The Medical Marijuana Magazine


Sex, Drugs and Consenting Adults with John Stossel
Should People Be Able to Do Whatever They Want?
May 26, 1998
(This is an unedited, uncorrected transcript.)

ANNOUNCER This is an ABC News Special. It's called "the land of the free." But are you ready for what that may mean?

JOHN STOSSEL, ABC NEWS (on camera) People should be able to do whatever they want?

NADINE STROSSEN, PRESIDENT, ACLU Consenting adults in private places, absolutely.

ANNOUNCER That's not what's happening.

1ST POLICE OFFICER Get your hands up!

ANNOUNCER Police are raiding, invading, arresting ...


ANNOUNCER ... and jailing for crimes that don't hurt anyone else. (Sirens)

WOMAN BEING ARRESTED Man, I'm not doing nothing wrong!

ANNOUNCER This man got prison for selling pornography to adults.

LYNN ALEXANDER They didn't stop adult entertainment, did they?

ANNOUNCER And women, like this prostitute, are punished for selling themselves.


SYDNEY BIDDLE BARROWS Who are we to criminalize their doing something that is OK with them?

ANNOUNCER It's your Uncle Sam playing parent, telling you what's right and wrong. Is that what America really wants?

PETER MCWILLIAMS, AUTHOR You're asking the government to control individual morality. This is a government that can't buy a toilet seat for under $600.

ANNOUNCER This politician fought to keep gay sex a crime, while he was breaking sex laws himself. In Iran, you could be stoned for adultery. Getting stoned in America got this man 93 years in jail.

WILL FOSTER, PRISONER You have the right to kill yourself with alcohol, but you can't smoke a joint. I mean, where is your freedom of choice?

ANNOUNCER There's even a law about buying tickets. Stossel better not buy from this scalper.

JOHN STOSSEL So, are you doing something bad?

1ST SCALPER No, I'm not. We're not out here robbing or stealing.

ANNOUNCER A provocative hour meant to challenge the laws we live by. "Sex, Drugs & Consenting Adults." From the world's most famous symbol of freedom, the Statue of Liberty, here's John Stossel.

JOHN STOSSEL, ABC NEWS Good evening. "Liberty." What does that word mean? This statue was built to commemorate America's independence and the freedoms that came with it-freedom to speak, to assemble, to worship. All the things you can do when your rulers leave you alone. But being free doesn't mean there are no rules. (Gunshots)

MAN SHOUTING AT POLICE You're an (bleep).

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) You can't live in peace if there's anarchy. (Gunshots) If other people are free to rob us, assault us. We need police to protect us from this. But for years, the police have also been going after people who didn't do anything to anyone else.

2ND POLICE OFFICER Get your hands up in the air!



JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Often arresting them brutally.

4TH POLICE OFFICER Open it up. (Man gagging)

4TH POLICE OFFICER More! I said open it! (Man mumbling)

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) They said this man took illegal drugs. No victim complained about what he did. Or about this man-he's accused of taking bets on basketball games. This woman was arrested because she offered sex for money.

LAS VEGAS POLICE OFFICER All right. Step over here.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) This man for selling sexual videotapes.

NEW YORK CITY POLICE OFFICER If I see you again, we're going to lock you up.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Outside a basketball game at Madison Square Garden, police threatened this man because they say he was trying to resell tickets.

2ND SCALPER If you find any tickets on me, lock me up.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) None of these people robbed anyone or forced anyone to do anything against their will. (Sirens)

WOMAN BEING ARRESTED Man, I'm not doing nothing wrong!

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Everyone who participated in these so-called "crimes" consented. Defenders of individual liberty say this should mean they have the right to do it.

NADINE STROSSEN, PRESIDENT ACLU We, as free adults, have the right to imbibe, ingest, inhale or insert whatever we want to in our own bodies.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Nadine Strossen is president of the American Civil Liberties Union. (on camera) Drugs, gambling, prostitution-these are ugly things. These degrade society. By having laws preventing them, we make life better.

NADINE STROSSEN That is no basis for making it a crime in this legal system.

JOHN STOSSEL But you're wrecking your life, and you're often wrecking other people's lives.

NADINE STROSSEN Who are the other people? What is the actual harm? The harm is that they don't like the fact that you are doing something of which they disapprove.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) But disapproval has been the basis for making things crimes since colonial days.

LAWRENCE FRIEDMAN, LAW PROFESSOR, STANFORD UNIVERSITY There was very little distinction made between what we would call a sin and what we would call a crime.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Stanford University law professor Lawrence Friedman, author of "Crime and Punishment: An American History," says the Puritans would have silenced Nadine Strossen because they had laws against women voicing strong opinions. People were whipped for having sex outside marriage, or even for idleness. If you cursed, you might be put in the stocks. And, yes, there really was a scarlet letter. Adulterers were forced to wear this "A," usually for life.

LAWRENCE FRIEDMAN It gave a very dramatic message to the community as a whole that this is bad behavior.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) And we still have all sorts of laws against what some people consider bad behavior. In many places, it's against the law to buy a bottle of liquor on Sunday. Try selling a vibrator in Atlanta, and government officials wearing masks may take your merchandise and arrest you. And if you go to a prostitute in St. Petersburg ... (Clip from TV announcement)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN We'll have your picture right on television.


