Either you support the failed Drug War party line, or your opinion isn't welcome. That seems to be the policy at a U.S. government-sponsored substance treatment conference in Chicago next week. Innovative solutions like legalization aren't even allowed at the table.
A group of police officers, judges and prosecutors who support legalizing and regulating drugs is crying foul after a federal agency reneged on a contract that gave the law enforcers a booth to share their anti-prohibition views at the Chicago conference.
After accepting registration payment from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at first told the police group that its booth was being cancelled at the National Conference on Women, Addiction and Recovery "because of overbooking and space concerns."
|So much for open debate. Sharon Amatetti of SAMHSA told LEAP that it was being disinvited from the conference due to its legalization viewpoint.|
However, Sharon Amatetti of SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Treatment later informed LEAP that, in a decision going all the way up to SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde's office, the group was actually being disinvited for its viewpoint.
"It's alarming that the federal government is trying to silence the voices of front-line police officers who just want to network and collaborate with treatment professionals to achieve our shared goal of preventing substance abuse through effective public policy," said Neill Franklin, a former narcotics cop who was with the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department, and is now executive director of LEAP.
"Perhaps the administration was most concerned that LEAP's law enforcers planned to shine a spotlight on the fact that under President Obama, the White House's drug control budget maintains the same two-to-one funding ratio in favor of harsh enforcement tactics over effective public health approaches," Franklin said.
|Photo: C. David Freitag|
|Neill Franklin, LEAP: "It's alarming that the federal government is trying to silence the voices of front-line police officers"|
The police group is not welcome at the event because "our policy perspective and our policy objectives are different from you guys," Pamela Rodriguez, of conference co-hosts TASC Inc., told LEAP in a phone call.
"It is the emphasis on prohibition vs. legalization that, for me at least, is the glaring dissonance with regard to our agenda," Rodriguez said, evidently forgetting that SAMHSA is supposed to be a drug treatment group, not a law enforcement organization.
SAMHSA has since refunded LEAP's registration money.
The conference takes place July 26-28 at Chicago's Downtown Magnificent Mile Marriott Hotel.