The following is a rewriting for publication of my notes I entitled "A Friendly Rape." This is the New Improved version, with a new title. --Peter McWilliams
"It's Four in the Morning, the End of December."
It is December 18, 1997, 6:24 a.m. Twenty-four hours ago I was working in my living room-office on my computer next to a fire sort of high-tech meets Abe Lincoln. It was not yet dawn, and I had been working most of the night. Leonard Coen's "Famous Blue Raincoat" begins, "It's four in the morning, the end of December." It's a special time of night and a special time of year. The rest of the world has gone quite mad with Christmas, and I am left blessedly alone to get some work done.
A hard pounding on the door accompanied by shouts of "Police! Open Up!" broke the silence, broke my reverie, and nearly broke down the door. I opened the door wearing standard writer's attire, a bathrobe, and was immediately handcuffed. I was taken outside my house while Drug Enforcement Administration agents ran through my house, guns drawn, commando-style. They were looking, I suppose, for the notorious, well-armed, highly trained Medical Marijuana Militia. To the DEA, I am the ruthless Godfather of the notorious Medicine Cartel. Finding nothing, I was taken back into my home, informed I was not under arrest, and--still in handcuffs--ordered to sit down. I was merely being "restrained," I was told, so the DEA could "enforce the search warrant."
I was told the DEA had a search warrant, but none was immediately produced. Over time, more and more of it was placed on a table nearby. I was never told the reasons why a federal judge thought it important enough to override the Fourth Amendment of the Supreme Law of the Land and issue search warrants for my Los Angeles home of eleven years, my new home (two-doors down), and the offices of my publishing company, Prelude Press, Inc., about a mile away. The reasons, I was told, were in an affidavit "under seal."
In other words, I have no way of determining if this is a "reasonable" search and seizure. The DEA agents could have written the judge, "We've never seen the inside of a writer's house before and we'd like to have a look. Also, those New York federal judges are very touchy about letting us go into those New York publishing houses, so can we have a look at Prelude Press, too?" Whatever the reason, I was in handcuffs, and the nine DEA agents and at least one IRS Special Agent put on rubber gloves and systematically went through every piece of paper in my house. (Were the rubber gloves because I have AIDS, or are they just careful about leaving fingerprints?")
I should point out, as I promised them I would, that I was never "roughed up." The DEA agents were, at all times, polite, if not overtly friendly. During the three hours of their search, the DEA agents would ask me tentative, curious questions about my books, as though we had just met at an autographing party. They would admire my art, as though they were invited guests into my home. They would call me by my first name, although I am old enough to be the parental unit of any of them.
A DEA Special Agent (not just one of those worker-bee agents) made it a point to tell me that the DEA has a reputation for busting into people's homes, physically abusing them, and destroying property, all in the name of "reasonable search and seizure." This, the DEA agent reminded me on more than one occasion, was not taking place during this search and seizure. I agreed, and promised to report that fact faithfully. I have now done so.
I suppose the DEA considers this a step up, and I suppose I agree, but there was an eerie, perhaps more frightening aspect about having bright (for the most part), friendly, young people systematically attempting to destroy my life. I do not use the word destroy lightly. DEA agents are intensively trained to fight a war, the War on Drugs, and in that war I am the enemy a fact I readily admit. The DEA, therefore, fights me with the only tools it has going through my home, arresting me, putting me in jail for the rest of my life, assets forfeituring everything I own, selling it, and using the money to hire more DEA Special Agents to fight the War on Drugs. From these young people's point of view, invading my home is an act of patriotism.
In a DEA agent's mind, because I have had the nerve to speak out against the War on Drugs, I'm not just an enemy, but a traitor. In 1993, I published "Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in Our Free Country." In this Libertarian tome--endorsed by a diverse group including Milton Freidman, High Downs, Archbishop Tutu, and Sting--I explored in some detail the War on Drugs' unconstitutionality, racism, anti-free market basis, deception, wastefulness, destructiveness, and un-winability. I see it as one of the darkest chapter in American history, the greatest evil in our country today.
My view is at odds, obviously, with the last line of DEA Administrator Thomas Constantine's 1995 essay, The Cruel Hoax of Legalization: "Legalizing drugs is not a viable answer or a rational policy; it is surrender." According to Administrator Constantine, I and "many proponents of drug legalization," are "wealthy members of the elite who live in the suburbs and have never seen the damage that drugs and violence have wrought on poor communities, and for whom legalization is a abstract concept." An abstract concept such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Administrator Constantine throws down the gauntlet, "Let's ask proponents some of the hard questions that arise from their simplistic proposal." All right, let's. Here, then, in order, are all the withering questions Administrator Constantine dares us "legalizers" to answer. I shall venture where wise men have already tread and submit myself to the Administrator's withering scrutiny.
