Ethan Nadelmann at the conference

Video of keynote address by Ethan Nadelmann at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Washington DC available here.

Early on in his talk, he discussed how we lose track of the lessons from history, and he mentioned about how few young people know about McCarthyism and what we went through in that period and reflected:

“and just thinking about the war on drugs and where we lie now, because what happened in the late 1980s and 1990s, and for that matter under Nixon in the 70s, but truly in the 80s and 90s and into the first decade of this century, was something like McCarthyism on steroids.

It resembled McCarthyism in that it played on real fears of the American people — fears about drugs coming into our country, fears about junkies and drug addicts and drug dealers, and all sorts of things. It played on that. But what it also shared in common, was the fact that almost everybody went along. Almost everybody went along. Not just white people, but black people and brown people leaders and followers, people around the world. It became almost a great global consensus where America and Cuba and Libya and Russia could all agree on something, which was that we needed a global war on drugs no matter the cost or the consequences.

And what pains me about today, is that we barely know our history. And that there has been no accountability. That the Joe McCarthys of the drug war still stand strong and still get honor in our societies and have not been called out.”


Later on in the talk, another good sound bite: “Drug policy reform is many things, but it is foremost a movement for liberty and freedom.”

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