Ethan Nadelmann: The Real Drug Czar
Submission Date: June 6, 2013
Attributing Author: Tim Dickinson
Source: Rolling Stone
Weed Issue: Rolling Stone’s Special Coverage of Marijuana in America.
he driving force for the legalization of marijuana in America – a frenetic, whip-smart son of a rabbi who can barely tell indica from sativa – has just entered enemy territory. Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, is here in California’s crucible of conservatism, Orange County, to talk about the failure of the War on Drugs and why the government should leave pot smokers alone. As a grizzled ex-DEA agent glares at him from the audience of a lecture hall on the campus of U.C. Irvine, it’s clear that this crowd has not gathered to celebrate cannabis culture. And that’s just the way Nadelmann likes it.
For more than two decades, Nadelmann has built a broad-based movement for reform on the strength of a strategic insight that’s both simple and profound: The fight against repressive drug laws isn’t about championing the rights of drug users – even of a substance as popular as marijuana. It’s about fighting against federal overreach and the needless human toll of drug prohibition. Before Nadelmann joined the cause some 20 years ago, marijuana legalization was an orphan crusade of hippies handing out leaflets at Dead shows and outlaw growers with bumper stickers demanding U.S. OUT OF HUMBOLDT COUNTY! Today, thanks in large part to Nadelmann’s efforts, pot is fully legal in two states and available medically in 16 others. “He is the single most influential policy entrepreneur on any domestic issue,” says John DiIulio, a longtime drug warrior and tough-on-crime academic who has recently come around to Nadelmann’s side on marijuana policy. “He wore me down,” DiIulio says. “What can I say?”