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July 21, 2010: News, Research & Events from the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy
Baker Institute Update: Understanding the harms of drug use and drug policy

Understanding the harms of drug use and drug policy

With cautious optimism, the Baker Institute Drug Policy program pursues research and open debate on local and national drug policies in the hope of developing pragmatic policies based on common sense and solid data, driven by human rights interests, and focused on reducing the death, disease, crime and suffering associated with drug use. To further this initiative, the institute recently acquired a unique and valuable resource: more than 600 recorded interviews on drug policy with a wide range of national, state and local leaders and policy experts.

The collection represents a decade of work by Houstonian Dean Becker, pictured above, who originally arranged with the New York Times Drug Policy Forum to host interviews with experts that included Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman, Harvard professor Lester Grinspoon, New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, California district judge Jim Gray and others. Encouraged by the response he received, Becker began a weekly half-hour radio program on Houston's KPFT (Pacifica) and has since added a daily three-minute program. At present, his programs are carried on 91 radio stations throughout the country.

Becker's recorded interviews, available online at the Baker Institute Drug Truth Archive, "will allow policymakers, scholars and interested citizens to learn from the experience and insight of informed people who have spent years grappling with these issues," said William Martin, who leads the Baker Institute's Drug Policy program and is the Harry and Hazel Chavanne Senior Fellow in Religion and Public Policy.

Though many of Becker's guests are critical of current drug policy, he has repeatedly invited the head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (formerly called the "Drug Czar") and other government officials to appear on his program, thus far without success. He has also interviewed a number of public officials who are approaching drug-related problems with a more thoughtful response than simply to "throw them in the can and sit on the lid." Among recent interviewees are former Houston police chief Clarence Bradford, El Paso city councilman Beto O'Rourke, Houston district attorney Pat Lykos, Harris County sheriff Adrian Garcia and Anthony Placido, chief of intelligence for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Few would dispute that illicit drug use and abuse is one of the most prominent and perplexing issues facing our society. Anyone interested in reducing the harms of drug use and drug policy will find the Baker Institute Drug Truth Archive a fascinating resource.


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The James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy is a nonpartisan public policy think tank located on the campus of Rice University in Houston, Texas. The institute's distinguished fellows and scholars research and collaborate with experts from academia, government, the media, business and private organizations on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy.
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