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July 2007
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The difference in audiences when promoting drug policy reform

Transform continues its excellent series (extracts from an upcoming publication) with a brief analysis of various types audiences reformers will end up against: Evangelical prohibitionists, Knee-jerk prohibitionists, Unconvinced reformers, and Prohibitionist politicians.
There are some useful, and fun, descriptions there. There was one statement, however, that threw me. Under the description of unconvinced reformers was this sentence.

Their views on legal regulation may be clouded by misunderstandings about ‘legalisation‘, put forward by cannabis evangelists or extreme libertarians. When they are presented with a coherent set of policy alternatives this group will usually be happy to support them.

I think I understand what they’re driving at, but it’s unclear, and at first glance, makes it seem a bit like “legalisation” is the extreme view put forward. I think what they really mean is that reluctant reformers are often uncomfortable associating themselves with those who openly support recreational drug use. And this is because the Evangelical prohibitionists have for so long painted that basic position as being “beyond the pale.”
It is the Evangelical prohibitionists and Prohibitionists politicians who have repeatedly attributed bizarre and false notions as being the views of cannabis evangelists and extreme libertarians — such as that legalizers want to make heroin available pre-packaged and shrink-wrapped in a display at the checkout counter of the 7-11 for 8-year-olds to buy. And, of course, I’ve never met anyone who really believed that — it’s just what prohibitionists want people to believe about legalizers.
The real sin of Unconvinced reformers (other than believing what prohibitionists say) is their fear. Fear of being called extreme, whether they are or not. Fear of being looked at as “druggies” by their friends. And on a higher level, fear of losing grants, access, “respectability.”
[Note: I do agree with Transform’s point that “When they are presented with a coherent set of policy alternatives this group will usually be happy to support them.”]

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