PETER MCWILLIAMS, AUTHOR Keep in mind that you're asking the government to control individual morality. This is a government that can't buy a toilet seat for under $600.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Peter McWilliams is the author of "Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do." ( "Consent" is what's on his license plate. He considers himself a modern-day freedom fighter. He's a long-time marijuana smoker and says everyone should have the right to do this.

PETER MCWILLIAMS There's a lot of stupid things that you can do with your life, and people do it all the time. But there's a difference between what wise people do and what the law should be.

JOHN STOSSEL (on camera) We need these laws to make people behave better, to make society civilized.

PETER MCWILLIAMS No, civilized society is, "You do what you want. I do what I want. I will not harm you or your property. You don't harm me and my property." The government does not need to come in and tell us, "There, there, little children. We'll take care of you. Just do what we say."

JOHN STOSSEL But the government does often tell us what to do. The government tells us we can't gamble, can't sell certain things, can't take certain medicines. It even tells us what we cannot do with other consenting adults in our own beds. We consider that when we return.

(Commercial Break)

ANNOUNCER "Sex, Drugs & Consenting Adults" continues. Here again from the Statue of Liberty, John Stossel.

JOHN STOSSEL When do you get to say to your government, "Leave me alone. It's none of your business"? Perhaps when you're doing something very private, like having sex?

PRES BILL CLINTON I did not have sexual relations with that woman.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) I don't know what the truth is regarding the President and sex. If he lied, that's another matter. But as far as the sex, even though adultery's illegal here in Washington, DC, people seem to be saying that the sex is none of our business. No one's talking about calling the police. (Shouting) (VO) In Iran, they sometimes beat adulterers. Or they cover you with a sheet and bury you up to your waist in sand and then stone you to death. (on camera) Not in America, though most states here do have laws against adultery and fornication. You could say, "Well, if they don't enforce it, it's no big deal."

(VO) But, in fact, rarely enforced laws are a big threat to freedom, because you never know when you might be in trouble. Under selective enforcement, the powerful are safe, but less popular people have a lot to worry about. In Atlanta, a prosecutor decided to enforce a law against self-pleasuring devices. You know, vibrators?

ATLANTA REPORTER Atlanta police raided this shop, carted off boxes full of sex toys.

SEAN "TIP" GAGNE, STORE MANAGER Fifteen to 20 men in black ski masks entered this store, arrested my whole staff. That's taxpayers' money hard at work.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) The customers say they don't need protection.

"CHRISTIE," CUSTOMER If you come in, you're obviously consenting to it. If I wanted to buy a vibrator, I should be able to buy a vibrator.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Not legally. Not here. Because you might be stimulating the wrong thing. In Minneapolis, you can't buy one from Ferris Alexander either. Alexander was unpopular with some people here because he ran adult movie theaters and sold sex magazines and videotapes. He was popular with more people because, for 30 years, his stores were very successful. But then a prosecutor deemed some of his tapes obscene. Authorities locked up his businesses and put him in jail for five years.

LYNN ALEXANDER This process began when he was 72. He's now 80.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Lynn Alexander is Ferris' daughter.

LYNN ALEXANDER It destroyed him.

JOHN STOSSEL (on camera) He deserves it. Your father's a polluter.

LYNN ALEXANDER He didn't create behavior. He was simply selling a product that was in demand.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) The illegal tapes and magazines were sold only to adults. They contain no child pornography, but there is lots of sex and nudity.

LYNN ALEXANDER Show frontal nudity, and-shock, horror, despair, the end of rational thought!

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Citing racketeering statutes, authorities took more than $9 million worth of her father's property.

MINNEAPOLIS REPORTER The bookstores and theaters are now property of the government.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) What was inside, they destroyed.

ANTHONY DESTEFANIS Not only did they throw books and magazines and tapes, they threw in VHS machines into the city's incinerator and blew the incinerator out.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Anthony DeStefanis is Lynn's husband.

LYNN ALEXANDER But who were they protecting? What did they accomplish?

JOHN STOSSEL (on camera) They got your father put in jail.

LYNN ALEXANDER They didn't stop adult entertainment, did they?

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) They sure didn't. All around Minneapolis today, video stores sell the exact same tapes that got Alexander in trouble. And business is good. That's what usually happens when vice squads crack down. The vice doesn't go away. (Siren) But if you're unlucky enough to be caught in the sting, watch out.

5TH POLICE OFFICER You get arrested for this again, no more citations. You go right to jail.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) In Georgia, there are laws against sodomy. That's oral or anal sex. They're usually only enforced against some homosexuals. Chris Christiansen was arrested for proposing sex to another man.

CHRIS CHRISTIANSEN It's the last people they have that they can pick on.

MICHAEL BOWERS They can have sex. They just can't have sex with another boy.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Attorney General Mike Bowers argued the state's position against homosexual sex all the way to the Supreme Court.

PETER JENNINGS, ABC NEWS The Supreme Court has handed down a decision today which could affect the sexual habits of millions of Americans.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) The court sided with Bowers.

