Most 'Trusted Man In America', Also Supported Marijuana Law Reform

RIP Walter Cronkite! In the summer 1992, I was told by an assistant that I had a phone call, and that “unless the person on the phone was kidding, that it was someone claiming to be Walter Cronkite.”

I took the call and it was in fact Mr. Cronkite, who wanted to talk about his concerns regarding America’s so-called ‘war on drugs’. We talked for about half an hour and he asked me to fax him some data and/or reports to support some of the information I’d related to him regarding arrest rates, racial disparity and I think the efficacy of medical cannabis. As he related his fax number to me I recognized the exchange as coming from Dukes County, MA (which is principally Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Islands). I told Mr. Cronkite that I had grown up in close proximity to his locale, across Nantucket Sound in the Cape Cod town of Chatham. That sparked an additional half hour conversation about striped bass, giant Atlantic bluefin tuna and the importance of knowing where you derive pleasure.
All in all, a most pleasant conversation with a journalist I’d grown up watching and had always generally respected.
I was heartened some years later when Walter Cronkite started speaking out strongly against the war on some drugs, including doing fundraising letters and videos for the Drug Policy Alliance.
Drug war is a war on families
By Walter Cronkite
Article Published: Sunday, August 08, 2004
In the midst of the soaring rhetoric of the recent Democratic National Convention, more than one speaker quoted Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address, invoking “the better angels of our nature.” Well, there is an especially appropriate task awaiting those heavenly creatures – a long-overdue reform of our disastrous war on drugs. We should begin by recognizing its costly and inhumane dimensions.
Much of the nation, in one way or another, is victimized by this failure – including, most notably, the innocents, whose exposure to drugs is greater than ever.
This despite the fact that there are, housed in federal and state prisons and local jails on drug offenses, more than 500,000 persons – half a million people! Clearly, no punishment could be too severe for that portion of them who were kingpins of the drug trade and who ruined so many lives. But by far, the majority of these prisoners are guilty of only minor offenses, such as possessing small amounts of marijuana. That includes people who used it only for medicinal purposes.
The cost to maintain this great horde of prisoners is more than $10 billion annually. And that’s just part of the cost of this war on drugs: The federal, state and local drug-control budgets last year added up to almost $40 billion.
These figures were amassed by the Drug Policy Alliance, one of the foremost national organizations seeking to bring reason to the war on drugs and reduce substantially those caught in the terrible web of addiction.
There are awful tales of tragedy and shocking injustice hidden in those figures – the product of an almost mindlessly draconian system called “mandatory sentencing,” in which even small offenses can draw years in prison.
Thousands of women, many of them mothers of young children, are included among those minor offenders. Those children left without motherly care are the most innocent victims of the drug war and the reason some call it a “war on families.”
Women are the fastest-growing segment of the prison population, with almost 80 percent of them incarcerated for drug offenses. The deep perversity of the system lies in the fact that women with the least culpability often get the harshest sentences.
Unlike the guilty drug dealer, they often have no information to trade for a better deal from prosecutors, and might end up with a harsher sentence than the dealer gets.
Then there are women like Kimba Smith, in California, who probably knew a few things but was so terrified of her abusive boyfriend that she refused to testify against him. (Those who agree to testify, by the way, frequently are murdered before they have a chance to do so.) Smith paid for her terrified silence with a 24-year sentence. Nonviolent first offenders, male and female, caught with only small amounts of a controlled substance frequently are given prison sentences of five to 10 years or more. As a result, the number of nonviolent offenders in the nation’s prisons is filling them to overflowing, literally. The resulting overcrowding is forcing violent felons onto the streets with early releases.
The Drug Policy Alliance also points out other important areas of injustice in the present enforcement system. For instance, people of color – African-Americans and Latinos – are far more likely to be jailed for drug offenses than others. And college students caught in possession of very small amounts of illegal substances are denied student loans and even food stamps.
The Alliance and other organizations are working to reform and reframe the war on drugs. And they are finding many judges on their side, who are rebelling against this cruel system. We can expect no federal action during the congressional hiatus in activity ahead of the November elections, but it would be of considerable help if, across the country, campaigning politicians put this high on their promises of legislative action, much sooner than later.
Walter Cronkite has been a journalist for more than 60 years, including 19 as anchor of the CBS Evening News.

0 thoughts

  1. He was a great American and the last of the REAL newsmen. His face is a part of American history and Ill always remember all of his most historic broadcasts.Bye Walter.And thats the way it is.

