#210 Former Czar’s Memory Faulty On “Successful” Drug War

Date: Wed, 16 May 2001
Subject: #210 Former Czar’s Memory Faulty On “Successful” Drug War

Former Czar’s Memory Faulty On “Successful” Drug War


DrugSense FOCUS Alert # 210 Wednesday May 16, 2001

Former drug czar William Bennett has been busy cranking out oped
pieces defending John P. Walters, who has been chosen to be the new
drug czar. Walters subscribes to the same dangerous “lock ’em up”
mentality as Bennett. Unfortunately for both of them, the failure of
their strategies have been documented thoroughly. But, never one to
let facts get in the way of his opinions, Bennett evoked a
mythological golden age of the drug war in the Wall Street Journal
this week.

He boasts: “…far from being a failure, drug-control programs are
among the most successful public-policy efforts of the later half of
the 20th century.” Bennett acknowledges that the past 8 years have
seen increases in drug use statistics, but he blames that on the
Clinton administration. He conveniently ignores the fact that under
Clinton the number of drug arrests and prison sentences soared, as did
federal funds allocated for the drug war.

But somehow, Walters will win the drug war by getting even tougher.
Please write a letter to the Wall Street Journal to expose Bennett’s
nonsense for what it is.

Phone, fax etc.)

Please post a copy your letter or report your action to the sent
letter list (sentlte@mapinc.org) if you are subscribed, or by
E-mailing a copy directly to MGreer@mapinc.org Your letter will then
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and be motivated to followsuit

This is VERY IMPORTANT as it is the only way we have of gauging our
impact and effectiveness.

Contact Info

Source: Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Contact: letter.editor@wsj.com



US: OPED: The Drug War Worked Once – It Can Again

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n863/a06.html
Newshawk: Douglas Caddy
Pubdate: Tue, 15 May 2001
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Copyright: 2001 Dow Jones & Company, Inc
Contact: letter.editor@wsj.com
Website: http://www.wsj.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/487
Author: William J. Bennett
Note: Mr. Bennett is co-director of Empower America and co-chairman of the
Partnership for a Drug-Free America. He was director of the Office of
National Drug Control Policy under President George H.W. Bush


George W. Bush recently announced the nomination of John P. Walters to
serve as the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
The new “drug czar” is being asked to lead the nation’s war on illegal
drugs at a time when many are urging surrender.

The forms of surrender are manifold: Buzzwords like “harm reduction”
are crowding out clear no-use messages. State initiatives promoting
“medical marijuana” are little more than thinly veiled legalization
efforts ( as underscored by yesterday’s 8-0 Supreme Court ruling
against medical exceptions ). The film “Traffic” portrayed the war on
drugs as a futile effort. In a recent survey by the Pew Research
Center for the People and the Press, 74% of Americans believe the war
on drugs is a failure.

And yet recent history shows that, far from being a failure,
drug-control programs are among the most successful public-policy
efforts of the later half of the 20th century. According to a national
drug survey, between 1979 and 1992, the most intense period of
antidrug efforts, the rate of illegal drug use dropped by more than
half, while marijuana use decreased by two-thirds. Cocaine use dropped
by three-fourths between 1985 and 1992.

Why is this record described as a failure? For those who would
legalize drugs, all drug-control efforts must be painted as
disastrous. But for most Americans, frustration with the drug issue
stems from the fact that over the past eight years we have lost ground.

During the Clinton administration, our nation’s drug policy suffered a
period of malign neglect. President Clinton’s two clearest statements
about illegal drugs were his infamous statement “I didn’t inhale” and
his immediate and dramatic cut in the size of the federal antidrug
staff. Morale and political leadership were both compromised, and a
national cynicism about drug use resulted. Hiring a four-star general
may have fooled the public and the Washington press corps for a while,
but it didn’t add up to a meaningful program.

To paraphrase Arthur Miller, attention was not paid, and the problem
quickly worsened: Between 1992 and 1999, rates of current drug use —
defined as using once a month or more — increased by 15%. Rates of
marijuana use increased 11%. The situation was far worse among our
children: Lifetime use of illegal drugs increased by 37% among
eighth-graders and 55% among 10th-graders. We have reached the point
where more than one-quarter of all high school seniors are current
users of illegal drugs; indeed, rates of monthly drug use among high
school seniors increased 86% between 1992 and 1999.