TV REPORTER States may make it a crime punishable by prison even when committed in the privacy of one's own bedroom.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Bowers says morality was upheld. He then cited the sodomy law when he took back a job offer from Robin Shahar.

ROBIN SHAHAR How could I have been fired for this? I mean ...

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Robin's a lesbian, married in a religious ceremony to Fran Shahar.

ROBIN SHAHAR People should be free to choose who they want to love. You can't-you don't have control over who you fall in love with.

MICHAEL BOWERS But that doesn't mean they can do whatever they want to, no more than I can.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) But Bowers, who's now running for governor, did just what he wanted to do for 10 years. That means he's a criminal, too. Because Georgia also has a law against adultery.

GEORGIA TV REPORTER Mike Bowers, married for 34 years and the father of three grown children, carried on a love affair with a woman who worked for him in the state law office.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Bowers admits to the affair but would not talk to us about the hypocrisy.

ROBIN SHAHAR Mr Bowers penalized me for being honest while he rewarded himself for lying.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) All this has led some Georgia legislators to try to change the law.

STEVE LANGFORD, GEORGIA STATE SENATOR If you want to have a trampoline in your bedroom and do flips and-nude or whatever it is, as long as you're not bothering anyone else, why should someone care?

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Because it's against God, say many legislators. Legalizing sex between people like the Shahars would be immoral.

MITCHELL KAYE, GEORGIA STATE REPRESENTATIVE Through some of these acts, you can't propagate the species. They're not morally correct. They say you can't legislate morality, but that's what we do as a legislature every single day-setting curfews for our children, requiring people to wear seat belts, speeding laws, other laws. We are legislating morality.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Of course, laws about children and speeding are different. Children are not consenting adults, and speeders often hurt other people. But the Shahars are consenting adults in the privacy of their own home.

FRAN SHAHAR, ROBIN SHAHAR'S PARTNER If you don't like it, don't do it. But don't tell me not to do it.

PETER MCWILLIAMS The problem comes when people come in and say, "God doesn't want you to do that, and besides that, I think it's a bad idea, and it makes me uncomfortable. So we're going to put you in jail for your own protection."

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Which is what we do with prostitutes. Vice squads arrest a tiny percentage of the lawbreakers, put them in jail and then usually release them the next day.

6TH POLICE OFFICER Now, I arrested you last night. I'm giving you a citation tonight. Hopefully, I won't see you tomorrow.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Sometimes, the madams get longer sentences. Hollywood's Heidi Fleiss went to jail for a year and a half. Sylvia Landry in Louisiana got six years. She then hanged herself in her cell. It didn't stop anything. Prostitutes are as easy to find as ever.

SYDNEY BIDDLE BARROWS People who are going to do it are going to do it whether it's legal or not.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Sydney Biddle Barrows, the so-called "Mayflower madam," because she's a descendant of the Pilgrims, admitted to running a big New York City call girl operation. Barrows got off with a $5,000 fine.

SYDNEY BIDDLE BARROWS There are a lot of women out there who simply do not feel that it is immoral to sleep with a man for money. And who are we to criminalize their doing something that is OK with them?

JOHN STOSSEL (on camera) But isn't it better if it is illegal? Aren't we better off protecting ourselves from what you did?

SYDNEY BIDDLE BARROWS What are we really protecting people against? We're protecting women from making a living, and we're protecting men from spending their money as they please. I don't think that anyone needs to be protected from that.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Prostitute Heather Smith feels so strongly about that, she let our camera follow her as she called on this customer.

HEATHER SMITH Hi, Sonny. How are you?

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Her customer agreed to be on camera.

HEATHER SMITH Oh, you look so good. It's legal for two men to go into a boxing ring and beat each other bloody for money, but it's not legal for me to go in and give someone sexual pleasure for money. What kind of sense does that make?

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) No sense, says this group of San Francisco sex workers. (on camera) This is degrading for women. No woman would choose this.

1ST WOMAN IN SAN FRANCISCO A lot of women choose this.

NORMA JEAN ALMODOVAR I don't think a lot of women would choose to scrub toilets for a living. Nevertheless, because a lot of people might think that's degrading, we don't put them in jail. (Car horn honking)

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) When we make crimes out of acts between consenting adults, an added threat to freedom is that police have to entice people into committing the crimes.



1ST PROSTITUTE Fine. Want a date?




1ST PROSTITUTE Yes, you are. (Laughing)


JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Yes, he is. And this policewoman also lies to catch a customer.



UNDERCOVER POLICEWOMAN I hear you are looking for a date?

MAN Yeah.

UNDERCOVER POLICEWOMAN How much you want to spend?

PETER MCWILLIAMS The police, who should be out there catching the real criminals-the murders and the rapists and the robbers-they're out there pretending to be prostitutes, trying to catch people who just happen to be sexually turned on.

7TH POLICE OFFICER You're under arrest right now for soliciting for prostitution, OK?

PETER MCWILLIAMS It's shameful what we're doing in the name of morality. So, you have to ask yourself not, "Is prostitution a good idea?" You have to ask yourself, "Is prostitution worth putting people in prison for?"

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Since prison hasn't stopped the business, politicians keep raising the ante.