"Would we legalize all drugs--cocaine, heroin, and LSD, as well as marijuana?"
"Who could obtain these drugs--only adults?"
As with cigarettes and alcohol, sale will be restricted to adults, but we can't pretend children will have any less access to drugs when they are legal than they do today when they are not. We can only hope that if we tell kids the truth about drugs all drugs they will listen when we advise them not to take any drugs, except medicines, until their nervous systems have developed. As with driving a car, voting, or not having to learn anything anymore, some pleasures are reserved for adults. Those young people who do not follow this sound advice will at least know which drugs are least harmful (marijuana) and which are most (inhaling airplane glue, PCP and, long-term, tobacco) and experiment accordingly.
"Who would distribute these drugs--private companies, doctors or the government?"
Oh, not the government, please. Did you ever try to buy a bottle of good wine in a state where alcohol is sold only in government-run stores? "Red wine is in the cooler over there and white wine is over here and pink wines are in the middle." So, please, not the government. Doctors should certainly be able to prescribe whatever medication they determine patients need, but most drug use is recreational and educational, not medicinal. That leaves hooray!--"private companies". Yes, free enterprise, capitalism, the open market these will take care of manufacture and distribution, create new jobs, and remove the criminal element almost overnight. Best of all, it won't cost the taxpayer's a thing. In fact, these companies will even pay taxes. This may not be a comfortable thought to Administer Constantine--who uses "libertarian" and "open society" as pejoratives, the way Senator McCarthy used "communist"--but capitalism is the economic system we fought a 40-year Cold War to maintain, so I guess we're stuck with it.
"Should the inner city be the central distribution point, or should we have drug supermarkets in Scarsdale, Chevy Chase and the Main Line?"
What a fascinating plan to rejuvenate the inner cities. Since the War on Drugs turned ghettos into war zones and death traps, why not let the inner cities profit from the influx of entrepreneurial money that is sure to follow legalization? Turn every Enterprise Zone into a Legal Drug Zone. The trouble with this plan, of course, is that it would require a government program, which means things will only get worse. [Note to self: e-mail Harry Browne and ask him to send an autographed copy of Governments Don't Work to Administrator Constantine, along with a bottle Scotch. Audiobook version preferred.] Enough government meddling. Legalize drugs and let the free market determine where the drug supermarkets will be, just as it determines the location of bars, liquor stores, and pharmacies.
"How much are we willing to pay to address the costs of increased drug use?"
The Administrator just doesn't get it, does he? The costs of "increased drug use", should there be any increased drug use, and should there be any costs involved with this increased use, these costs will be borne by the individual user, who will have a lot more money because he or she will no longer be paying outrageously inflated drug prices and will also get to keep the taxes normally collected and wasted on the $50-billion-a-year War on Drugs.
"How will we deal with the black market that will surely be created to satisfy the need for cheaper, purer drugs?"
No, no, Administrator Constantine, it's called a "free market" not a "black market." A black market is what we have now because you and your Special Agents have driven a much-demanded commodity underground. Legalization will again create a free market, where drugs will be pure, dosages known, strength uniform, and prices very reasonable, as determined by the laws of supply and demand. (As Director Comstantine is obviously not a reading man, perhaps someone could send him a video of Milton Freidman's PBS series Free to Choose. Label it "Advanced Drug Intervention Techniques" just to make sure he watches it.)
"And when the legalizers answer all these questions, ask them this:"
Oh, boy, the $50-billion-dollar 700,000,000-prisoner-question. Give me a moment to compose myself. All right, Administrator Constantine, shoot no, wait, I mean, let's hear the question."
"Can we set up a pilot legalization program on your block?"
Oh, absolutely! I'll make a fortune just selling roadmaps to my neighborhood. In fact, I'll finance the whole endeavor. Give me a government-guaranteed monopoly on legal drug sales for, say, the next five years. Consider it your "pilot program." I'll let you know how it works out. Alas, it is painfully evident that Administrator Constantine, having spent a lifetime in governmental bureaucracy, simply does not understand there is no need for a "pilot legalization program" any more than we needed a "pilot let-women-vote program" in 1919 or a "pilot make-alcohol-legal-again program" in 1932. The government only needs to get out of the way and let the free market take it from there.
