Naked City

Let's Imprison Everybody!

It's been a busy couple of weeks for top drug cop John Walters, head of the White House Office of the National Drug Control Policy. In a July 19 Wall Street Journal op-ed, Walters lamented the vagaries of drug legalization proponents, predictably regurgitating the same ol' prohibition-friendly arguments: Pro-legalization folks are wrong about potential benefits, and drug legalization would not reduce violence or addiction (and in fact would increase both). "Legalizers overstate the social costs of prohibition just as they understate the social costs of legalization," he wrote. Midway through his editorial, Walters questions which civil liberties -- if any -- should be afforded to drug users should drugs be legalized.

"The idea that we can 'solve' our complex drug problem by simply legalizing drugs raises more questions than it answers," Walters wrote. "For instance, what happens to the citizenship of those legally addicted? Will they have their full civil rights, such as voting? Can they be employed as school bus drivers? Nurses?"

Drug prohibition foes quickly countered. Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Foundation, called Walters' statements "absurd." "Walters' extreme views regarding the denial of basic civil liberties to drug users demonstrates how truly out of step he and the Bush administration are with both the majority of Americans and the world when it comes to crafting an effective drug control policy," St. Pierre said. (He might well have asked exactly what Walters has been smoking.)

On July 25, according to San Francisco Chronicle columnist Rob Morse, Walters met with his paper's editorial board to discuss medical marijuana. Earlier that week, a city supervisor had suggested San Fran might consider growing its own pot to supply medical marijuana users, as nonprofit dispensaries increasingly have come under fire from fed-led raids despite a statewide medical marijuana initiative passed by California voters in 1996. But the ultimate irony took place outside the front doors of the daily's offices, Morse noted. "Thursday morning the Bush administration's drug czar, John Walters, pulled up in front of the Chronicle with a California Highway Patrol and Secret Service escort," Morse wrote. "Two minutes after the drug czar went into the building, a homeless guy staggered by smoking a joint. The CHP and Secret Service guys didn't bat an eye."

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More by Jordan Smith
'Chrome Underground' Goes Classic Car Hunting
'Chrome Underground' Goes Classic Car Hunting
Motoreum's Yusuf & Antonio talk about the biz and their reality TV debut

May 22, 2014

APD Brass Shifts Up, Down, Across
APD Brass Shifts Up, Down, Across
Musical chairs at Downtown HQ

May 9, 2014

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle