Treatment industry afraid to discuss legalization

Press release from LEAP:

Federal Drug Agency Bans Pro-Legalization Police Group From Conference

SAMHSA Doesn’t Want Views Expressed at Treatment Event in Chicago

CHICAGO, IL — A group of police officers, judges and prosecutors who support legalizing and regulating drugs is crying foul after a federal agency reneged on a contract that gave the law enforcers a booth to share their anti-prohibition views at a government-sponsored treatment conference in Chicago next week.

After accepting registration payment from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration initially told the police group that it was canceling its booth at the National Conference on Women, Addiction and Recovery because of overbooking and space concerns. However, Sharon Amatetti of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment later informed LEAP that, in a decision rising all the way to SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde’s office, the group was actually being disinvited for its viewpoint.

“It’s alarming that the federal government is trying to silence the voices of front-line police officers who just want to network and collaborate with treatment professionals to achieve our shared goal of preventing substance abuse through effective public policy,” said Neill Franklin, a former narcotics cop with the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department who is now executive director of LEAP. “Perhaps the administration was most concerned that LEAP’s law enforcers planned to shine a spotlight on the fact that under President Obama, the White House’s drug control budget maintains the same two-to-one funding ratio in favor of harsh enforcement tactics over effective public health approaches.”

On a phone call with LEAP, Pamela Rodriguez of conference co-host TASC, Inc. of Illinois said that the police group wasn’t welcome at the event because “our policy perspective and our policy objectives are different from you guys.” She added, “It is the emphasis on prohibition vs. legalization that, for me at least, is the glaring dissonance with regard to our agenda.”

SAMHSA has since refunded LEAP’s money. The conference takes place July 26-28 at Chicago’s Downtown Magnificent Mile Marriott Hotel.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and its 30,000 supporters represent police, prosecutors, judges, FBI/DEA agents and others who want to legalize and regulate drugs after fighting on the front lines of the “war on drugs” and learning firsthand that prohibition only serves to worsen addiction and violence. Info at

It’s not like LEAP wanted to have a panel or speaker at the conference — they just wanted to have a booth like many other organizations and pass out information to people who voluntarily stopped by. And they were willing to pay the fee to do it.

And that was too threatening to SAMHSA to allow.

Now, I understand that conferences are intended to get people motivated and excited about what they do, and so maybe it would be counter to the purpose of the conference to have a group at a treatment conference that was opposed to treatment. But that’s not the case with LEAP at all. They’re strongly supportive of treatment. In fact, they prefer that we deal with drugs as a public health issue, which obviously would include a strong treatment component.

So why is the treatment industry so solidly in the prohibitionist camp?

Is it the money?

Could be, and that was my first thought. After all, 37.8% of all treatment admissions (2008) were referred there by the criminal justice system. That’s 700,000 admissions.

And yet, over 300,000 of those criminal justice referrals were for alcohol, a legal drug, so it doesn’t mean that they would lose all criminal justice referrals – not by a long shot. They’d probably lose 180,000 marijuana referrals. And it’s possible that they’d lose admissions in general across the board in currently illegal drugs because legalization and regulation may reduce the harms of drug use (others will say that there will be an increase in admissions due to legalization).

What other reasons do they have for being against even the discussion of legalization?

One could be the skewed personal experience syndrome. Many treatment professionals are former addicts or have had experience with someone who overdosed, etc. And then they work all day with people who have severe problems. This can cause a skewed outlook where you’re unable to see the larger picture and unwilling to consider that the system you’re part of could be part of the problem.

Finally, the treatment system is heavily influenced in a top-down way by the federal government, which has a vested power interest in prohibition. SAMHSA is part of that and can’t avoid it. And it is this administration’s policy to stick their fingers in their ears and make loud nonsense noises whenever the “L” word is spoken.

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25 Responses to Treatment industry afraid to discuss legalization

  1. ezrydn says:

    I guess it’s our turn to start voicing it—

    “Be afraid. Be very afraid!”

    People are starting to listen and even those with government sponsorship realize it. The more this happens, the more they show their true selves.

    Of course, it’s about the money. I know they’d like everyone to believe it’s about “caring” and such but, bottom line, it’s $$$$, plain and simple. Treatment techs, as with LEOs, have found their golden slop trough to root around in and desire, not truth, but more slop!

    A sign should appear, outside the Marriott that reads “SAMHSA is AFRAID of you talking to us…LEAP!”

