Presentation of the 1999 Richard J. Dennis Drug Peace Award to Arnold S. Trebach, Ph.D., J.D. by Jeffrey A. Schaler, Ph.D., on behalf of the Drug Policy Foundation, May 15, 1999, Decatur House, Washington, D.C.
A few days ago, Arnold and I returned from testifying in an important and dramatic civil case in London centered on the rights of a doctor to prescribe an opioid called Diconal to an amphetamine user.
When I finished my testimony as an expert witness there we talked about what I said on the stand.
"Good job," Arnold said, as we walked out of Court. "I winced at one thing you said," he continued.
"What was that," I asked.
"When the Defendant's Barrister asked you what you thought of addiction specialists you said 'junk science.' The Judge asked you to repeat it and again you said "what addiction specialists do is based in junk science.' The judge wrote it down."
Here we go again, I thought.
He paused and added, "I'm not saying I disagree with you. I'm just saying I winced."
Knowing Arnold the way I have for 11 years now, that was a milestone in our relationship.
I considered adopting a "wince-reduction approach" here this evening. However, I didn't consider it for very long. As Arnold often says, "this is real life."
I will issue this warning regarding what I'm going to say in the beginning of this short speech and it is this: You're responsible for your own wincing. Wincing is not a disease. Wincing is a choice. Things are caused, wincing has reasons. There is no such thing as a "wincer." That is a socially- constructed label. Everyone winces differently, for different reasons. Since wincing is not a disease, it cannot be treated.
And by the way, my warning is entirely inconsistent with one recently issued by the Surgeon General. Fortunately, I have a copy of the Surgeon General's warning here on my key chain. A student of mine thought I ought to keep it handy, so he left it in my mailbox at American University, after he took the exam for "Drugs, Consciousness, and Human Fulfillment," one of several courses I've taught there that Arnold created. The key chain reads: "WARNING: The Surgeon General has determined that doing anything, anytime, anywhere, with anyone may be hazardous to your health. Have a nice day."
In fact, this is where the slippery slope of scapegoating, the alcohol temperance movement, and the drug war is taking us.
There is a not-so-subtle irony in being asked by Arnold to introduce him here this evening. To be sure, we have had our differences since we first met at Kurt Schmoke's workshop in Baltimore in 1988, where diverse leaders in the drug policy field came together in preparation of testimony on drug legalization before Representative Charles Rangel's House Select Committee on Narcotics Control.
I used to be quite involved with DPF when Arnold first got things under way. I was excited to know I was not alone: There were so many other people who had been ostracized, persecuted, scapegoated and branded as heretics for criticizing the federal government's war on people called the war on drugs. I remember bringing up the issue of drug legalization at a meeting of the Montgomery County Drug Abuse Advisory Council in 1987 as chairman of that council, and struggling with council members who said they wanted the fact that I'd even brought up the issue of drug legalization stricken from the minutes of our meeting. Today, drug legalization is discussed openly and in "respectable" quarters.
Then I drifted away from DPF because, in my opinion, it adopted a public health approach to drug use. I saw (and still do) see the public health approach to drug use as yet another tool of the therapeutic state, the dangerous union of medicine and state, much as church and state were once united.
Arnold knew my position too well: Our students at American University went back and forth to his classes and mine, and I knew they were driving him crazy with my position against medicalization, constantly questioning him about how treatment could exist if addiction wasn't a disease.
So we drifted apart, even though I think we felt very much connected in many ways in so far as our students were concerned. We both see the future in our students. Arnold created the drug courses in the Department of Justice, Law, and Society and I have been teaching those courses for the past nine years. And it is especially rewarding to see how many of the people who run the daily operations of DPF now, including this conference, are former students of Arnold's. I think that is evidence of his good work and influence.