NARRATOR (WAYNE COUNTY, MI TV AD) If you're dumb enough to solicit a prostitute in Wayne County, don't be surprised if you lose your car. The program has netted over 400 cars a month.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Do we have to arrest people and take their cars to have a civilized society? Wayne County, Michigan, is right across the river from Windsor, Canada. Here, escort services, that's what they call them, are legal.

CHANTAL GAGNON, EXECUTIVE SERVICES ESCORTS Ariel, she's 5'6". She has blonde hair, green eyes. She's a 36DD. Are you in for a treat!

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) There are more than a dozen police-registered escort services in Windsor alone. Chantal runs this one. (Telephone rings)

CHANTAL GAGNON The only difference between an escort seeing a gentleman and a gentleman seeing a girl that he picked up in a bar is that we're getting paid for it. So they're saying that it would be OK to give it for free, but you can't get paid for it. Hmm, I'm not understanding that. You know what I mean?

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) The escort services advertise in the yellow pages and on the Internet. What do the Canadian police think about this?

STAFF SGT DAVE ROSSELL, WINDSOR, ONTARIO POLICE You're not going to stop it. So what do you do now? You work with it the best you can to make it the best it can be.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Not in America. Here, it's one more messy, criminal enterprise, because of the laws. (on camera) If the majority of people want these laws, aren't we a healthier society prohibiting these things?

NADINE STROSSEN "Why not let the majority decide" sounds like a totalitarian credo, because we believe in individual liberty.

JOHN STOSSEL People should be able to do whatever they want?

NADINE STROSSEN Consenting adults in private places, absolutely.

JOHN STOSSEL Still, aren't some things just too dangerous to allow, even for consenting adults? When we return, a look at the government's biggest and most expensive effort to control what you do.

(Commercial Break)

ANNOUNCER Later in the program-gambling. Everybody's doing it, even the government. So why is it against the law? But next, try to tell this man it's a free country. What he did in his own home got him 93 years in jail. And look what America's neighbors are doing. When it comes to free choice, maybe the grass is greener on their side of the border.

"Sex, Drugs & Consenting Adults" continues after this from our ABC stations. (Station Break)

ANNOUNCER "Sex, Drugs & Consenting Adults" continues. Here again from the Statue of Liberty, John Stossel.

JOHN STOSSEL We talk about the past 20 years as a time of peace in America. But, in fact, we're at war. This war has been hugely destructive and has lasted longer than the war in Vietnam. (VO) We spend almost $100 million a day fighting this war. The military does much of the work in other countries. (Explosions)

GROUP OF POLICE OFFICERS Get down! On the ground! Now!

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) But most of the battles are fought here at home.

8TH POLICE OFFICER Search warrant! Search warrant!

9TH POLICE OFFICER Police officers!

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) After all, this is a war against our own people.

1ST MAN ON GROUND What are you talking about?

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) I'm talking, of course, about the war on drugs. This is a war worth fighting, isn't it? We have to protect all the innocent people who live in fear because their streets are so unsafe.

WOMAN ON STREET CORNER Oh, God, we ask you for the Holy Spirit.

PRIEST Some people selling drugs were shot to death right on this corner, and our cross is a sign of the suffering that drugs cause.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) In this part of the Bronx, New York, they hold these anti-drug vigils every month. Jesuit priest Joseph Kane has his ministry here.

FATHER JOSEPH KANE, JESUIT PRIEST Brothers and sisters, may the grace and peace of our loving God ...

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) For 25 years, Father Kane's lived in this neighborhood amidst drug violence. But now he believes the laws against drugs do more harm than the drugs themselves.

JOSEPH KANE Peace be with you. Thank you.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) First of all, they barely make a dent in the drug trade.

JOSEPH KANE I think what we have to realize is that interdiction is just about impossible.

UNDERCOVER DRUG AGENT He's going to sell to this big truck.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) The drug war doesn't stop the flow of drugs, because making drugs illegal makes smuggling more profitable. A hundred dollars worth of Peruvian cocaine's worth $2,000 on these streets. That keeps sellers selling.

JOSEPH KANE The corner up above it is heroin. The corner above that would be cocaine, and then down our block is smoke, you know, so ...

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) The worst effect of the drug war, he says, is the crime. Kane says if drugs were legal, there'd be less violence here. (on camera) You've got enough chaos in this neighborhood now. If it were legal, you don't think you'd have more?

JOSEPH KANE No. John, I hate to interrupt you. I think the violence in this neighborhood is caused by it being illegal.

JOHN STOSSEL What, the violence isn't caused by the drug?

JOSEPH KANE It's caused by the cost of the drug. In a sense, when you make that drug illegal, you have raised the price to such an extent that I'm willing to kill you to get your street corner. See, I cannot deal with you legally, so how can I take over this very lucrative market that you have? The only way I can get you is with violence.

JOHN STOSSEL Now, that's an odd idea-that it's the drug war that causes the crime. But think about it. Drug users rarely commit crimes just because they're high on their drug. But outlawing the drug causes crime two ways. First, it puts the drug trade in the hands of outlaws. And second, by making the drug scarce, it raises the price, and that makes drug users more likely to steal. (VO) Nicotine is said to be almost as addictive as cocaine. Yet no one's knocking over 7-Elevens to get Marlboros.

