cannabisnews.com: Hollywood Movie `Traffic' Jolts Debate 





Hollywood Movie `Traffic' Jolts Debate 
Posted by FoM on March 18, 2001 at 17:59:59 PT
By Frank Davies
Source: Miami Herald
Traffic, a gritty, R-rated Hollywood movie that suggests the Washington-led war on drugs is a lost cause, is having more impact on the debate about drug policy these days than any public official, including the president.One reason is that Bush says little about the issue and has not named a drug czar. But a more important reason may be the movie's popularity. It has earned $99 million in 11 weeks and jolted the often predictable discussion in the nation's capital over what to do about drugs.
Traffic, a nominee for Best Picture at next Sunday's Oscar ceremonies, tells the story of a top U.S. anti-drug official, played by Michael Douglas, who is devastated by his daughter's cocaine addiction and becomes disillusioned by empty rhetoric in Washington. It's an ambitious look at how drugs can cripple many lives: a courageous Mexican cop trying to survive rampant corruption in his effort to stop drug traffickers; U.S. drug agents struggling to stem a flood of smuggling.In recent weeks, Washington has seen this impact: President Andrťs Pastrana of Colombia arranged for a screening of Traffic attended by members of Congress, diplomats and policymakers.``That was a smart thing for Pastrana to do and somewhat bold, and it had everybody talking,'' said Bernard Aronson, a former assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs. ``The movie has captured the mood of Washington and some of the ambivalence about what to do.''Colombia is the recent beneficiary of $1.3 billion in supplemental U.S. aid to help eradicate drugs. At a Senate committee hearing last week on a bill to spend $900 million more for drug prevention and treatment, senators cited the movie as a common reference point. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the bill's sponsor, used a scene from Traffic to make the case for greater efforts to reduce demand for drugs.``I was struck when the drug czar, played by Michael Douglas, questions the lack of emphasis placed on drug treatment,'' Leahy said. ``The comment that stood out most for me was, how can we fight a `war on drugs' when the enemies are drug users who are members of ordinary American families?'' One by one, officials are taking in the movie, often with a younger family member. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., saw it with his 16-year-old daughter. He later told commentator Arianna Huffington, ``It had a very powerful effect -- it's caused me to rethink our policies and priorities.'' President Bush was asked by Barbara Walters on ABC's 20/20 about the movie and ``its premise that the war on drugs is a failure, and many Americans feel that way. Can a president do anything about that?''Bush, who once overcame a drinking problem, responded: ``I think we need to examine all policies in terms of treatment. I think we ought to focus on treatment programs that work.''Public Reaction:The film continues to generate debate elsewhere, too.``The film has moved the debate over drugs from the op-ed pages into the popular culture,'' said Kevin Zeese, president of Common Sense for Drug Policy, which opposes many current drug laws, such as bans on the use of marijuana for medical purposes. ``Stephen Soderbergh [the director] has tapped into the public's unease about what government is doing.''Critics of the drug war say the movie exposes the futility of law enforcement's expensive efforts to stop smuggling. Some activists, including supporters of interdiction, praise the film for its graphic depiction of a teenager in the throes of addiction and prostitution.``Right now, a movie is bringing drug issues into the forefront of the public debate -- not the president,'' said Manon McKinnon, a conservative drug policy analyst who supports Bush.In fact, this week, starting Monday night, ABC's Nightline will broadcast a five-part series on Traffic and a variety of drug issues -- the first time the show has given such attention to a movie.Anchor Ted Koppel said the film gave ``a sense of just how pervasive the drug problem is.''Division of Funds:The war on drugs costs about $18 billion a year just in federal dollars, and Zeese complains that despite ``all the talk about a balanced approach,'' law enforcement continues to consume about two-thirds of that, leaving about one-third for treatment and education.Acclaimed by most reviewers, the film also has its critics. Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., and Barry McCaffrey, the former drug czar, say the film sets out a false choice between law enforcement and efforts to reduce demand through treatment. Both are needed, they argue.