  2. jackl says:

    Pete: do the LEAP folks or others plan to picket the event in protest, kind of like what you guys did with that “DEA Drugs and Terrorism Destroy America” traveling exhibit they had?

  3. Dante says:

    “So why is the treatment industry so solidly in the prohibitionist camp?

    Is it the money?”

    Yes, Pete, it is the money. It is always the money. It’s ironic that the term “follow the money” was coined by Law Enforcers to catch bad guys. Now the term is used to catch bad Law Enforcers and Congress people.

  4. claygooding says:

    With the latest poll now showing a majority of Americans supporting legalization,these people need to be afraid and they need to be hunting another cash cow.

  5. claygooding says:

    How can a federal agency ban anyone from a public meeting
    of a government agency?

  6. Pete says:

    They’re not banning LEAP from attending. They’re just not including them as a vendor. They can do that pretty much for any reason. Although they did tread onto slightly more questionable ground by admitting it was viewpoint-based.

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  8. tint guy says:

    “One could be the skewed personal experience syndrome.”

    Some deeper truth in that one than most folks realize. A lot of “recovering addicts” believe that all use leads to addiction because it always has for them and most of the folks in their new 12 step religion.

  9. Chris says:

    “It is always the money. It’s ironic that the term “follow the money” was coined by Law Enforcers to catch bad guys. Now the term is used to catch bad Law Enforcers and Congress people.”

    You knew I was watching season 4 of the wire now didn’t you?

  10. Emma says:

    The treatment industry is affiliated with drug testing and abstinence-only education programs, both of which gain from prohibition and general drug-hysteria. It’s possible that one of the other sponsors complained about LEAP.

    Some drug treatment people were influential in fully banning heroin around 1914-1919: They argued that addiction could be easily treated and thus opiate replacement therapy was not good medical practice. The book The American Disease by David F. Musto details the sad story of how successful heroin clinics were forcibly closed.

  11. claygooding says:

    The skewed opinions of people is in evidence in everything
    we do,even our decisions of what to eat for supper.
    There is no one more unforgiving than a reformed anything.
    I can’t tolerate tobacco users that quit anymore than I can stand reformed whores.

    Thanks Pete,are they planning on going anyway,,I know I would.

  12. Just me. says:

    These pepole wouldnt last 30min in a no holds barred debate over prohibition…they know it.

    …pretty much for any reason. Although they did tread onto slightly more questionable ground by admitting it was viewpoint-based.

    Ya. they do thier damnedest to control YOUR 1st amend right when it doesnt benefit thier view point but, turn to that very same amendment when they push thier view point.

    No different than how the rest of government twists things to thier view point. I wish them luck…the country is changing.

  13. Duncan says:

    I must comment here. I’m one of the folks who got sent to 12 step meetings as a result of being arrested, but I most certainly didn’t ‘cooperate’ with the program. The people in the meetings knew I was forced into, objected to, and was not interested in joining their cohort. My observation is that a significant majority of the dedicated 12 steppers don’t believe the law is necessary and a sizable cohort believe that the law is wrong. Perhaps my observation was skewed since all of my meetings were in a limited geographical area. But my observation was that the most established 12 steppers favor ending prohibition. I know that I interacted with at least a dozen that had 20 year ‘chips’ and every single one of these long time members favored the end of prohibition. I think it’s stuff like meeting the Listerine lady that gets them thinking how unenforceable the laws are. Oh, the Listerine lady was a 14 year member, and spent her entire career of drunkenness buzzed on Listerine because she didn’t want to smell drunk.

  14. Nz says:

    The United States is no longer a democracy.

    The Federalist Party has empowered the Executive branch through the DEA and War on Drugs and made the Legislative and Judicial branches subservient to its absolute command.

    In doing so, they have set the example that leads to such anti-democratic practices as this latest drug forum.

  15. Cliff says:

    “But my observation was that the most established 12 steppers favor ending prohibition. I know that I interacted with at least a dozen that had 20 year ‘chips’ and every single one of these long time members favored the end of prohibition.”


    You are the kind of person who I want to stand up for, because I was forced into treatment in the military back in the mid eighties. The sad part is I went through “treatment”, got “sober” pissed clean because I knew very few of the people who smoked hashish. The people who really get it were the ones who had a serious problem with substances and needed help. I rebelled against the military and ended up getting kicked out with a General Under Honorable Conditions.