  2. Walter Cronkite, you opened our eyes sir and for that you will never be replaced. You are greatly missed bless your family in this time of grief.

  3. The truth will bear itself out. But in the meantime, it’s outrageous that our lawmakers and law enforcers continue to maintain this senselesss policy. Obama promised to go by science rather than ideology, yet this is the biggest hollowest ideology there is.

  4. Dear Mr. Cronkike,
    I agree with your statement that the US drug war is a war on families. I come from a Brady Bunch Family; dad is 88 with alzeimers, mom is 82 and drives and still manages a household. My brother John, 18 months younger than me lives in Milwaukee, my sister Judy, 18 months older than me lives in Peoria Illinois. Sister, Cheryl, California is 60 years old and the youngest of our family is Deb, who is my caregiver and six years younger than me.
    Michigan recently has passed a law and allows marijuana to be used medicinally. I am a 56 year old woman with Multiple Sclerosis, arthritis, depression, allergies, herniated cervical discs, and take dilantin for seizures.
    I am going to get qualified to marijuana and my sis, Deb is saying there are no test studies saying the effectiveness of marijuana for any of my problems. I showed her some of the writings she retorted only one person’s opinion. My other siblings as did my mother all do not want me to try this.
    I said that may be so, but my MS, I am at secondary progressive phase. There is only one drug for this phaes of MS; Novantron, can be helpful but then it is very toxic. My joke is well I was doing really good, right before I died. My walking is bad but my talking is terrific. I at least want to try marijuana to see if it helps me with any of my many maladies.
    Deb then told me, “you never tried it, how can you even consider this.” I responded, yes I tried pot about nine years ago, a man I was dating ask if I wanted some. He grew it so I felt it would be safer than buying from John Doe on the street.
    After trying it I had the three H’S; I was happy, hungary, and horny. Only two of these symptoms is my doctor concerned with. My weight is 115 pounds, but several years ago I was 90 pounds. Depression that has been present, usually is when you have any diseases such as I do.
    I know when you stated there was a war on families, your analagy wasn’t concerning what I just wrote about. Thank you for being a reporter and correspondant that gets to the news, uncovering the truth even when it is hidden.
    I have watched you my whole life.
    Mary Margaret Martinson

  5. Walter was a great guy telling like it was.. Too bad our leaders still insist on making slaves of millions of Americans. All for protecting corporate profits and greed..END THE WAR NOW!!!!!!
    Cherokee Fred Jesus

  6. RIP Walter Cronkite, we will continue to fight to end the senseless ‘war on drugs’. you give us all inspiration.

  7. RIP. But dont forget. The war
    continues on every american citizen.
    The pharmacuetical companies rule the
    world, for all the drugs the
    pharmaceutical companies have given us,
    look at all the death.
    Cannabis has caused 0 deaths, yet it is
    declared the giver of death.
    I just want to see cannabis freed.
    Stop the fucking lies US government.
    I do not live in the fucking
    north pole. But your lies concerning
    cannabis makes me want to believe
    in santa clause again. Stop
    the lies.
    God gave us the world, and
    he gave us a plant called cannabis. And it is good
    and it is our friend. Everyone should embrace cannabis. GG

  8. It is a day that brings a tear to my young 39 year old eye. I remember in school seeing some of his educational pieces in which he pretended to be back in history, interviewing and reporting on such things as the American Revolution! He captured even a little boy’s attention. He was a great story teller and was able to convey in his news reporting a true sense of the event. He was an artist with his words. He is and will be forever an American icon.
    It is also nice to know that he saw the tragedies in this so called war on drugs.

  9. Walter was a rare person who knew and spoke the truth. And I am sure the mainstream media will not note this in its coverage.
    RIP Walter.
    Jim

  10. This is truely a sad day. Thank you Mr. Cronkite for getting the truth out. He wasn’t afraid to tell America what is wrong with our government. His legendary voice will be heard for a very long time to come. The truth rings out like the Liberty Bell. I hope his angel comes to our rescue. The world has lost a very wise man.

  11. Thank you Mr. Cronkite for being wise enough to question our crazy drug policies. You ARE a legend and always will be. Maybe the last reporter/anchor to report the news rather than spin it on the “newscast”.
    Thank you!

  12. He saw the truth in the Viet Nam war and in the War on Drugs. He was a great AMERICAN. God bless you and your family. R.I.P.