We must re-engage this fight. What we were doing in the 1980s and
early 1990s — vigorous law enforcement and interdiction coupled with
effective prevention and treatment — worked. It can work again.

The most important component of any antidrug strategy is prevention.
Children who reach the age of 21 without using illegal drugs are
almost certain never to do so. The Partnership for a Drug-Free America
has crafted some of the most memorable and effective advertisements in
history, encouraging children to turn down illegal drugs. The message
that drug use is dangerous and immoral is the essential key to prevention.

In addition, we must continue to develop effective treatment programs.
Many criticisms have been leveled at America’s lack of treatment
capacity, but more troubling is the lack of treatment efficacy.
However, 12-step programs ( akin to Alcoholics Anonymous ) have been
shown to be both inexpensive and effective in private-sector drug
treatment. Hopefully, their success can be extended to public-sector
treatment as well.

Everyone agrees on the necessity of effective treatment and strong
prevention efforts. Some people, however, believe that law enforcement
should have no role in the process. This is an altogether simplistic
model: Demand reduction cannot be effective without supply reduction.

It is true that there will always be a supply of illegal drugs as long
as there is a demand. But forceful interdiction can help to increase
the price and decrease the purity of drugs available, a critical means
of intervening in the lives of addicts, who can only beg, borrow and
steal so much to support their habit. Government reports document that
recovering addicts are more likely to relapse when faced with cheap,
plentiful drugs. Aggressive interdiction efforts, then, are not supply
reduction so much as the first step in demand reduction.

Some people will admit that there is a place for law enforcement, but
contend we spend too much on this effort, to the detriment of demand
reduction. In fact, according to Robert DuPont, who led the nation’s
antidrug efforts under Presidents Nixon and Ford, there has never been
as much federal money spent on prevention education as is being spent
today. The U.S.’s total spending on drug-demand reduction far exceeds
the amounts spent in the rest of the world combined.

A more pragmatic point: While treatment is often centered at the
individual and local levels, interdiction and law enforcement must be
federal responsibilities. Given the scope and complexity of drug
trafficking, the federal government can and must assume the
responsibility for stopping the traffic of drugs across and within our
borders. The drug czar’s first concerns, then, must be interdiction
and law enforcement, if only because they are tasks no other agency
can perform as effectively.

I believe that the position of drug czar ought to remain at the
cabinet level, but more important is the president’s personal support
and commitment to the office. I had that backing, and I expect the new
drug czar will enjoy that same support and commitment from Mr. Bush.
If Mr. Walters is to have any success, he must enjoy it.

The past eight years are, once again, illustrative: Gen. Barry
McCaffrey never enjoyed that support from President Clinton. In
renewing the drug war, the new drug czar will not be alone. He will be
able to draw on the assistance of people — parents, teachers,
substance-abuse counselors, clergymen and elected officials — who
have continued to fight drug use over the past eight years. These
groups are our first lines of defense; without them, the regression
since 1992 would have been far worse. Their dedication gives the lie
to the gospel of futility.

I look forward to America re-engaging in the war on drugs — and
continuing the success that we had between 1980 and 1992.



To the editor,

I find it interesting that former Drug Czar William J. Bennett
attributes rising drug use during the ’90s to Bill Clinton’s “malign
neglect” of the Drug War (“The Drug War Worked once – It Can Again”,
May 15).

Under Clinton, the amount budgeted for domestic drug law enforcement
rose 74 percent. Arrests for cannabis possession soared from 271,900
in 1992 to 620,500 in 1999, a 128 percent increase. On average, annual
drug arrests were 30 percent higher under Clinton than under Bennett’s
boss George H.W. Bush. Yet, according to Bennett, “rates of monthly
drug use among high school seniors increased 86% between 1992 and
1999.” How tragic if, as both Bennett and the evidence suggests,
Clinton’s costly escalation was less significant than his quip on MTV.

Unfortunately, due to a lack of research funding, no one really knows
why usage rates rise and fall. A recent government-commissioned study
by the National Research Council found that “Neither the necessary
data systems nor the research infrastructure to gauge the usefulness
of drug-control enforcement policies exists.” As Charles Manski, a
professor of economics and chairman of the study committee put it, “It
is unconscionable for this country to continue to carry out a public
policy of this magnitude and cost without any way of knowing whether,
and to what extent, it is having the desired result.”

Matthew M. Elrod

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