    Once my Article 15 rolled around, 5 months later, the Battalion Commander gave me 45 day restriction / extra duty and took 2 pay grades and $250/mo for 2 months. Even after I had went through drug and alcohol training, had stellar counciling statements and my chain of command up to my first sergeant all speaking on my behalf.

    *They thought I would get a suspended bust and some money taken and some extra duty, boy were they wrong*

    Anyway, when I went to my first extra duty session, I met every stoner in the battalion. The rest of my tour in West Germany was very pleasurable because I was doing my job as an Artillery Surveyor and getting high on the best hashish I ever smoked. I did eventually get busted out on a Chapter 9 Drug and Alcohol discharge, but by then I learned it is better to be happy and enjoy your work, than it is to bow to the master who never remembers when you do something right, and never forgets when you do something wrong.

    My next battalion commander tried to kick me out on a Chapter 14 (Bad Conduct Discharge) because the next time I got caught in a Battery wide piss test and just bagan rebelled against the system by submitting blatently hot samples in my next round of drug treatment and joking about them, but hahaha, he couldn’t convene a board of officers in time. Too bad so sad.

    (War Story from the Cold War) During REFORGER I had a 5 gram chunk of hashish and got to do my job every day as a surveyor for 2 weeks, no guard duty or kp, because I did my job really well and my section chief and platoon sergeant trusted me. What a kick, being out in the field on a break and getting a buzz on some BBG (Black Bubble Gum) while watching huey cobras flying NOE in the vallies with A-10’s strafing imaginary Warsaw Pact targets on a German Autobahn, ah, the memories.

    BTW, I have 2 Army Achievement Medals on my wall along with Airborne Wings and was the distinguished honor graduate candidate for my PLDC squad as a Spec 4, along with 2 letters of commendation. I also have a BA in Geography and MS in Environmental Studies and work as a janitor part time (because times are tough) and an engineering technician and environmental professional when I can get the work. So much for the amotivational stoner sterotype.

  16. Windy says:

    “The United States is no longer a democracy.”

    Uh, these united States of America has never been a democracy, our Founders hated democracy, they knew the truth of democracy, that it is a trap:

    “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what’s for dinner.” -Ben Franklin

    “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.” -Thomas Jefferson

  17. Scott says:

    U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse statement:

    “Researchers have long recognized the strong correlation between stress and substance abuse.”

    The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is our public servant hub when it comes to substance abuse.

    Given the aforementioned strong correlation (stated back in 1995 even), one should be able to safely assume the word “stress” is prominently displayed on SAMHSA’s home page (

    Out of the roughly 100 words on their home page, “stress” is not one of them.

  18. Nz says:

    Uh, these united States of America has never been a democracy, our Founders hated democracy…

    Well, according to what I was taught in school, the U.S. government was modeled after the Greeks and Romans democratic state. But I suppose they could have lied about that too.

    There is no perfect form of government, but it is my understanding that the founders went with a democratic model because it gave everyone an equal voice, more or less, in principle.

    Furthermore, they created the 3 branches, the Executive, Judicial, and Legislative, with the main purpose of checking and balancing the others. I was taught that this was also a form of democratic infrastructure because it also extended the concept of group participation.

    What we have now, however, ever since the DEA and the War on Drugs became such a domineering part of it all, has been something that the founders warned us about, which the Federalist Party has wanted all along; government run by the Executive branch alone, forcing the Judicial and Legislative branches beneath its will.

    No more checks and balances means much less of the true American democracy which was originally intended. Empowering the Executive branch has led to endless war and tyranny, just what the founders warned us about.

  19. Scott says:


    “…and to the republic for which it stands…” – U.S. Pledge of Allegiance

    Technically, the U.S. is a republic.

    Effectively, any government on Earth is an oligarchy. To understand this, you should watch the awesome “The Nature and Origin of Human Rights” (

    Each branch of government generally works against our movement, so our problem is not due to an imbalance of power there.

    What has escaped too many Americans is the right to liberty as specified in the U.S. Declaration of Independence:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, the all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men…”

    Unfortunately, too many Americans get lost in the words “men” and “Creator”, discrediting our Founding Fathers for their generation’s unethical ownership of slaves and degrading women.

    What every American needs to focus on (and pass down throughout posterity) is to the extent we realize liberty is the extent we naturally realize all rights granted to us (making our foundation much easier to learn and teach for the benefit of the masses).

    Liberty is self-evidently a naturally-given and unalienable right, without exception.