JOSEPH KANE Would there be less violence with the repeal of our laws? There would be.

TOM CONSTANTINE, DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION People try to say it's the law that causes the problem. It's the drug and the drug usage that causes the problem.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Tom Constantine heads the DEA, America's Drug Enforcement Administration. He says we must fight the drug culture.

TOM CONSTANTINE I think we have a responsibility as a Democratic society to protect ourselves from those types of detrimental situations.

NEWSREEL ANNOUNCER Bootlegging was ...

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Of course, when we tried to protect ourselves from the alcohol culture, it was a disaster.

NEWSREEL ANNOUNCER For 13 years, the idiocy continued despite ...

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Prohibition gave rise to criminals like Al Capone.

NEWSREEL ANNOUNCER Gangsterism was a natural sequel, and battles for exclusive territories erupted with a violence unparalleled in the history of law enforcement.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) It's what happens when you outlaw something that lots of people want. Today's gangs created by drug prohibition make Al Capone look small.

TOM CONSTANTINE Their wealth for criminals and organized criminals exceeds anything that we've ever seen, even when the Mafia was dominant in the United States.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) But even if the law makes some criminals rich, he says, we must fight the war to send a message to the children. Yet kids aren't getting the message.

TOM CONSTANTINE Our teenage population, we are finding that kids have lost the message that drugs are bad for them. They don't see us disapproving strongly enough of drugs.

JOHN STOSSEL (on camera) So what's the purpose of the war? You've got this huge war. You're locking up more and more people, and the kids still don't get it?

TOM CONSTANTINE The purpose of the war is to save those kids.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) It's not clear that kids are being saved. I'm sure the law deters some from trying drugs, but some teenagers are attracted to what's forbidden. And in poor neighborhoods, what may be the most perverse effect of the law is teaching kids that real work-entry-level jobs-are for suckers. Why work at McDonald's when the coolest guys in the neighborhood, the ones with the best clothes and the best cars, are the dealers? (on camera) They got the most money?

1ST BOY The most money, the most power.

2ND BOY They have the loot. The cheese.

JOHN STOSSEL "The cheese?"

2ND BOY That's what they call it.

3RD BOY They don't buy cheap stuff like us. They buy expensive.

4TH BOY They got the money, power and respect.

JOHN STOSSEL So doesn't it make you want to grow up to be a dealer?

ALL No, no, no. That's bad money.

JOHN STOSSEL That's bad money. (VO) Heroically, most of the kids will resist the temptation. But that's a lot to ask of a kid.

TOM CONSTANTINE That's why society has to arrest and prosecute those individuals that commit those crimes as a signal to all the rest of the people that we care about the issue.

JOHN STOSSEL (on camera) So who's the enemy in this war?

TOM CONSTANTINE The individuals who are selling drugs at great profit involved in these monumental criminal enterprises. Certainly not those poor people who become addicted to drugs. I don't think they should be anybody's enemy. In fact, they should be somebody we look at with some compassion.

JOHN STOSSEL But we are locking them up.

TOM CONSTANTINE No, not really.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Then who's filling the jails? Drug laws are why America imprisons a higher percentage of its citizens than most other countries.

PRISON GUARD Stand by the gate, right there.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Today, 400,000 Americans are in jail, not because they did something to someone, but because they were caught with forbidden chemicals. Here in Texas, Will Foster's in jail because he grew marijuana plants. He was convicted of intent to sell, and a jury sentenced him to 93 years.

WILL FOSTER, PRISONER In America, to have committed a crime, there used to have to be a victim. I've never beat up anybody. I've never raped nobody. I haven't molested a child. I haven't killed anybody. I worked. I paid my taxes. I took care of my family.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Foster ran a computer business.

WILL FOSTER I made in excess of $100,000 a year annual income. Now, my wife is struggling to make ends meet. And I've used all the money I had saved just to fight this. For a victimless, nonviolent crime. Never hurt nobody.

PETER MCWILLIAMS Imagine what it's costing us to do this. Imagine the money. Imagine the agony of people whose lives are destroyed by a single arrest for something like marijuana.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Peter McWilliams smokes marijuana. He probably won't be jailed for this because he lives in California, where there's a medical exception to the drug law. McWilliams has AIDS and says marijuana relieves the nausea he gets from his medicine. But the medical exception isn't much protection. Recently, nine DEA agents ransacked his house looking for evidence of marijuana growing.

PETER MCWILLIAMS They went through every paper in my house, and they just sort of left it all over the place here. And I don't know what they were looking for or what was going on. I assume that they were looking for great drug kingpin something-or-another. Isn't that what the DEA's all about, the major traffickers?

DEA AGENTS The police! Go, go, go!

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Actually, legal rules have gradually been loosened, so narcotics squads can enter any drug suspect's house even in the middle of the night without knocking. Sometimes, it's not the right house.

BOSTON TV REPORTER A Boston police SWAT team raided the wrong apartment looking for drugs.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) After this raid, this minister died of a heart attack.

10TH POLICE OFFICER Police, open the door!

11TH POLICE OFFICER Open the door!

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) And drug police now have the power to take your property and, unless you know the legal tricks, sell it at an auction like this. Even if you haven't been found guilty.


