don’t.


21ST MAN Because I don’t see anything wrong with it.

RED The whole point about it is that it’s a fun drug. It makes you feel
really nice. It doesn’t make you violent. It makes you relaxed. It makes
you giggly.

JOHN STOSSEL So if it’s such a good thing, why is it illegal in most of
The world?

RED You tell me.

GEORGE W BUSH Drug use threatens everything. Everything.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) In America, there’s little interest in legalizing any


JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Officials talk about fighting a stronger war.

Yet it was not war.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Once President Clinton’s surgeon general dared suggest
legalization might reduce crime.

DR JOYCELYN ELDERS (From file footage) I don’t know all the
Ramifications of this, and I do feel we need to do some studies. (To reporter) Heaven knows I never had so much rain fall on me about what I considered a
Fairly simple, innocuous statement.

22ND MAN The best way for Dr. Elders to promote the public health needs
of this country is to resign.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Not even discussing legalization has roughly been US
policy for 30 years. As Los Angeles’ former police chief put it…

WILLIE WILLIAMS It’s simply wrong and it should not be even discussed
Here in America.

JOHN STOSSEL You’re not even supposed to talk about it?

JOYCELYN ELDERS Well, I guess you aren’t. Nobody talks about it. And of
course, how can you ever fix anything if you can’t even talk about it?

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) And most official talk about Holland’s law condemns
it.`It’s a failure,’ said the last drug czar. `An unmitigated disaster.’
Is it really? That’s not what we heard here in Amsterdam. This isn’t
Even controversial anymore?

17TH MAN It’s normal.

JON FOSTER, GREY AREA COFFEE SHOP Dutch clients will pick up a small
Amount of cannabis, the same way they would pick up a bottle of wine in the

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Rotterdam Police Superintendent Jur Verbeeks says kids
are going to try marijuana, legal or not. (OC) If you close down the
coffee shops, they wouldn’t be able to get it. JUR VERBEEKS Where will the
young people go, tell me, please?

JOHN STOSSEL Maybe they’ll give up marijuana?

JUR VERBEEKS Oh they are curious. And when there are no coffee shops,
They will go to the illegal houses and then the dealer says, `OK, you want to
have marijuana. Good, but we have cocaine as well. And we he heroin for

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) That was a reason for the Dutch experiment with
marijuana, to separate soft drugs from the more dangerous hard drugs.
But in Holland, some people are experimenting with how to deal with hard
Drugs, too. Check out what’s going on inside this church. In the basement
they’re buying heroin and injecting it right in the church. The police know
this, but don’t stop it. (OC) So already you feel it?

23RD MAN Yeah.

JOHN STOSSEL Feel good? (Man nods)

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) This is happening in Hans Fisher’s church.

HANS FISHER It does not mean that I agree the use of dangerous drugs.

JOHN STOSSEL You’re a drug dealer. You’re allowing people to deal in
Your church.

HANS FISHER I am not a drug dealer. I am not involved in the dealing of

JOHN STOSSEL You’re inviting them into the house of the Lord. You’re
the–you’re the landlord who lets it go on.

HANS FISHER The church is for sick and poor people. In my opinion, drug
addicts are sick. We have responsibility for them.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) What Fisher’s doing is illegal in Holland. Using hard
drugs isn’t forbidden, but selling is. Fisher only allows addicted
people who follow certain rules to use drugs at the church, and police look the
other way.

JUR VERBEEKS When we interfere, then the problem is more bigger.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Inside the church, addicts buy drugs from a few
Dealers that Fisher selects. They buy through this window which replicates the
illegal buy they’re used to. It also prevents greedy addicts from
grabbing too much. Then, three times a day, they’re allowed to use the smoking
room or the injection room.

23RD MAN You have headache, you take medicines for your headache. I take
medicines. This, for me, a medicine.

JOHN WALTERS Most societies, if they’ve tolerated this, have tolerated
It because it affects a part of the population that they don’t care about
Or manage not to care about.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) America’s drug czar, John Walters, says these user
Rooms are a terrible idea.

JOHN WALTERS We want to make people well. We don’t want–we don’t want
To settle for institutions that just allow people to be addicted more

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) This doesn’t look like a good life, but at least
Instead of being street criminals searching for a fix, it allows addicts to hold jobs and support families. This woman says one shot of heroin and she
Can go to work. (OC) So, you can do your job stoned?

7TH WOMAN No, no, no, no, no. If I am stoned they send me at home.

JOHN STOSSEL But you come here, you get high.

7TH WOMAN No. Listen, I take only–I have my use under control. Before I
had this job, I maybe take eight times a day or 10 times a day, I take a
shoot. But now I only once take a shoot a day. So it’s only….