``The message was the futility of it all, the madness of those involved, that it's all failing. You wouldn't know that drug abuse is substantially down from 15 years ago,'' said McCaffrey, a former general now teaching part time at West Point.``When Douglas [McCaffrey's movie counterpart] says, `Why aren't we talking about treatment?' -- well, we are, and we're doing a lot,'' McCaffrey said.The film includes a scene that's an unusual mix of Hollywood and Washington. Douglas, as the new drug czar, attends a cocktail party where real senators, including Orrin Hatch, Barbara Boxer and Charles Grassley, chat with Douglas and give him advice.Hatch later criticized the film for its profanity and violence, but last week said it helped persuade him to co-sponsor the bill with Leahy to fund more drug treatment.Traffic's impact on the drug debate has even become a marketing tool. USA Films has run newspaper ads that tout a New York Times editorial saying the film ``has touched a nerve in a time of flux in the nation's decadeslong campaign against illicit drugs.''Jack Valenti, longtime chairman of the Motion Picture Association, said ``Traffic has created a fabulous buzz'' in Washington, and noted a certain irony: Senators used to criticizing Hollywood fare are now responding to a film that includes some of them and poses hard questions to political leaders.``I think it's one of the great anti-drug films ever made,'' Valenti said.``It also shows that unless you do something about demand, you can hang all the drug dealers 'til the skies grow dark, and it won't stop it.''On Capitol Hill, senators are even critiquing each other's cameo appearances.With a smile, Leahy turned to Hatch at last week's hearing and praised his performance.``I wasn't acting,'' Hatch deadpanned.Complete Title: Hollywood Movie `Traffic' Jolts Debate on Drug PolicySource: Miami Herald (FL) Author: Frank DaviesPublished: Sunday, March 18, 2001 Copyright: 2001 The Miami Herald Address: One Herald Plaza, Miami FL 33132-1693 Fax: (305) 376-8950 Contact: heralded herald.com Website: http://www.herald.com/ Traffic Official Web Site http://www.traffic-movie.com/Archerd: Koppel Hooked on Drugs http://cannabisnews.com/news/thread9038.shtmlIn Senate Debate on Drugs, 'Traffic' Moves Minds http://cannabisnews.com/news/thread9014.shtmlCannabisNews Articles - Traffichttp://cannabisnews.com/thcgi/search.pl?K=traffic 
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Comment #6 posted by Imprint on March 20, 2001 at 01:02:51 PT:
I like these comments
Thanks. Much important value added. I want to believe you Jorma Nash and I didnít take your comments personal; I just donít think the fat congressmen can see their toes, let alone the light. I do think that dddd was right though with the comment:"Treatment", is a nebulous term, that assumes there is a "problem". If someone is happy and happens to be fat then end of story; no treatment needed. If someone is not happy and they are fat then treatment may be needed (that would be treatment of their choice). Letís face it being fat may not necessarily be the cause of their unhappiness. Same applies to pot. 
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Comment #5 posted by kaptinemo on March 19, 2001 at 09:11:50 PT:
If you ask an idiot a question
should you be surprised if he provides a stupid answer?Acclaimed by most reviewers, the film also has its critics. Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., and Barry McCaffrey, the former drug czar, say the film sets out a false choice between law enforcement and efforts to reduce demand through treatment. Both are needed, they argue.``The message was the futility of it all, the madness of those involved, that it's all failing. You wouldn't know that drug abuse is substantially down from 15 years ago,'' said McCaffrey, a former general now teaching part time at West Point.Asking Barry if his tenure at the ONDCP was productive is like asking any salesman if his wares are good. Both can be counted upon to sing the praises of their respective 'products'.But there's a little thing like Truth in Advertising laws. And if Barry were held to such standards as any advertising exec, he'd be in real hot water. here's part of the reason why:http://www.marijuananews.com/marijuananews/cowan/number_jumble_clouds_judgment_of.htmMore of the same confusion:http://www.november.org/0517.htmlAnd what people in other countries think about his playing fast and loose with the facts:http://theage.com.au/news/19991117/A47204-1999Nov16.htmlIn short, Barry, like everyone of his predescors since the office of DrugCzar was created, has failed. Period. But in the time-honored tradition of military brasshats, he is engaging in a little CYA to cover his trail of screwups.