WILL FOSTER If you rape somebody, they don't come in, they don't seize your house. They don't seize your bank account. They don't seize your cars. They don't seize everything you own. In a drug offense, they do that first thing.

FORT WORTH POLICE OFFICER Police, down! Police, down!

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Still, many in government want tougher laws.

REP NEWT GINGRICH, (R) GEORGIA We ought to say flatly, "You import a commercial quantity of drugs in the United States for the purpose of destroying our children, we will kill you."

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) They do that in Saudi Arabia. Here, drug dealers are beheaded in the town square. Would this solve our problem? (Church bells ring) Some countries say the answer is more tolerance. In Italy, Spain and Holland, use of small amounts of drugs is generally ignored. In Vancouver, Canada, we stopped by the Cannabis Cafe.

MARK EMORY (PH), CANNABIS CAFE The Cannabis Cafe here has cannabis in all the food, hemp oil and hemp seeds.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) People smoke marijuana in the restaurant, started by Mark Emory.

MARK EMORY Where'd you get this pipe?

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) His mother and daughter tried out different pipes as a gift for her 16th birthday. What do the police think about this?

SGT RUSS GRABB, ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE All things being equal, marijuana is really not a big deal. It's essentially viewed as a victimless crime.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) America was once more tolerant of intoxicants, too. At the turn of the century, Bayer aspirin had heroin in it. Some wine had coca leaves. And nicotine's always been legal.

WILL FOSTER In America, you can have the right to kill yourself with cigarettes, have the right to kill yourself with alcohol. But you can't medicate yourself, or you can't smoke a joint. You know, I mean, where is your freedom of choice?

TOM CONSTANTINE There's a difference between alcohol and cocaine. There's a difference between alcohol and marijuana. Everybody who tries that substance-marijuana, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, hashish-does it for one single purpose. They do it for the purpose of becoming high. I think that's wrong, and I think it's dangerous.

JOHN STOSSEL (on camera) I hate to say this to the head of the DEA, but when I have a glass of gin or vodka, I'm doing it to get a little buzz on. That buzz is bad, should be illegal?

TOM CONSTANTINE Well, I think if you drink for that purpose, that's not too smart. I can't tell what you to do with your own life.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) We do want him to tell airline pilots and bus drivers they can't get high on the job. That's hardly victimless. But shouldn't people be allowed to harm themselves if that's what they want to do? (on camera) Should we outlaw smoking?

TOM CONSTANTINE When we look down the road, I would say 10, 15, 20 years from now, in a gradual fashion, smoking will probably be outlawed in the United States.

DREW CAREY Oh, my God. Send me to jail.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Better enjoy it while you can.

NADINE STROSSEN Everything can be abused. And if we're going to say that any freedom or any choice that can be abused should therefore be eliminated, then I think we're all going to have to live in a police state.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Large numbers of police recently appeared on Father Kane's block. They say they're fighting drugs 24 hours a day.

JOSEPH KANE I think our country wants to make war. And we're making war against people who we really don't care that much about to begin with. And that's why I am personally against it. We have taken people that I think are precious and we've destroyed them.

JOHN STOSSEL (on camera) When we return, we look at what many people consider the most basic freedom.

ANNOUNCER Stossel and Stossel, father and son making decisions about the end of life.

JOHN STOSSEL Would you ever want to die?

ANNOUNCER The way we live, the way we die. Should the government have the final say? "Sex, Drugs & Consenting Adults" continues after this.

(Commercial Break)

ANNOUNCER "Sex, Drugs & Consenting Adults" continues. Here again, John Stossel.

JOHN STOSSEL Who owns your body? You or the state? I'd like to think that once I'm an adult, my body belongs to me. So I'm allowed to eat as much as I want to, dye my hair red, get a nose ring, whatever. It's my body, isn't it? Well, actually, no.

12TH POLICE OFFICER Give me your hands! (Shouting) Give me your hands!

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) As we've seen, you're not free to put any intoxicant you want into your body.


2ND MAN ON GROUND I don't have anything!

JOHN STOSSEL Or sell your body.

2ND PROSTITUTE So what's going on, honey? Can you try to help a girl out?

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) You can't bulk up using steroids. Some places, you're not allowed to get a tattoo. The purpose of these bans is to protect us, but it's not clear that forbidding things always does that.

JANET'S MOTHER One, two, three ...

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Consider Janet Cheadle. While she looks healthy, Janet has a form of cancer that's likely to kill her before she becomes an adult. Her parents want to take her to this Texas clinic, run by Dr Stanislaw Burzynski. He has a treatment that might help her. It's now being studied by the Food and Drug Administration. But only the FDA gets to decide who can be treated, and the agency turned Janet down. They say it's not safe if people pursue medical treatments the government hasn't sanctioned.


JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Janet's father's angry about that.

LYLE CHEADLE My daughter has a terrible disease called neuroblastoma cancer. I know what the survival rates are, which is essentially zero, and I'm trying to do something that may save my daughter's life. We have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain.

JOHN STOSSEL (on camera) But they won't let you?

LYLE CHEADLE They won't let me.

JOHN STOSSEL Janet, do you know what your father's talking about? Can you follow this? And your father wants to take you to this new doctor. You want to go?


