‘War on Drugs’ opponent sees legal reform as human rights issue

OSLO — “War on Drugs” opponent Ethan Nadelmann explained that while he’s still a regular pot smoker, he subscribes to what you could call the Yom Kippur rule with psychedelic drugs.

“As a Jew, I fast once a year on Yom Kippur, and I think that’s a good thing to do: It’s good for the soul,” the son of a rabbi explained to The Daily Caller outside Oslo’s Christiania Theater on a pleasant and sunny May afternoon.

“I think it’s good to just have those moments of reflection, and in the same way I actually think that doing a psychedelic once a year is a good thing to do. I think it stirs up the emotional sediment. I think it keeps you honest as you grow older.”

Nadelmann was in Norway for the Oslo Freedom Forum, a conference that attracted slaves and dissidents from the world’s most oppressive societies to share their tales of horror and terror. It also attracted Nadelmann, who attended the conference to speak about what he views as a similarly grave human rights abuse: America’s war on drugs.

“There’s half a million people locked up tonight in the United States for violating the drug law — not for violent crime, not for predatory crime, but for engaging in an activity which our grandparents or great-grandparents could have, and may well have, engaged in entirely legally,” Nadelmann said, arguing that his cause is every bit on the same level as those of other conference presenters.

“When you take people away from their families, when you put them behind bars, when you give them a number, when you may require labor from them for which they are paid little or no money whatsoever, when they are sometimes sent to places of incarceration that are far away from their homes, deprived of access to their spouses and their children, you know, deprived of any legitimate sexual relationships, all of that — that represents the closest thing to slavery in contemporary America.”

But isn’t it within the rights of a democratic republic to choose whether drugs should be legal or illegal, or what penalties should be imposed for consuming narcotics? Is that really morally out-of-bounds?

“[W]hen a majority is oppressing a minority, that can also involve human rights,” Nadelmann argued. “[I]t’s that basic notion of the discrimination against people based solely about what they choose to put in their body, rather than the harm they do to others.”

Nadelmann’s life work has been fighting to change America’s drug policy. A Harvard Law School graduate who also holds a Harvard Ph.D. in government, he focused his early academic work on U.S. foreign policy and the Middle East before turning his attention to international criminal law enforcement and transnational crime.