  13. Walter Cronkite was and always be an icon in the world of real journalism. With the current 24 hour news machine and people like Fox using right wing neo con evangelical scare tactics to scare the nation on marijuana reform without fact and investigative facts. Some people out there are just old fashioned and still believe the old school of the war on drugs that Reagan enacted just does not work. Cronkite was brave enough to say to the world that the war in Vietnam was a stalemate, he said the same thing about Iraq. We will miss him dearly and clearly there will be no one like him. Reading his article ‘Drug war is a war on families’ (with his voice reporting it to me) shows how smart he was and how open he was on this issue. Highlighting the fact that so many prisoners mostly women who have kids that are left behind just because of minor drug offenses was a war on the fabric and stability on family life. This article was written in 2004 by The Most Trusted Man in the World. The US government is not even trusted. Wake up Congress and end the prohibition on marijuana.

  14. And so the war continues on…
    The DEA wants your money and your blood more than ever. As the losing war nears its inevitable end, it only gets harder here on out and we must fight even STRONGER and with more CONVICTION!
    RIP Walter.

  15. RIP Walter, you were a legend in the truest form and will forever be remembered as such in our hearts and in our minds.

  16. Update on the HR2943 bill:
    We now have 9 Cosponsors [as of 2009-07-18] they are:
    Rep. Tammy Baldwin [D-WI2]
    Rep. Michael Capuano [D-MA8]
    Rep. Maurice Hinchey [D-NY22]
    Rep. Dennis Kucinich [D-OH10]
    Rep. George Miller [D-CA7]
    Rep. Ronald Paul [R-TX14]
    Rep. Jared Polis [D-CO2]
    Rep. Dana Rohrabacher [R-CA46]
    Rep. Fortney Stark [D-CA13]
    How ever the bill is still in the Referred to Committee phase. Remember to help get passed this phase we must get the others to support HR2943 and for those who are doing so as is lets send them a thank you for supporting HR2943 email.
    I shall keep everyone updated as HR2943 continues to progress.

  17. If all journalists were as honest as W C pot would be legal now. If todays journalists would actually do their jobs and tell the true story instead of reporting what they feel like or wat they are told to report, (ahem fox news) then we wouldnt all still be suffering from the hilarity that is reefer madness

  18. Truely a sad day. The loss of Mr. Cronkit will be felt by all. Dont worry Mr. Cronkit,The day we change these terrible laws is a day we will remember people such as you.

  19. Truely a sad day. Dont worry Mr Cronkit,we will remember you and those like you the day we change these terrible laws.

  20. Mary Nargaret Martinson: Don’t let your families lack of credible knowledge concerning the Benefits of Cannabis detour you. If anything you would be a great advocate and voice to it’s positive effects on the human body. Dig into the material provided here and else where and dislodge their distorted and manipulated thinking.
    It’s great that Cronkite was all for the cause but I never heard him speak of it. Nor did I hear him try to make any inroads into changing the corrupt policies.
    Those who have the voice, such as he did, aren’t doing much of anything about it.

  21. Yet, He lived with this tyranny, And still, It exists, To make a living hell, For us that want to just live, and to be free, to make our own choices in life. He may have been relieved of some of his aches and pain’s with this “GOD” GIVEN PLANT!. DIG DEEP, INTO YOURSELF, AND YOU WILL, SEE THE TRUTH. PEACE!!! AL…

  22. If voting is a “social contract and civil duty” our elected representatives certainly have sold out our best interests by breaking their covenants, and getting into to bed with PROHIBITIONIST and the pharma-beast. Perhaps we should send them back to 6th grade where they can reacquaint theirselves with the Constitution and other founding documents which they have seem to have forgotten, or ignored.
    SHAME…SHAME…SHAME! SHAME ON THEM!

  23. The reason we have no health care?
    The reason we have prohibition and are slaves to our own country?
    Our rep are bought and paid for stop bribery in DC!!
    Here are eight senators who may stand in the way of the public option — along with the total amount of money they’ve received from health and insurance companies..
    Sen. Max Baucus $3,973,485
    Sen. Evan Bayh $1,565,088
    Sen. Kent Conrad $2,154,200
    Sen. Dianne Feinstein $1,749,887
    Sen. John Kerry $8,994,077
    Sen. Mary Landrieu $1,653,943
    Sen. Joe Lieberman $3,308,621
    Sen. Ben Nelson $2,214,715
    CFJ

  24. The very first creation of any life, was herb!Genesis 1-11 And God said,Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed,and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind,whose seed is in itself,upon the earth/and it was so. 1-12…and God saw that it was good.Revelation spoke of a tree, in these last days that would “bare a monthly fruit and its leaves would be used for the healing the nations!”