PROTESTERS FDA go away! Let us live another day!

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) When the government moved to put Burzynski in jail and shut his clinic down two years ago, desperate patients and their families went to Congress to protest.

MARIANNE KUNARI (PH) My son's last hope for life ...

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Marianne Kunari pleaded for her son, Dustin.

MARIANNE KUNARI Without this treatment, my son will die.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) After this testimony, her son was allowed to continue his treatment. He's now doing well.

DOCTOR Looks good.


JOHN STOSSEL (VO) That's what Lyle Cheadle hopes for Janet-if the FDA would just let go. (on camera) "We're the government. We're here, we're just protecting you."

LYLE CHEADLE I'm going to tell you, I don't need your protection, and you need to get out of my face. They're not protecting my daughter. What they're doing is tantamount to murder.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) After this interview, the FDA said Janet will be allowed the treatment. But why did her parents have to beg? Why should thousands of others have to leave the country to try to save their lives? Which brings us to the biggest issue. If it's my body, do I have the right to end my life? Can I ask a doctor to help? Here in Olympia, Washington, Dale Gilsdorf is dying. He has lung and brain cancer.

DALE GILSFORD, CANCER PATIENT Oh, this is our ski trip.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Divorced, he spends lots of time with his two daughters, Renee and Nicole. He's had a good life. He worked as a psychotherapist and climbed mountains. Now his wish is to die with dignity, at a time he chooses, with his daughters at his bedside.

DALE GILSFORD I don't want my children to see me as this skeleton who vomits, doesn't know his full name, doesn't know them.

JOHN STOSSEL (on camera) Your mother died that way?

DALE GILSFORD My mother died that way. That's a very undignified way to live your last years.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Dale would like a doctor to help him control the manner of his death. But here, and in most states, that's illegal.

DALE GILSFORD In this most important part of my life, which is my death, I'm alone. I don't even have trained people to help me. That's not right.

POLLSTER We're calling with Oregon's ballot measure 16 campaign.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) If Dale lived in Oregon, however, he'd have another choice.

PETER JENNINGS Voters in that state passed a controversial ballot initiative this week that allows doctors to help terminally ill patients who want to commit suicide.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Family physician Dr Peter Goodwin helped draft the Oregon law.

DR PETER GOODWIN Only in Oregon have we publicly acknowledged what people around this country believe, and that is that aiding dying is appropriate for some few terminally ill patients who want this, want it desperately.

"DEATH WITH DIGNITY" ADVOCATE State voters, we need your signature ...

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Often, it's older people who feel most strongly about having control at the end of their lives. (on camera) How old are you now? (VO) My father's 92. (on camera) What if you got cancer or some disease, and you were in pain?


JOHN STOSSEL Would you want a doctor-would you ever want to die?

OTTO STOSSEL I think I should have the privilege to demand it of my doctor to do something of the sort.

JOHN STOSSEL You should have the right to demand that he kill you?

OTTO STOSSEL That's right. I should have the right to demand it.

JOHN STOSSEL The law says no. The law says the doctor may not.

OTTO STOSSEL I think it still should be my decision what I want to do with my life-not anybody else's, even if it's you.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) I can't argue with that. But the law says no, and should say no, says lawyer Wesley Smith, a leader in the anti-euthanasia movement. (on camera) Isn't it my choice? It's my life.

WESLEY J. SMITH, ATTORNEY The law is not about "I, I, me, me." When we make public policy, it is about "us, us, we, we." There are certain individual conducts that we have a right to stop, and I think having doctors help kill people is one of those.

JOHN STOSSEL I'm scared about the end of my life. What if I'm in terrible pain? I want to be able to end that pain.

WESLEY J. SMITH We're all scared about the end of our lives, and what we need to have is to be ensured that our pain can be ended. But killing isn't ending pain. Killing is killing.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Smith worries that doctors or patients' families might want to kill off dying or elderly people just to cut medical costs, or that people might feel they have a duty to die to relieve the burden on their family.

WESLEY J. SMITH If we're going to be a loving and compassionate society, I think if we just say, "Oh, well, it's your body. If you want to die, go ahead," you're abandoning people.

DR PETER GOODWIN Absolutely untrue. What we're doing is staying with the patients' perception, listening to the patient, and then acceding to a desperate plea from a dying patient at the very end of life. It's not abandonment. It's compassionate care.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Dale Gilsdorf approached several doctors about getting that care, but they said no.

DALE GILSDORF And they just shut the conversation off. I couldn't even talk about it because they're frightened.

JOHN STOSSEL (on camera) So you've had to trick doctors into giving you the pills.

DALE GILSDORF Exactly. Exactly. You're hiding from your physician. You're being dishonest with your physician.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Dale lied to his doctors, told them he couldn't sleep, and they prescribed sleeping pills. But fearing that that wouldn't be enough drugs, Dale then found an illegal dealer in barbiturates. He drove to this nearby town where he secretly bought these pills.

DALE GILSDORF I'm not a person that does things that are illegal, and I'm being forced to do that because the law will not allow me to get legal medications. That's a terrible thing. (Dog barks)

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Dale feels fortunate that at least now he has his pills and his daughters' support. (on camera) And how do you envision your death?

