THE DEA’S GENE HAISLIP ’60, B.C.L. ’63 from the U.S. Drug EnforcementAgency (DEA) nearly 15 years ago, but he’s never really left the job. “I wake upin the morning and my wife asks me, ‘Whatdid you do at the office last night?’” Haislipsays with a laugh, Gene Haislip ’60, B.C.L. ’63 in
May 1985 announcing the
DEA’s ban on the drug MDMA,
commonly known as “Ecstasy.”
ton’s bureaucrats, politicians and lobbyists, often feeling like Lewis Car- roll’s Alice talking with the Mad Hatter. Haislip, whom classmate Tom Lipscomb ’60 describes as “genial and deceptively tough,” was interested in results. At the DEA, he battled to stem the destructive effects of a suc- cession of drugs — ecstasy, Quaaludes, methamphetamine — and warned of the dangers of legal prescription drugs such as Ritalin. Since retirement, he’s continued to serve as a consultant for corporations and governmental agencies worldwide, including the United Nations Drug Control Program. His name appears frequently in accounts of the drug Haislip at home in Winchester,
Va., surrounded by mementos
from his world travels.
wars, such as the critically acclaimed book Methland by Nick Red- developing his maturity of thought. “The greatest qualification in life is to be able to think and analyze, and William and Mary taught me Haislip is quick to acknowledge the irony inherent in his ongoing crusade. “It really is an addiction, fighting this,” he says.
When he was a junior, Haislip met the woman who would become Not surprisingly, he identifies with another great literary character, his wife of 50 years, Patricia “Patsy” Blanton Haislip ’61, an education Don Quixote — “because he was always trying to improve the world.” major. As their relationship blossomed, they began to contemplate Although Haislip has done his share of tilting at windmills, he’s among marriage. But the timing wasn’t good: Patsy’s father had suffered a the rare individuals, inside or outside of government, who’s been able serious heart attack, which affected the family finances.
to score a clear victory in combating the illegal drug trade.
“We thought, ‘If we put this off for better times, we’re going to have And he did it, he says, by thinking outside the box — something he to put it off a long time.’” So, in an act of chivalry worthy of Don learned as a philosophy major at William and Mary.
Quixote, Haislip promised Patsy’s father that he would see her through her senior year. The couple married in the Wren Chapel dur- ing spring break in 1960. Appropriately, they have a son named Wren.
Like his literary hero, Haislip has always tended to follow his own Haislip received a law degree from Marshall-Wythe and practiced path. His route to the College was certainly unconventional.
law in Norfolk for a few years. He continued his legal studies at “In high school, I held the distinction of throwing the biggest George Washington University, focusing on how developments in sci- teenage beer party in the history of Norfolk, Va. I don’t think it’s been beaten yet,” Haislip says. “Needless to say, this didn’t serve my grades After receiving his LL.M., Haislip took a position at the Federal well, and it was suggested I might benefit from doing the 12th grade Bureau of Narcotics, the precursor to the DEA, that seemed to exact- twice. So here I was, already facing the world a year behind in life.” ly fit his interests. “Science and technology, criminal law, internation- At one point, Haislip actually thought of shipping out with a “rough al law — it was all there,” he says. “But after about three months of and tough” friend in the Merchant Marines, but he realized in time reading boring reports, I thought to myself, ‘I have made a terrible that he needed an education. He buckled down and attended summer school, got very good grades, and was accepted at William and Mary.
His boss somehow got wind of Haislip’s dissatisfaction and gave “I came to Williamsburg and in no time at all, it was everything I him some new assignments, which eventually led Haislip to Capitol expected. It was like living inside of a permanent Christmas card.” Hill as the DEA’s head of Congressional affairs. “I always say, ‘Be Haislip gives special credit to philosophy professor Lewis Foster Jr.
careful of the superior you choose.’ My career took off at that point and Wayne Kernodle and Ed Rhyne of the sociology department for methaqualone from Hungary. “And so I was off to Hungary,” Haislip says.
Flash forward a decade: After a stint serving as deputy assistant sec- “One by one we found the sources, in Germany and Austria going retary at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare in the through the port of Hamburg, and eventually even China,” Haislip Ford administration, Haislip returned to the DEA. He was soon being recalled during a television interview for Frontline on PBS. “Each considered for the position of director of the DEA’s Office of Compli- time we were able to deal with these sources, just cutting off the ance and Regulatory Affairs (later renamed the Office of Diversion faucets until, in fact, there was no more flow. The Colombians could Control), which oversaw the production and use of legally manufac- not get their drug powder; they could not counterfeit the tablets. And that line of $2 billion or more of illicit drug traffic was finished.” “When they called me in, I said, ‘If you select me for this position, Congress soon outlawed the manufacture of Quaaludes, and by I’m going to change things. I’m going after the criminal diversion of 1984, they were no longer a significant problem in the United States.
legitimate drugs; I’m going to do things we’ve not been doing.’ And I As a major article in Rolling Stone about the drug wars summed it while working as executive assistant to the DEA director. “I had to review enforcement reports that came in from all over the field. And here was a seizure of 3 tons of methaqualone on an airplane coming from Colombia. Three days later, there was another airplane seized, out in Texas, and another 2 tons. Then there was another big seizure in Georgia. So I called down to check the statistics on national manu- At the DEA, Haislip pioneered the
facture, and they said 7 tons is it for the country for a year.