  25. #31 Tom ( not my real name – i fear our Goverment ) Says:
    July 18th, 2009 at 7:46 pm
    “…KEEP ( sorry ) with your deceptive advertisments,
    Drug , Alcohol and Tobacco Companies .
    God has a resting place for you .
    Man created Drugs , Tobacco and alcoholic drinks .
    God created cannabis naturally .
    My trust is with God & NOT man … “
    RE:
    Tom,
    – A few clarifications…may I please…
    – God ALSO made Tobacco,
    (SURPRIZE!!! and BTW…Very tasty through a vape!),
    as well as Cannabis…
    – Man made cigarettes, cigars and pipes.
    – God made sugars, starches, grains and yeast…
    God ALSO invented FERMENTATION…
    – Man made alcoholic-beverages.
    – God created many medically-useful compounds
    found in the plethera of plants, fungi, bacteria…
    – Man made extracts, synthetic-imitations and
    artificial-modifications of said-same compounds…

  26. #31 Tom ( not my real name – i fear our Goverment ) Says:
    July 18th, 2009 at 7:46 pm
    “…KEEP ( sorry ) with your deceptive advertisments,
    Drug , Alcohol and Tobacco Companies .
    God has a resting place for you .
    Man created Drugs , Tobacco and alcoholic drinks .
    God created cannabis naturally .
    My trust is with God & NOT man … “

    RE:
    Tom,
    – A few clarifications…may I please…
    – God ALSO made Tobacco,
    (SURPRIZE!!! and BTW…Very tasty through a vape!),
    as well as Cannabis…
    – Man made cigarettes, cigars and pipes.
    – God made sugars, starches, grains and yeast…
    God ALSO invented FERMENTATION…
    – Man made alcoholic-beverages.
    – God created many medically-useful compounds
    found in the plethera of plants, fungi, bacteria…
    – Man made extracts, synthetic-imitations and
    artificial-modifications of said-same compounds…

  27. #44 NIck Says:
    July 20th, 2009 at 9:40 am
    “man created corporate chemically tainted tobacco, not even close to what god created”
    RE:
    With the EXCEPTION of organic,
    additive-free brands, such as American Spirit.

    (Loose, roll-your-own A.S. tobacco, not rolled,
    but used in a vape, instead. YUM!!!).

  28. May you rest in peace Mr. Cronkite. Your face, and your voice are among my most early recollections. It made me sad when you left, directly, broadcast television, and made me even more sad when I learned of your passing, but: “For everything there is a season, and a purpose for everything under heaven” You certainly fulfilled your purpose on this earth. Thanks for the memories!!!

  29. – May the spirit of late
    CBS news-anchor Walter Cronkite live on
    through their present staff…!!!
    (Walter Cronkite IS against the War On some Drugs,
    as well as the Vietnam War)
    – I PURPOSELY speak of Mr. Cronkite
    in the PRESENT-TENSE, as I believe that one’s
    mind and spirit CONTINUE, even when the mortal
    container, (body), doesn’t…
    – Walter, you are loved, respected and remembered!!!
    And that’s the way it is…
    Saturday, August fisrt, two-thousand and nine…..

  30. – May the spirit of late
    CBS news-anchor Walter Cronkite live on
    through their present staff…!!!
    (Walter Cronkite IS against the War On some Drugs,
    as well as the Vietnam War)
    – I PURPOSELY speak of Mr. Cronkite
    in the PRESENT-TENSE, as I believe that one’s
    mind and spirit CONTINUE, even when the mortal
    container, (body), doesn’t…
    – Walter, you are loved, respected and remembered!!!
    And that’s the way it is…
    Saturday, August first, two-thousand and nine…..

  31. its time its time its time we all need to have a huge rally and get this done we the tax payers . stop waisting are futures on the drug warrrrrrrrrr.

  32. Thank you Walter Cronkite. It’s time to end the self-destructive legal oppression in the name of a wrong idea. It is time to legalize drugs! Only crimes should be crimes, let’s get back to that…

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