Back to the irony: I remember Kevin Zeese telling me how he thought my position was "senseless" years ago when I asserted that a public health approach to drug use was worse than prohibition. At least, I argued, via prohibition people knew why they were in jail. With medicalization came mind control and all kinds of religious indoctrination masquerading as medicine. I sided with Tom Szasz and opposed the medical marijuana movement advocated by Arnold and probably 99% of drug policy reformers, again because I thought, and still think, it is simply another instrument of the therapeutic state. Drugs are property. People have a right to drugs as property. So, there was a lot regarding drug policy that Arnold and I disagreed on.
However, I don't think we ever disagreed on the harm done to people through drug prohibition. We both thought the war-on-people masquerading as a war-on- drugs is essentially a religious war. We disagreed on the means to eliminating the harm caused by drug warriors.
And I admit I was surprised at this same time last year when Arnold called and asked if we could meet and talk about working together. He was not happy with politics at DPF and was retiring from American University. He said he wanted to commit his energies to doing what he really wanted to do now, and not worry about what others might think of him. Can you imagine? This from a man who had shocked the public policy and academic world with his stance against drug prohibition back in the 1980s?
In fact we found out we have a lot of values in common and we set to work immediately: We developed a curriculum for a master's degree in advanced drug policy studies that American University wants to implement in some capacity. We formed a non-profit educational organization called "The Trebach Institute" and are planning to run intensive seminars in drug policy on a scholarship basis for outstanding students from around the world. We created a for- profit professional consulting firm focused on protecting the rights of doctors to engage in contractual relationships with their patients. And we have worked very hard on the case I mentioned in England. As a matter of fact, work on that case has been so consuming we've had little time for much else.
In other words, despite what I thought were critical ideological differences between Arnold and myself, we have managed to create a whole new way of affecting and implementing drug policy reform.
And this is what Arnold calls "retirement?"
And through this process of working together again in the past year, I have come to appreciate what Arnold has done over the past 11 years in an even deeper way.
Here is a mensch, a "real person"--a visionary who does what he thinks is important regardless of what others may think of him. And as we all know, it is not easy to break from the herd.
The population of drug policy reformers, like the population of people who use legal and illegal drugs, is a heterogeneous one--substantial differences exist among those who are generally opposed to drug prohibition. What Arnold did in the 1980s is bring people together. And now that he has completed that gestalt he has moved on to creating new ways of implementing social change based in a deep respect for liberty and justice. Just as the realization of his vision of drug policy reform in the 1980s required tremendous courage and self-confidence, so too does his new vision of social change.
Some of you are surprised to see us working together, let alone by the fact that I am speaking to you here tonight.
In fact, I nominated Arnold for this award because I consider him "the father of drug policy reform." He created the Drug Policy Foundation. He created these awards. He has brought the diverse world of drug policy reformers together--and that effort deserves recognition and praise. In many ways, Arnold's name is now synonymous with drug policy reform. Moreover, he has been instrumental in making "drug legalization" a household word.
I think it's important for everyone here this evening to not only step back and think about how Arnold was essentially responsible for bringing everyone together, but to also recognize that he was a leader in getting the whole drug policy reform movement on the track. Much more energy and effort is required to get a train moving in the beginning. Once it gets moving comparatively less energy is required--a momentum is established and the train "carries itself." Arnold's initial work took a tremendous amount of courage and energy. I think it's important to acknowledge his innovation, courage, understanding, and outstanding leadership in this regard.
And that is why we are here together this evening. This despite our differences, or, if there are no differences, despite the "wincing from words."
It is also important to acknowledge, as one academic to another, the fact that Arnold has helped and mentored thousands of students and colleagues. His popular courses on drug policy at American University have changed students' lives forever.
Without a doubt, Arnold has done more to advance the cause of drug policy reform than any person who has received any of the awards given by the Drug Policy Foundation since he created these very awards in 1988.
Therefore, it is a great honor and pleasure to present to you, Arnold S. Trebach, on behalf of the Drug Policy Foundation, the 1999 Richard J. Dennis Drugpeace Award.
© Copyright Jeffrey A. Schaler, 1997-2002 unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.