Well-known scholars to debate national substance abuse policy

April 22, 1997

EDITORS: To obtain position papers written by Kleber and Nadelmann, call Deborah Gilbert, (313) 647-4411.

ANN ARBOR—Two of the nation’s most knowledgeable scholars in addiction, substance abuse and public policy will discuss and debate “Drug Abuse Policy and Harm Reduction Strategies” at a public forum, 7:15-10 p.m., May 6 in the University of Michigan Rackham Amphitheater. The forum, which will include a question and answer session, is sponsored by the U-M Substance Abuse Research Center (UMSARC).

The speakers will be: –Dr. Herbert Kleber, professor of psychiatry and director of the Division on Substance Abuse at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University. Kleber also is the executive vice president of the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, a policy center founded with Joseph A. Califano Jr. Kleber was deputy director for Demand Reduction, Office of National Drug Control Policy, in the Bush administration.

–Ethan A. Nadelmann, director of the Lindesmith Center in New York. The Lindesmith Center, a policy and research institute created in 1994, focuses on the development of alternative harm reduction strategies for drugs, including decriminalization and selective legalizations for certain drugs.

Author of “Cops Across Borders: The Internationalization of U.S. Criminal Law Enforcement,” Nadelmann was assistant professor of politics and public affairs in the Department of Politics and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University in 1987-94.

Kleber will argue that legalization of drugs would be extremely deleterious to public health. Nadelmann will counter that selective legalization and decriminalization merits serious consideration. Both speakers will discuss the widespread domestic and international consequences of the different approaches.

Ovide F. Pomerleau, director of UMSARC, will host the event and Kenneth E. Warner, U-M professor of health management and policy, will moderate the question and answer session.

“We hope to bring a rigorous scientific and research focus to bear on this intransigent social problem by reframing the problem in terms of public health consequences and attempt to identify the scientific research that will be needed to guide substance abuse policy in the future,” said Pomerleau. “We will consider the nature of the scientific evidence for the nation’s current policy stance, explore the similarities and differences among the various drugs of abuse, and discuss appropriate methods for managing social behavior in a free society.

“We also will be exploring whether there are new or different policy options available than legalization, decriminalization, medicalization, or ‘just say no’ campaigns.”

The conference is funded in part by the Office of Substance Abuse Services, Michigan Department of Community Health.

U-M Substance Abuse Research CenterDivision on Substance AbuseLindesmith CenterKenneth E. WarnerMichigan Department of Community Health