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Comment #4 posted by dddd on March 19, 2001 at 03:33:29 PT
Well spoken
Thank You Jorma Nash,for the outstanding commentary.You are quite cool.Keep on keepin' onSincerely....................................................dddd
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Comment #3 posted by jorma nash on March 19, 2001 at 03:11:22 PT:
direct response to Imprint's comments
direct response to Imprint's comments(nothing personal, dude! seemed like an excellentjumping off point for the issues i wish to raise)>Treatment won't change much>This is a mixed message. Many of these politicians talk about treatment but what they really mean is to >continue the militaristic approach with one twist. Force their captures into treatment instead of prison. So, >the police will still violate our civil rights and people will still be harmed. Further, treatment will not work >for those that donít want it. on an ideological level i agree 200%, forced treatment = a more palatable form of bigotry for the 'antis' to persue.on a practical level, i have to disagree.if frank davies advocated total re-legalization tomorrow, he might well find himselfan ex-miami herald reporter tomorrow.i must disagree that this is an 'anti' article.i feel this is an example of a mainstream reporter pushing the issue as far as he possibly daresand/or the strongest article he could write without being censored.in my opinion, (which changes weekly) anythingthat promotes a debate of the current handling of the drug waris the death knell to prohibition.prohibitionists have absolutely no defense against rational debate,which is why rational debate has been censored for so long.a loose quote:"there is less chance the a hummingbird will fly to mars with the washington monumentattached to its tail than alcohol will be re-legalized"-about two years before alcohol prohibition was repealed.my informed readers are encouraged to more accurately attribute this quote.our hated enemies have often stated that any consession to the mj movementwhatsoever will result in the a dreaded 'slippery slope' that will result in the complete repeal of mj laws for all 'the child-run' and 'sub-atomic particles'to paraphase my hero in speaking out against tyranny, richard cowan.hmmmmm,this so-called "slippery slope" sounds like the beginning of freedom to me,and i advocate all who want and end to the bigotry of cannabis persecutionand i think they are right, to back any and all refutations of the drug war,including (and especially) the "slippery slope" argumentswhich are likely to have the greatest political impact.so i encourage all cannabis activists to persue these "slippery slope" measuresso the anti's predictions become a self-fulfilling prophecy.>Since more people will die from disease brought on by obesity than all drugs put together, the real focus>should be on fast food and proper diet. But then half of congress would be in treatment; these fat >congressmen couldnít admit there killing them selves. Just like drugs, treatment wonít work for those that >donít want it. DAMN RIGHT, impact.the reason i wrote this.this is a point that i believe we should hammer home at every opportunity.the ratio of those who die from being overweight to those who die from illict drug useis 5:1, i am lead to believe.so where are the "anti-fat" laws that are 5 times stronger than "anti-drug" laws?you know, life sentences for the hideous crime of being overweight?"forced treatment" for their "harming themselves"i believe this is the key point which will (hopefully sooner than later)end prohibition as we have always known it.this is summed up in the latin phrase/reductio ad absurdam/(i know for a fact this isn't spelled correctly, could one of myextremely well informed readers correct me?)which translates roughly into english as:"take your opponent's arguements at face value,and follow them to their logical conclusionsto expose their absurdity."we will watch as prohibition crumbles into dust.mark my words.watch out prohibitionists,you have finally pissed off jorma nash to the point i am willing to state my opinionswith the name on my birth certificateyour hatred be damned.-----------jorma (birth certificate first name)         nash (birth certificate middle name)        hedges (birth certificate last name) i REFUSE to be afraid any more.
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Comment #2 posted by dddd on March 19, 2001 at 02:57:34 PT
"Treatment",,not a cure
I think Imprint gave the nail a concussion....>"Many of these politicians talk about treatment but what they really mean is to continue the      militaristic approach with one twist. Force their captures into treatment instead of prison. So, the police will still violate our civil rights and people will still be harmed. Further, treatment will not work for those that donít want it."This is exactly right on...."Treatment",is a nebulous term,that assumes there is a "problem".There may be a few well intentioned politicians of integrity who use the term,but,I agreewith Imprint....Treatment,will be used as a way to delay,and divert any reform of theexsisting laws.The media will be used to report on money being spent on "treatment".This"treatment",is the same treatment McCaffrey claims already exsists.The term will remainundefined,and the money allocated will drift into the blurry world of DARE type programs,andflow back into the obscure coffers of law enforcement,and fake house and senate "committees",that will supposedly look into the most effective way to "treat","the drug problem"Traffic may have helped in a significant way,in that it has exposed the sham that the War on Drugsis,but its' effects on the overall reform of governmental policy will be minimal.I like to hear the politicians,as they pretend to be suprized by issues that the movie brings up.They respond with classic rhetoric....for instance,McCain;"It had a very powerful effect -- it's caused me to rethink our policies and priorities.'',,,as if he didnt know what the F#*K wasalready going on.I predict Ted Koppels Nightline thing this week,on ABC/Disney,will be a carefully formulatedand designed enemic,and biased portrayal.We will see tall tales of the bad guys and scumbags that will attempt to justify the drug war.We will see minimal,real critism of Plan Colombia.It will be noless than a masterpiece of illusion,and subliminal propaganda.I'm sorry to sound so negative,after all,something is better than nothing,but the public willremain getting jacked around with superbly scripted bullshit semantics for years to come.d.....................d.......................d........................d 
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Comment #1 posted by Imprint on March 19, 2001 at 00:02:21 PT:
Treatment won't change much
This is a mixed message. Many of these politicians talk about treatment but what they really mean is to continue the militaristic approach with one twist. Force their captures into treatment instead of prison. So, the police will still violate our civil rights and people will still be harmed. Further, treatment will not work for those that donít want it. Since more people will die from disease brought on by obesity than all drugs put together, the real focus should be on fast food and proper diet. But then half of congress would be in treatment; these fat congressmen couldnít admit there killing them selves. Just like drugs, treatment wonít work for those that donít want it. 
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