Drug Issue

I was fired from Stanford in 1991 in a high-profile case for protesting the war on drugs. There is a lot I could write about this, but for now, I'll just hit some of the main points.

At the time, people seemed to consider me either a hero or a villain. I didn't feel like either. I was conducting a life experiment. I had been reading a lot of libertarian literature and I was finding myself increasingly concerned about government power. The war on drugs was escalating at the time. Most people probably don't remember that the Reagan and Bush administrations tried to eliminate the notion of responsible drug use. All use was abuse and we had to do whatever it took to win the war on drugs, even if that involved ignoring the bill of rights and lying to young people.

This led to people becoming afraid to speak up about the drug war and about their own drug experiences. They thought their job might be in jeopardy if they dared to even suggest an idea like legalization of marijuana.

The issue came to Stanford in the form of a zero-tolerance policy required by The Drug Free Schools and Community Act. Everyone agreed that we didn't want this policy, but we were required to have it anyway. I responded by publishing an article in the Stanford Daily about my own drug use and writing to various government officials about it.

Below are three documents that explore this initial phase of the controversy.

The drug czar responded to my letter by writing to Stanford's president, Donald Kennedy, basically saying that I should be fired. When I spoke to a Washington Post reporter about it Stanford immediately put me on paid administrative leave. I spent the next two weeks handling media requests and having long discussions in many of the dorms on campus (often lasting 3 or 4 hours).

CBS Evening News flew a crew from New York out to Stanford to produce a segment for the nightly news broadcast. I was also invited to be a guest on various other TV programs including Crier & Company, CBS Night Watch, Crossfire, and Larry King Live. Below are three of the more interesting pieces (more are linked on my videos page).

Many people have mentioned to me that the newspaper coverage of my case was even more impressive than my TV appearances. I include below the two earliest pieces, one from the Washington Post and one from the New York Times. There were also pieces written by the Boston Globe, USA Today, the LA Times, the Associated Press, and, of course, the Stanford Daily. I was also interviewed by Richard Stratton for the September, 1991 issue of High Times.

On May 11, 1991, Stanford fired me. Many people have wondered whether I am ashamed of what happened or whether I regret it. It was certainly painful to be banished from Stanford, but I don't regret what I did. I learned a great deal through this life experiment.

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last updated 05/02/2021