Brief History. The Media Awareness Project (MAP) was established in 1995 as Internet-based and media-focused organization to serve as an information resource on drug policy issues. In 1997, MAP took the name DrugSense to better identify it with its topic. MAPinc.org has since become the most popular drug policy Web site. A more in-depth history of DrugSense and MAP development can be reviewed at http://www.drugsense.org/history.htm
Issue DrugSense Addresses. The "War on Drugs" may represent one of the greatest modern day social injustices. It has proven time and again to be expensive, ineffective, and destructive, yet it persists and has even been intensified in the wake of the tragic events surrounding September 11, 2001. The United States government now ties the increasingly unpopular drug war to its War on Terrorism, turning the focus to marijuana, first with DEA raids on patient cooperatives operating legally under California law, and then with the launch of a renewed ONDCP-sponsored advertising campaign portraying users as abettors of terrorism.
The drug war may be the most racist policy in U.S. history since slavery. Only 11% of the nation's drug users are black. However, blacks constitute almost 37% of those arrested for drug violations, more than 42% of those in federal prisons for drug violations, and almost 60% of those in state prisons for drug felonies.
With more than two million prisoners currently behind bars in the United States, the War on Drugs has made "the land of the free" responsible for incarcerating 25% of all the prisoners on earth. The U.S. holds the dubious distinction of being number one in the world for confining people behind bars, outstripping the per capita incarceration rates of Russia, China, and every other country on earth. Nearly one in four of these prisoners is a non-violent drug offender. For more drug war incarceration statistics see: http://www.csdp.org/factbook/prison.htm
In addition, the "war" approach to drug use has thwarted the development and adoption of medicines that could be potentially life saving or dramatically reduce human suffering. For centuries, people worldwide found relief from nausea, muscle spasms, pain, and depression in cannabis. But today, patients find themselves subject to arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment for using this compound as medicine. In a similar fashion, drug war hysteria has vastly overstated the social cost of Oxycontin®, thwarted the development of Ecstasy as a psychotherapeutic agent, and now threatens to remove access to common cough and cold remedies from average citizens.
The DEA's action against hemp may represent the most far-reaching consequence of drug war demagoguery. Hemp's close relationship with it's psychoactive cousin, marijuana, has almost completely stymied the potential of this versatile plant which has been used to make rope, paper, building materials, fuel, clothing, and food.
Current drug policy has failed to reduce drug abuse, particularly among young people, and may even be responsible for increased use, as witnessed by the disparity in the number of teens who have tried marijuana in the United States vs. countries like the Netherlands where marijuana laws have been relaxed. In the fact, the lowest per capita incidence of drug addiction in U.S. history harkens back the era prior to the drug war when there were no drug laws whatsoever. While few people endorse a return to laissez faire drug policies, it is obvious that many sensible alternatives to the current interdiction/incarceration model could be developed with relative ease. One such alternative has been dubbed "The Effective National Drug Control Strategy" and can be reviewed at http://www.csdp.org/edcs/.
In the name of the drug war and supposedly "protecting" citizens and children, current policy has undermined individual liberty and rights at an alarming rate. Asset forfeiture laws, mandatory minimum sentencing, inner city violence, racial profiling, an increasingly aggressive and corrupt police force, and ever increasing drug use statistics are all societal problems that can directly be traced to the War on Drugs.
Drug abuse may be bad but the drug war is worse, much worse. DrugSense neither endorses nor condones the use of what are now illegal substances, but we have come to realize that the current "cure" of the drug war is much worse than the "disease" of drug abuse. The Drug War Clock which counts off the billions of wasted dollars, unnecessary deaths, and ever increasing incarceration rates brought on by the drug war demonstrates the need for reform unequivocally at http://www.drugsense.org/wodclock.htm.
DrugSense Actions and Activities
To date, DrugSense has generated more than 265 weekly Focus Alerts. Nearly 4,000 individuals have signed up specifically as letter writing volunteers to take action on Focus Alerts. A recent Focus Alert concerning the November 4, 2002, Time Magazine cover story on marijuana generated an estimated $113,000 in advertising value for reform from LTE responses in that magazine alone. The current Focus Alert is always posted on the MAP home page at http://www.mapinc.org. The archive of all past Focus Alerts can be viewed at http://www.mapinc.org/focus.
Community Served. Anyone who believes that the current policy toward drugs and drug abuse is wrong, mean spirited, wasteful, or corrupt belongs in the DrugSense community. Polls have shown that more than 70% of Americans think that the drug war is a failure. Eighty percent or more support the medical use of marijuana. Yet, the "war" view of drugs persists and will only change when these majorities speak out. DrugSense gives this growing community a voice and a home from which to spread its message.
The reform community may represent one of the most diverse public policy activist networks. It consists of National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) as well as SSDP (Students for Sensible Drug Policy) members. Activists belong to the Unitarian Universalists for Drug Policy Reform (UUDPR) and Christians for Cannabis. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and Teachers Against Prohibition (TAP) decry current policy. Men and women from all races, soci-economic backgrounds, and political persuasions are coming together to oppose repressive drug policies and craft new solutions to this age-old problem.
Social Change Philosophy. DrugSense believes that meaningful social change comes from the ground up, from individual citizens speaking with a volume large enough to be heard by those who hold the power over change. A singular voice is often lost in the drone of society's minute-by-minute rush from one issue to another crisis. Many voices coming together, though, create a chorus loud enough to be heard above the din.
For example, LTE writing is an individual pursuit: letters are usually composed by one single person at one single point in time. But, when LTEs come together in numbers, they have a cumulative effect of influencing a publication itself. Editors have always considered single letters to be representative of a much larger proportion of readers than the few who actually take the time to write them. If a given article receives a disproportionate number of letters - often as few as a half dozen - the editorial board begins to perceive the topic as important to its readers. This results in a tendency towards additional coverage that inevitably leads to more discussion about reform. The cumulative educational impact of the LTEs - many individual voices coming together - has the additional benefit of causing the paper itself to reevaluate its views and to editorialize in favor of reforming existing policy.
DrugSense provides the forum and the tools online to bring individuals interested in drug policy reform together and create that louder voice that engenders social change.
In line with the goals of DrugSense, when the public is educated about drugs based on facts - not propaganda - and when decisions about them are made based on debate, - not dictum - more sensible solutions will be created to address the problem. But such education will not occur unless the media is challenged to present the many sides of this complex issue without bias or sensationalism.
The media is the collective voice of a free society. This collective voice consists of many competing interests. To change our system for dealing with drugs and drug abuse from one based in incarceration/interdiction to one based on public health/human rights, individuals concerned about this issue must come together to form citizen groups who actively build constituencies that will, in turn, demand that public officials change course. This public pressure exerted over time will engender a more realistic, humane, and just society.
|Organizational and Program Facts||Narrative||Evaluation||Finances|
14252 Culver Drive #328
Irvine, CA, 92604-0326