JOHN STOSSEL Just–just because this place is making…

7TH WOMAN It’s only to make me feel normal.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) What the Dutch are doing makes sense to Judge Gray.

JAMES GRAY They’re addressing it as managers. We address it as
We address it as a character issue, and if you fail that test, we put
You in prison. They are removing the criminal element. They have a lower
Drug problem. They have a lower crime problem. They have fewer people in

JOHN STOSSEL What started here in Holland has now spread. Today, police
Now in most of Europe ignore marijuana use. In Spain, Italy and Luxemburg
they’ve decriminalized most drug use, and in Portugal recently, all
drugs use. (VO) That’s not to say that all the experiments succeed.
Switzerland once tried what became known as Needle Park, a place where anyone could use any drug.

8TH WOMAN It was just junky park. There were, like, 500, 2,000 people
every day there who would just, like, use drugs or deal drugs.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) It attracted crime because it became a magnet for
Junkies from all over Europe. And in Amsterdam, ABC’s hidden camera shows
legalizing marijuana shops doesn’t stop people from selling illegal

24TH MAN (From hidden camera) I have heroin, I have cocaine, I have

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Critics say Holland has become an island of drug use.

25TH MAN (From hidden camera) Ecstasy, coke.

26TH MAN (From hidden camera) 25TH MAN One hundred per gram.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) But while this does happen, the use of drugs in
Holland and all Europe is still lower by far than in the US, and European
Countries are proposing even more liberalization. American politicians have shown little interest in that.

ASA HUTCHINSON We in America should have a different approach. We should
discourage drug use and we should try to enforce our laws.

JOHN STOSSEL But we’ve been trying that now for 30 years and we still
have addicts.

ASA HUTCHINSON We’ve been trying it for 30 years and we’ve had an
extraordinary amount of success. And yes, we still have addicts. Which
means, it’s a very difficult problem that we’re trying to achieve.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) He showed us a headline from a British newspaper.
This, he says, demonstrates that liberalization hasn’t worked.

ASA HUTCHINSON “Drugs fuel crime rise.”

JOHN STOSSEL But the crime part is caused by prohibition. This article
Is about heroin crime, and heroin is still illegal there. If it were legal
people wouldn’t be committing crime to pay for it.

ASA HUTCHINSON Well, let’s talk about that. After prohibition ended, did
the criminal element, did organized crime go out? No, organized crime
continued. JOHN STOSSEL But it diminished.

ASA HUTCHINSON It shifted. They moved to other elements of crime. You do
not win in these efforts by giving in.

JOHN STOSSEL “Giving in.” By that he means legalizing. Some thoughts
About that when we return. (Commercial break)

ANNOUNCER War On Drugs, A War On Ourselves, continues. Once again, John

JOHN STOSSEL How many wars can America fight? Now that we’re at war
Against terrorism, can we also afford to fight a drug war against millions of
Our own people? Is it wise to fight on two fronts?

5TH OFFSCREEN VOICE (From video) (Unintelligible)…platoon, 3:00.
You’re on the other hill.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) The last time America engaged in a war of this length
Was Vietnam. And then, too, government put a positive spin on success of the

FORMER PRESIDENT LYNDON B JOHNSON (From file footage) Now, America wins
The wars that she undertakes, make no mistake about it.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) We’ve heard the same kind of optimism about the drug

FORMER PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN (From file footage) And we’re beginning
To win the crusade for a drug-free America.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) But today more people have doubts.

JAMES GRAY It’s the legitimate function of government to protect us from
each other. But where government goes astray is where we try to protect
us from ourselves. It makes as much sense to me to put this actor, Robert
Downey Jr., in jail for his drug abuse as it would have Betty Ford in
Jail for her alcohol abuse. It’s really no different. Hold people accountable
for what they do, but not for what they put into their bodies.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Why not sell drugs the way we do alcohol, he says, but
maybe with more restrictions.

JAMES GRAY Make it available to adults. Brown packaging, no glamour,
Take the–the illegal money out of it. And then furnish it, holding people
accountable for what they do. These drugs are too dangerous not to

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Legal drugs. That’s a frightening thought. Maybe more
people would try them. Judge Gray says even if they did, that would do
less harm than the war we’ve been fighting for the past 30 years.

JAMES GRAY What we’re doing now has failed. In fact, it’s hopeless. This
Is a failed system that we simply must change.

JOHN STOSSEL Drugs do hurt people. But isn’t the drug war worse? That’s
Our broadcast for tonight. I’m John Stossel. Good night.

ANNOUNCER For more information on War On Drugs, A War On Ourselves, go

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