Thus endeth Administrator Constantine's series of questions no "legalizer" could possibly endure. As none of my answers are in any way new, one must wonder if the Administrator has ever read any of the answers before. In this country alone, they go back to Jefferson ("A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement"), didn't miss Lincoln ("A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded"), and even visited George Bush when William Bennett wasn't around ("You cannot federalize morality"). (I someday plan to stage Othello with George Bush as Othello, William Bennett as Iago, and drugs as Desdemona.)
I guess you can see why the DEA doesn't like me. The Drug War is another Viet Nam, most of the drug warriors know it, and they have no intention of becoming the homeless people so many Viet Nam veterans have tragically become. Smart drug warriors. So, the DEA doesn't like me, and I must admit, by DEA standards, I'm pretty bad.
But when I got sick, I got even worse.
In mid-March 1996 I was diagnosed with both AIDS and cancer. (Beware the Ides of March, indeed.) I had not smoked marijuana or used any other illicit drug for decades prior to this (a decision I now regret). I owe my life to modern medical science and to one ancient herb. Since then, I have been an outspoken advocate of medical marijuana. In 1996, before the passage of California Proposition 215, I donated office space to a cannabis club so it could sell marijuana to the sick; started the Medical Marijuana Magazine on-line in February 1997; testified in favor of medical marijuana before the California Medical Examiners Board and the National Academy of Sciences; and as a medical marijuana advocate in or on numerous media, including CNN, MSNBC, The Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, United Press International, CBS Radio Network, and dozens more.
For a sick guy, I've been around. (Actually, I've been around, and that's how I got to be a sick guy, but that's another story.) Most disturbing to the DEA, I would guess, was my strong criticism of it a two-page ad I placed in the December 1, 1997 "Daily Variety." I denounced Administrator Constantine's threat to criminally investigate the creators of Murphy Brown for Murphy's fictional medical marijuana use. With comments such as, "The DEA gives the phrase 'ambulance chasing' a whole new meaning," I'm surprised it took the DEA seventeen days to find my house--but then, they are part of the government.
About two weeks before my DEA Christmas visitation, the Medical Marijuana Magazine on-line announced it would soon be posting portions of the book about medical marijuana I have been working on, A Question of Compassion An AIDS Cancer Patient Explores Medical Marijuana. My publishing company announced books would ship in January. This brings us back to my computer and the DEA agents' almost immediate interest in it. My computer and its back-up drives, which the DEA also took, contained the entirety of my creative output most of it unpublished for the almost-two years since my diagnosis. My central project has been the above-mentioned book and a filmed documentary with the same title. (I'm gonna get my Oscar yet!) Being a fair, balanced, objective view of medical marijuana in the United States, the book is unscathingly critical of the DEA.
So, they took the computer, backup copies from the computer, and most of my research materials on medical marijuana. "That is the equivalent of entering the New York Times and walking away with the printing machinery," was the analogy William F. Buckley, Jr., correctly made when he heard about it. If I don't get it back, I will be looking at least six months additional work to get to where I was, and redoing what you've already done is disheartening at best.
Not only am I in shock from having been invaded and seeing my "children" kidnapped (writers have an odd habit of becoming attached to their creative output), but every time I go for something from a peanut butter cup to a magazine it's not there. Something is there, but it's not what was there twenty-four hours before. Everything reeks of nine different fragrances like the men's cologne department at Macy's. My address books were also taken not just copied, but taken. As you can imagine, all this is most disorienting, especially for a born again marijuana addict such as myself.
A few random observations:
Philosophically, or at least stoically, one could say all this is part of my research into medical marijuana and those who oppose it especially into those who oppose it. The problem is, I'm not sure what I've learned. One of two scenarios surfaces, one more frightening than the next.
Scenario One: The DEA, angered by my criticism and fearful of more, decided to intimidate me and to have a free peek at my book in the bargain.
Scenario Two: The DEA--caught in a blind, bureaucratic feeding frenzy--is just now, five months later, getting around to investigating my connection as possible financier of Todd McCormick's "Medical Marijuana Mansion" or even--gasp!--that I grew some for myself. This means that in order to justify the arrest of Todd McCormick a magnificent blunder they are now coming after me, a magnificent blubber.
On the way out, one of the DEA agents said, "Have a nice day."
I believe the comment was sincere.