    This means that the only limit against liberty is the right itself (optimal liberty in a civilized society).

    Our public servants nor the public majority has the authority to take away your right to liberty (the power of the minority — e.g. drug users, gay people, racial minorities, etc.) Our public servants are supposed to be securing your rights, and that is where the legal lines need to be drawn (murder, assault, theft, and any other act directly infringing upon a person’s rights remain illegal).

    Of course, the U.S. Declaration of Independence is not law.

    That is where our supreme law (our Constitution) comes in with the Bill of Rights (amendment nine) saying:

    “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

    Other rights retained by the people must include the aforementioned self-evident ones.

    A critical balance of power missing is the one between the government and the governed.

    Since the latter too often fails to strongly wield the simply-defined right to liberty to publicly expose government overreach, such overreach is basically never revolted against.

    Our public servants have ironically severely revolted against the limits of power defined in our Constitution from ‘day one’, and “We the people” (the true rulers of the U.S.) have failed to put down that revolution, because we apparently do not have the power to do so.

    What they never taught you about American history is that our written national foundation (including our supreme law) was authored by rebels, arguably the greatest activists ever.

    Our nation was designed (as carefully as possible) to oppose the abuse of power similar to that exercised by the king our founding fathers rebelled against.

    Our public servants, who pay for the writing of your text books, and pay your teachers’ salaries (all with our money), and who wanted you to learn our written national foundation at an age when you do not care, do not want you to know that, because it is a legitimate challenge loudly exposing the unbelievable disaster they have unjustly created for over two centuries now.

    That disaster is the result of “We the people” allowing our public servants to rule over us, ironically abusing their power to create unjust and very crude blanket laws to go after, among other abuses, the abuse of the private sector (hint to the political left in our movement who condone such government abuse for this sake), and drug abuse.

    The New York Times recently had a piece on the “New Deal version” of our Commerce Clause (the sole “constitutional” basis for the CSA), claiming that version has given us some of the “best things” from government.

    What that piece fails to mention is to have those “best things”, all we had to do was sacrifice the power of the minority — i.e. liberty as defined in our country.

  20. Just me. says:

    @ scott and NZ.

    What I find just unreasonable/illogical is we have thousands and thousands of laws on the books. So many that any giving times you can be beaking laws and not even know it.

    To live under such a system that can criminalize you at anytime is unacceptable. Its slavery.

    I live my life according to some of the easiest laws to follow..the ten commandments. It doesnt matter if you believe in god or not, those few rules can carry you through life, we dont need thousands of laws telling us what we cant do..

    I feel in this case we should rid our selves of the cant do list and make a list of laws that says what we can do(and it will be a short one compared to the cant do list)…as the list shrinks…then maybe people will recognize thier loss of freedom and inalienable rights.

    Its too easy for this “ruling” government to vote its self powers and take away our freedoms for thier own agendas.

  21. Jon Doe says:

    Just me: I get what you’re saying as to the moral commandments (i.e. those against murder, filial impiety, theft, adultery, bearing false witness against others, and desiring another’s propriety) but how can the theological commandments (“You shall have no other gods before Me”, no making of idols, no taking the Lord’s name in vain, and observing the Sabbath) apply to (or indeed make sense) to anyone who doesn’t believe in *any* deity, let alone the God of Israel?

  22. Chris says:

    Religious values being laws in this country angers me more than most things.

  23. scott, having traveled down that road (teaching people about rights) many many times, all i can say is that you are absolutely correct.

    there is one minor problem with your assessment however: the vast majority of people don’t really give a shit.

  24. allan420 says:

    oooh… brian… no fair, pointing to the prohibs’ biggest allie. Just because there is an elephant in the room doesn’t mean you need to name it!

    Jerry Mander nailed it with his book, Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television. I remember my mother’s beseeching “but it’s [smoking ganja] escaping from reality!” My response was “watching TV is escaping reality.” It was but a few years later I had a college instructor who had never owned a TV and I was shocked. Shocked I tell ya… but I did kill my television and didn’t own one for at least 10 years or more.

    Smoking ganja isn’t an escape, it’s like putting on shades when you go outside on a sunny day…

    Hey, (back on topic) what happened to our treatment guest blogger? he should comment on this…

  25. Cliff says:

    The Constitution does not give us rights, only our Creator can. It declares specified responsibilities to the Federal Government with all remaining responsibilities and rights being left to the states and individuals.

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