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Party Opens Convention by Renewing Call to Legalize Drugs

September 1, 1989

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ The Libertarian Party announced plans to strengthen its self-proclaimed role as America’s third party, but leaders acknowledge their opposition to the drug war isn’t likely to win votes quickly.

Nevertheless, the party opened its annual convention Thursday by renewing its call for the legalization of drugs.

″It does no good to back away from the unpopular issues,″ 1984 presidential candidate David Bergland told delegates.

The party believes drugs should be legalized because the ″war″ is an excuse to trample individuals’ rights. Just as the prohobition of alcohol spawned organized crime, the Libertarians say current laws make drug dealing profitable.

″At this moment in time, the Drug Enforcement Administration is the greatest threat to the liberties of the American people,″ said Dave Nolan, a founder of the 18-year-old party.

The party boasts 200,000 members but had less than 500 in attendance at the opening session of the three-day convention. Delegates had to pay their own way.

Nolan conceded that the drug war ″is popular at the moment, and our stand against it is going to be unpopular.″

But party leaders said their position would reap dividends eventually because the war on drugs was doomed to failure.

″We will be seen as the ones who stuck to their guns,″ said Larry Dodge, a onetime U.S. Senate and gubernatorial candidate in Montana.

The drug position is consistent with the Libertarian philosophy that government is too big and intrusive. That philosophy also leads to them to support abortion rights and gun owners’ rights and advocate a non- interventionist foreign policy.

Several party leaders said the Libertarians should focus less on running for president, and more on getting their message to the public. They announced a renewed effort to use the media and high school seminars to spread their ideas.

″When a representative of the Libertarian Party goes to a public high school, every student is impressed with the legitimacy of the party in the political system,″ Bergland said.

The Libertarians were thrilled that the convention was covered by C-SPAN, which covers Congress and offers public affairs broadcasts on cable television.

″We look for balance,″ C-SPAN spokeswoman Kristin Wennberg said Thursday. Mimicking the Republicans and Democrats, the Libertarians brought placards to the meeting site - a hotel ballroom - bearing the names of all 50 states. But some states had no representatives present.

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