effort to develop a global multilateral
“Right away, I saw that there was an elephant in the living room.” approach to drug enforcement. This
photo: At the Great Wall of China,
He knew that Colombians were using methaqualone to create a early 1980s. Top Photo: Attending a
counterfeit form of Quaaludes. But where were they getting it from? conference of Latin American
In 1980, he went to Colombia to find out. He ended up in Barranquilla, nations in Ecuador, 1987.
a major port, flying from Bogota in an ancient DC-3 named Don Cora- je, or Mr. Courageous. There he met with the head of customs in a grand but crumbling government building. “It looked like the Chinese Army had bivouacked there for 20 years,” Haislip says.
“When I started to explain the problem, this official immediately froze up and said, ‘We can’t talk here.’ He put his automatic in his belt and motioned for us to follow him. We went to an area that was com- pletely abandoned, nothing but empty rooms and a few pieces of fur- niture. We sat over in the far corner of one of these rooms, guns on the table. I knew I was into something fairly heavy at this point.” After securing the cooperation of the Colombian customs official, Haislip returned safely to Washington, D.C. He asked the agency for just one thing: “A seizure on the dock at Bar- Within a month, they had what they wanted: a shipment of Man of many hats: After retiring from the DEA, Haislip continued his international work as a
consultant. In 2004, he helped Peru craft a law for the control of chemicals used to process
cocaine, which passed the Peruvian Congress 93-0. Left photo: Haislip in the Peruvian country-
side. Right photo: Purchasing a Panama hat in Colombia.
THE METH WARSMethamphetamine, or “meth,” has gained such notoriety that it’s hard to believe meth abuse was once a small problem, confined to biker gangs in to know what she could do to fight the problem.” After Haislip northern California. If Gene Haislip had gotten his way, it might still be.
responded, the woman wrote back: “I was so shocked to receive a In the early 1980s, Haislip recognized that the illegal manufacture reply from you, and so honored. I wanted to do something, and now I of meth was a growing problem, but it was still contained enough to be nipped in the bud. He knew that the criminals were getting their hands on imports of bulk ephedrine, a chemical used to make popular decongestants, but also the principal ingredient in meth. Applying Since 1997, Haislip has run a busy consulting practice, advising the same strategy he’d used with Quaaludes, Haislip aimed to go after domestic pharmaceutical companies about compliance issues and the importation of ephedrine from abroad and to oversee its legiti- continuing his overseas work. With Patsy’s retirement last year from her long teaching career, the couple now has more time for their In 1985, Haislip proposed a federal law allowing the DEA to regu- greatest joy in life: doting on their 4-year-old granddaughter, who late ephedrine pills and powder. But the pharmaceutical lobby was lives in Florida. Reflecting back, Haislip says simply: “You’re talking able to reach the highest levels of government, forcing Haislip to to a lucky guy. I don’t know what I did to deserve it.” make a key compromise: letting pills go unregulated. “It becomes a Haislip is also spending more time pursuing another great pas- very tricky dance to get what we need, to protect the public, but at sion: painting. It’s not surprising that someone with Haislip’s imagina- the same time try not to interfere or overly inconvenience the legiti- tion has a creative side. “I get this idea that is so complete, so glowing, mate aspects,” he explained in the Frontline interview.
I try to get an image that at least expresses it somewhat. The first Even the watered-down legislation, however, produced results.
sketch is always horrid,” he says, chuckling at himself. “But when I “Within the first two years, we cut the meth problem by 60 percent,” The subject of his latest painting? The Man of La Mancha himself: Over the next two decades, Congress passed a succession of laws to stem the meth epidemic through control of ephedrine and its coun- Wherever and whenever he can, Haislip continues his quest, advo- terpart, pseudophedrine, but each time the legislation was compro- cating for a comprehenisve, strategic approach to solving the illegal mised because of the pharmaceutical lobby. U.S. meth producers drug problem — something often lacking or even opposed in the fed- Haislip retired from the DEA in March 1997 without seeing ulti- “DEA is a law enforcement organization, they carry guns and mate success in his battle against meth. But eventually, researchers badges, and they arrest people, bring them to trial and put them in and reporters gathered evidence proving that his strategy of going jail if they’re found guilty. That’s fine,” he says. “But that’s like trying after the source chemicals was effective. Haislip credits the work of to eliminate an enemy army one person at a time. It is totally inade- such journalists as Steve Suo of the Oregonian, whose 2004 series on meth was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, with passage of the 2005 Despite the many frustrations, however, Haislip has never shared Combat Meth Act, which finally promised controls with real teeth.
the sense of futility often felt by former DEA colleagues. “Even if you His reward has come from e-mails he receives from former meth can’t completely solve a problem, you can improve it. Does it matter addicts. “One women wrote me recently and said, ‘The best day of my if 1,000 die instead of 10,000? You’re damn right it matters, by 9,000.
life was when the state took my children,’” Haislip says. “She wanted “That’s 9,000 who will live, and all their kids.”

Source: http://www.haislipconsulting.com/d/sites/default/files/Haislip_William%26MaryMagazine.pdf

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