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

Major Accomplishments.

  • Combined, the DrugSense and MAP Web sites currently receive nearly four million hits per month. Please see http://www.drugsense.org/stats and http://www.mapinc.org/stats.

  • DrugSense and MAP Web sites are visited by more than twenty thousand people per day, resulting in our system serving more than 200,000 files daily. Visitors to DrugSense and MAP come from more than 125 countries worldwide.

  • Nearly 300,000 unique IP addresses are identified as having visited MAP web sites each month!

  • Alexis (http://www.alexa.com), an organization that tracks Web site popularity based on the number of visitors and page views, ranks MAP at number 15,428 out of the hundreds of millions of Web sites globally. This ranking is higher than that for any other drug policy Web site on either side of the debate and indicates that MAP is three times more popular than the leading governmentally funded Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) site.

  • The fully searchable DrugNews Archive of drug policy related newspaper, magazine, and Web articles now tops 102,000 full text articles, with about 500 added every week. http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/

  • Using this archive as a base, more than 12,700 Letters to the Editor (LTEs) have been published. An estimated 1,800 people participate in this letter writing effort each year.

  • These LTEs represent more than $12.7 million in equivalent advertising value. http://www.mapinc.org/lte/

  • Nearly 4,000 individuals have signed up specifically as letter writing volunteers to take action on Focus Alerts, which highlight a key drug policy news article for concentrated response. To date, DrugSense has generated 265 Focus Alerts.

  • The 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. http://www.mapinc.org/focus/

  • More than 100 drug policy focused organizations utilize one or more of DrugSense's services including Web hosting, e-mail discussion lists, newsfeeds, and technical support. http://www.drugsense.org/sitemap.htm

  • Based on the DrugNews Archive, The DrugSense Weekly electronic newsletter has been published for the last 298 consecutive weeks, reaching an estimated 20,000 readers each week. http://www.drugsense.org/current.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

  • The MAP Archive. DrugSense has been electronically collecting, cataloging, and archiving news articles about drug policy from various publications since 1996. Each week, approximately 500 new articles are added to the archive, most within 24 hours of original publication. The archive now tops 102,000 fully searchable newspaper, magazine, and Web articles on all aspects of drug policy regardless of spin.

    Hundreds of volunteers called "NewsHawks" work tirelessly to find news articles from around the world on drug policy and related issues. NewsHawks forward these articles electronically to a centralized collection point.

    Another group of volunteers called Editors place the forwarded articles into the archive, appending the e-mail address of the source publication to the article along with the article's copyright holder, author, publisher, and physical address. Specific links are also added that connect one article to another or to other Web resources. This makes replying to articles, expressing viewpoints, correcting inaccuracies, and applauding accurate reporting very easy.

    The archive has become a powerful information resource, as well as the basis for numerous other services including the DrugSense Weekly newsletter, individual and group letter writing efforts, and news feeds for scores of drug policy related groups. It has become a favorite research tool for journalists, students, academics, and activists.

  • DrugSense Weekly Newsletter. Each week, approximately twenty articles are selected from the thousands submitted by Newshawks to form the DrugSense Weekly newsletter. By providing a synopsis of the most important developments in the drug policy arena through the lens of these articles, DrugSense Weekly may represent the finest overview and analysis of drug policy developments in existence. This publication is considered a "must read" by scores of drug policy experts, journalists, researchers, and activists. The newsletter can either be read on-line or received via email. Total readership is estimated at more than 20,000 individuals per week. DrugSense has generated DrugSense Weekly for the last 298 consecutive weeks. Back issues from 1997 through 2003 can be accessed at http://www.drugsense.org/nl/2003. The newsletter provides yet another resource from which to choose important articles as candidates for writing letters or Op-eds.

  • Focus Alerts. Approximately once every other week, one article is chosen as a Focus Alert. Focus Alerts exert a particularly concentrated letter-writing effort on a specific newspaper article or editorial usually in a high profile publication with a relatively large circulation. The target article is redisplayed in its entirety on its own Web page, and a suggested letter of reply (LTE) is composed by a volunteer Focus Alert Specialist. Focus Alert e-mail messages are broadcast to a large body of volunteer letter writers. Essentially, all that a Focus Alert respondent needs to do is copy the text of the suggested letter into the body of an e-mail message, add the contact information, carbon copy MAP, and send out the message. Hopefully, the writer will modifiy letter to reflect personal views as well. MAP adds sent letters to its LTE archive at http://www.mapinc.org/lte.

  • 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.

  • Drug Policy Central. DrugSense provides Web hosting, e-mail discussion lists, and news feeds to more than 100 organizations that also wish to reform drug policy. DrugSense offers these services for free or on a reasonably priced, fee-for-service basis using sliding scale that reflects the ability of each group to pay for services rendered. A list of the groups supported by DrugSense can be found at http://www.drugsense.org/sitemap.htm Service and Web support grant guidelines can be reviewed at http://www.drugpolicycentral.com/quote.

  • MAP OnAir. In addition to text-based media sources, MAP archives broadcast media appearances and events. To advance this endeavor, a new, easy-to-use Web-based system has been created to announce and archive broadcast media appearances and events, particularly by reform advocates.

    Those who book radio talk shows, TV appearances, or other on air events or who become aware of an upcoming drug policy related show, can fill out an on-line form at http://mapinc.org/onair/new_onair.php which updates a database at http://mapinc.org/onair. This latter page alerts reformers about the date and time of the program, enabling a vast network of volunteers to watch and listen. The network can then generate follow up letters and phone calls about the program to the station(s) who broadcast it. This effort encourages further shows on drug policy topics, provides the broadcaster with additional information resources, and subsequently ensures more accurate reporting in the future.

    To date, DrugSense has arranged hundreds of radio talk show and television appearances. These futher educate the public, decision-makers, and the broadcast media about the need to reform drug policy, and they provide millions more in advertising value to reform for a relatively small promotional cost.

  • Contact Database. A new on-line database of contacts in the media, government, and business worlds has been recently been launched by MAP. It may represent one of the most extensive contact resources available to reform, one that is comparable to those published by Bacons or Burrells. Searches, for example, can focus on all newspapers within, say, a fifty-mile radius of San Francisico. A sample of its potential can be found at http://www.mapinc.org/scgi/z_contact.htm.

  • Links Database. The Drug Policy Links Database at http://www.mapinc.org/dpr.htm combines the power of the Google search engine with depth of the DrugSense and MAP databases to comb more than 355 Web sites on either side of this issue. It enables the massive number of drug policy information resources on the Internet to be as widely available to the largest audience as possible, while making these resources easy to find and use.

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.


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