Lakewood, Calif.

It was outrageous and disappointing to see the ad from the Office of National Drug Control Policy in The Nation equating buying and using marijuana (or any drugs) with supporting terrorism [Dec. 30; this issue]. That you would accept such a patently misleading, unbalanced and overly simplistic ad, an ad that attempts to draw a connection between drug use and terrorism, is astonishing, especially because it is contrary to the editorial content and theme of your magazine. Shame on you.


Anchorage, Aka.

I know you like to stir things up a bit, but including an ad from the Office of National Drug Control Policy made me question if I had the right magazine in my hands. You should have added a disclaimer or the motto, “Think globally, smoke domestic.”


Los Angeles

What’s next? A Vatican-sponsored appeal to teenagers to “just say no” to sex?


Bethesda, Md.

Does the Office of National Drug Control Policy seriously think that someone dumb enough to be influenced by their ad would be reading The Nation? The kids at my high school who smoke occasionally read Jane, the complete potheads read High Times and the idiots (at whom the ad is obviously aimed, even though they’re surprisingly drug-free) read National Review.


Madison, Wisc.

As someone who “buys a dime bag occasionally” I want to thank the folks for explaining the pot = terrorism connection. I didn’t realize until I read this ad how black-and-white and simple the whole thing is.

But I thought, “Why not find out who these terrorists, whom I supported for so long, are?” So I called my drug dealer and invited her out for coffee, to confront her. She told me she sells “dime bags” to help pay for college and support her 8-year-old. But wait, there’s more…

She doesn’t grow the stuff herself. As she talked I saw how deep the rabbit hole goes. She then drove me to her ex-boyfriend’s house. He grows the stuff; he’s the source, the head terrorist operative. He showed me the plants. Almost twelve–“Enough to fund Al Qaeda for decades!” I thought. He said he’s using the “dime bag” money to pay for his PhD in cultural anthropology. My God! Margaret Mead… pot smoking… communism… terrorism… My head was spinning. I got out of that place fast.

So thank you. I now understand “that drug money contributes to terrible things.” I have picked which side I’m on. Now I challenge all Nation readers who smoke “dime bags” to do as I have done–turn over a new leaf.


Durham, NC

I really don’t care where your ad money comes from so long as The Nation continues to provide me with accurate, provocative information and opinion. But I would like to rebut the ad’s message that if you buy illicit drugs, you’re supporting terrorism. If you buy gasoline you’re supporting terrorism. And on a far, far vaster scale.



A slight rewording of “that ad”: Is it OK to support terrorism if it’s only a little bit? So you pay taxes occasionally. It’s not like you’re paying millions to finance a misguided national drug policy and all the death and destruction it creates. And you understand the argument: that tax money contributes to terrible things. That if you pay taxes, your money goes to people who are responsible for murder, bribery, intimidation and torture. That if you stopped paying taxes, the government would go away, the violence would end. You get all that. But it’s just a few tax dollars, right? Well, here’s a secret: You don’t pick which side you’re on by how many taxes you pay. You pick which side you’re on by paying in the first place.


Lancaster, Pa.

You may find of interest a message I sent to the private leadership list of drug-policy-reform and harm-reduction organizations:

“Fellow Reformers: I was also surprised to see the…ad in The Nation, but I applaud their publishing it. We…were thrilled when the socially conservative Weekly Standard and later News Max accepted our ads and offered us favorable rates. It enables us to bring our facts and opinions to the attention of those we would not otherwise be able to reach. And it is healthy for magazines of all persuasions to permit paid contrasting views. This is an indication of a shared value by left and right: Freedom of speech. Long may it last!”

Common Sense for Drug Policy


New York City

Almost twenty-five years ago Nation editors–in consultation with our readers, our publisher and various well-wishers in the journalistic community–responding to reader complaints about an advertisement for mink coats, crafted and published an ad policy. Here is what we said at that time.

“Although the relationship of the First Amendment to commercial advertising is complex, we start with a strong presumption against banning advertisers because we disapprove of, or even abhor, their political or social views. But we reserve (and exercise) the right to attack them in our editorial columns.

The Nation does not consider itself bound by the standards that must be applied to just any public forum. Our pages are primarily given over to articles that are consistent with the views of the editors. While we also publish articles and letters from readers that diverge from, or even diametrically contradict, the views of the editors, this is not out of a sense that our pages should be open to all or because we believe we are obliged to achieve balance. Whatever we publish appears in the magazine because in our judgment the views expressed deserve to be called to the attention of our readers by us. We are a magazine of limited circulation that enjoys no monopoly on the attention of our readers. They obtain other views in other places, and, through that process, determine for themselves what views to accept or reject.

“Advertising is different. We accept it not to further the views of The Nation but to help pay the costs of publishing. We start, therefore, with the presumption that we will accept advertising even if the views expressed are repugnant to the editors. The only limits are those that grow out of our interest in assuring that the advertising does not impede our use of Nation editorial columns to say what we want. We assume that our readers will have sufficient knowledge to judge for themselves the merits of commonly known products (such as cigarettes).

“In imposing these limits we will refrain from making judgments based on our opinions of the particular views expressed in an advertisement. If the purpose of the advertisement is to sell a product or service rather than to express a view, we will allow ourselves greater rein in making judgments about suitability. This reflects our view that commerce is less sacrosanct than political speech.

“When we open our pages to political advertising that may be repugnant to the editors, we are furthering our editorial commitment to freedom of speech and using space in which we refrain from articulating editorial policy in a way that fosters diversity in expression of opinion.”

Over the years, although particular readers have objected to particular ads, on balance, we believe this policy has served the magazine and its readers well. Of course, we do not agree with the Office of National Drug Control Policy that buying occasional “dime bags” of marijuana supports terrorism. Letters like those of John Browner, Sandra Schachat, Susan Bright, Matthew Landkammer, Charles Monroe-Kane and Robert Field suggest to us that most of our readers don’t either. They seem to agree that the way to fight bad speech is with better speech. We hope that on reflection Donald Hodel, Chris Kirshbaum and others who have objected to our running this ad, after weighing the pros and cons, will reconsider.



Eugene, Ore.

I’m not going to name names here, but if the shoe fits… This bickering among current and ex Nation writers is neither productive nor amusing. In fact, it’s extremely destructive. If I were managing your magazine, I’d insist that columns focus on the issues that concern us all rather than internecine sniping. And I would not publish the kinds of long-winded rants that have been appearing in your Letters section.

I read The Nation to obtain a better understanding of what’s going on in our society and for, perhaps, a flicker of hope that we can improve our lot. If I were interested in the kinds of personal attacks that fill your pages lately, I’d tune in to one of the right-wing talk shows. Your writers need to cover the story–they themselves are not the story.

I went to see Odetta perform recently. She said something very wise, which I’ll paraphrase: You might not agree with one another about everything, but you need to work together to turn this country around. We can’t begin to build any kind of movement if those who should be helping to light the way can’t even speak civilly to each other. I don’t care who gets the last word–or who’s “right.” Get rid of your egos and spend your creative talents actually creating something useful.


Grand Junction, Colo.

During these foul times in America, with a far right, silverspooned, demi-automaton as President obsequiously served by a B-movie cast of old party hacks (albeit dangerous ones), the liberal/progressive unsilent minority is attacking each other in public–backbiting, catfighting and snitching–just when it is least needed. It is obviously counterproductive and divisive. After all, we are, are we not, more or less on the same side?



New York City