DALE GILSDORF I hope that I will know when and be able to call my family together and say, "This is it. Prepare whatever rituals you want to. I don't particularly have any."

DALE'S DAUGHTER I envision holding his hand.

DALE GILSDORF And I'll probably take the sedatives and just go to sleep.

JOHN STOSSEL We'll be back in a moment.

(Commercial Break)

ANNOUNCER "Sex, Drugs & Consenting Adults" continues. Here again from the Statue of Liberty, John Stossel.

JOHN STOSSEL This statue was paid for by something that could be a crime if you did it-gambling. The French got some of the money they needed to build her from the proceeds of a lottery. (VO) Gambling is the biggest consensual crime. This is legal gambling, but illegal gambling's huge. The NCAA says about $100 billion is illegally spent just on sports betting every year. (Cheering) Occasionally, vice squads arrest some of the bookies. Police say one operates out of this house in this quiet Miami suburb. Worried that the people in the house will resist, police put on their bulletproof vests and attack en masse.


JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Inside, they handcuff the suspect and spend hours ransacking the house-searching clothes, the bed, everything, before they haul him off to jail. Will this make America safer? Will it make any difference? Even the police wonder.

SGT PETE ANDREU, MIAMI DADE POLICE People are going to gamble. You shut one down, and it's going to-there's going to open up another one, you know, and it's going to-it's a perpetual problem.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) But if gambling's a problem, why is government such an eager bookie, spending tax money on ads to lure more of us in?

LOTTERY SPOKESWOMAN (TV COMMERCIAL) The New York lotto jackpot is now $15 million. Cool.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) The law is so inconsistent. Consider ticket scalping. (on camera) How much?

3RD SCALPER $75 each.

JOHN STOSSEL $75 each.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) These guys were offering to sell me tickets to a basketball game at Madison Square Garden. Now, we all know that ticket scalping is evil and illegal. But why? (on camera) Are you a scalper?

1ST SCALPER I'm a scalper, yeah.

JOHN STOSSEL So are you doing something bad?

1ST SCALPER No, I'm not. They should make it legal, because we're not doing anything wrong.

WOMAN AT EVENT Where are you getting these tickets? Are you buying them?

1ST SCALPER Ma'am, I buy them.


1ST SCALPER Nice women and gentlemen ...

WOMAN AT EVENT ... that are neatly dressed like me.


MAN ON MEGAPHONE These people are leeches. They will take your money and go.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Madison Square Garden wants the scalpers arrested.

ROBERT RUSSO, GENERAL MANAGER, MADISON SQUARE GARDEN Why should some parasite be allowed to do that on the street?

JOHN STOSSEL What if my family gets sick, and we can't go to the game? I can't come here and resell my tickets?

ROBERT RUSSO We really don't want that going on around our business. It's unseemly.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Because it's unseemly, it's illegal? Yes, it should be illegal, says this man. (on camera) It's wrong to sell things for more?

MAN AT EVENT That's right. Right.

JOHN STOSSEL What if I offer to buy your bracelet here for more than you paid for it? That should be illegal, too?

MAN AT EVENT No, then I'm making a profit. (Laughter)

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) As with gambling, drug laws, sex laws, there's lots of hypocrisy here. (on camera) I thought making a profit's OK?

MAN AT EVENT For me, it is. Not for them. (Laughter)

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) That about sums it up. But if we're adults, why can't we make decisions about what we buy and sell, about how we use our bodies, by ourselves?

NADINE STROSSEN We certainly don't want government to be big daddy or big mommy. You, as a mature adult, have the right to make decisions about your own life, even if other people might think that they're stupid decisions.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) Of course, people who don't like your decision have every right to complain about your behavior.


JOHN STOSSEL (VO) To boycott, to picket, to embarrass you. And God bless the critics.

MALE DEMONSTRATOR It sets a bad example. It sets a bad trend.

JOHN STOSSEL (VO) The critics make America a better place by standing up for virtue, making us think about what's good and evil. Shaming us into being better people. But shaming is one thing, using the force of law another.

14TH POLICE OFFICER Keep your head down. You listen to me.

PETER MCWILLIAMS The law is a very powerful thing. The law means that you send people out with guns to get people when they don't follow it. It's a very, very serious matter.

JOHN STOSSEL (on camera) But people are weak. Having laws helps people be moral.

PETER MCWILLIAMS Moral is based on free choice. You have a series of choices, and you make the right choice. Any 5-year-old can understand this. Don't mess with their stuff, they won't mess with your stuff. Really? Yes. What's the catch? The catch is, you have to tolerate what they're doing over there with their toys, and they get to tolerate what you're doing over here with your toys. So with our tolerance, we buy our freedom.

JOHN STOSSEL Freedom is what America's supposed to be about. Maybe we should rethink the rules. Why not just allow consenting adults to do anything that's peaceful? That's our program for tonight. Please stay tuned for Nightline after your local news. I'm John Stossel. Good night, and thanks for watching our program, which was really about liberty.


"Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do" is at

A preview of Peter McWilliams most recent book, "A Question of Compassion: An AIDS-Cancer Patient Explores Medical Marijuana" is at

More links of interest are at: