What's The Drug Czar's Problem?

  What's The Drug Czar's Problem?

Posted by CN Staff on May 02, 2005 at 19:40:07 PT
By Stephen Young, DrugSense Weekly 
Source: AlterNet  

The headline over a recent National Journal article about U.S. drug czar John Walters seems fairly mundane: "Drug Czar Plays Defense." But the subtitle generates more interest. "If you can name the current drug czar, you are probably mad at him."Sounds accurate, at least in my personal situation. But I'm opposed to the whole concept of a federal drug czar, and I find the tactics of Walters little more despicable than his predecessors. In the National Journal, however, other drug warriors just as conniving and dishonest as Walters describe an unlikable bureaucrat, both imperious and isolated.
Former employees, law enforcement officials, even hard-line congressional drug warriors like Rep. Mark Souder of Indiana, seeming ideological soulmates of Walters, express their irritation with the czar and the current state of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Representatives from drug war special interest groups and even other federal agencies seem offended that Walters and top level ONDCP staff have met with them rarely, if at all, since Walters took the helm.At the risk of rubbing salt in those wounds, I can't help but recall that Walters took time and resources to fly himself and/or other top ONDCP personnel to at least two separate legislative committee meetings here in my home state of Illinois during the past 14 months.There have been trips to other states to influence either legislative or electoral processes. These ethically questionable trips have raised complaints about the ONDCP's failure to comply with local lobbying laws. The ONDCP has always responded that it is above the law.When Walters himself appeared in my state capital a few months ago, he lied right into the faces of lawmakers about why he was here. He wasn't there to improperly influence the legislators who were considering a medical marijuana bill, he claimed, as if there was a proper way for an appointed federal official to pressure state lawmakers.The National Journal article implicitly blames the czar's popularity problems on personality clashes, conflicting styles, and fierce competition for limited resources. But, as his lobbying hijinks indicate, I think Walters may have inadvertently identified the real problem some years ago.Back in 1996, Walters co-authored a book called Body Count. The book argued that crime wasn't caused by a lack of material wealth; it was instead caused by the inability of society to instill a sense of right and wrong in young people. Jobs and money weren't the problems, according to the book, values were. The authors found a concise phrase for what they saw as the issue: moral poverty.I disagree with the conclusions of the book, but now I see how the concept of moral poverty may be useful in other areas. Like the drug czar's office, with its big budget and limited ethics.Walters declined to be interviewed for the National Journal article. But one of his underlings said the proof of Walters' success is a decline in reported drug use (a dubious statement at best), and that the office was able to pull off a series of ads painting drug users as terrorists. The ads failed, like the whole anti-drug ad campaign, which continues to be infused with federal money.Hence the problem. At this point, Walters has to know what's up. He has a lot more information to willfully ignore than those who came before him. Former drug czar Barry McCaffrey may have really believed taxpayer-supported anti-drug ads were a good idea, but now Walters has all the evidence to demonstrate they were not.If a fact doesn't support prohibition, Walters twists it or ignores it. Such a strong commitment to a clearly bankrupt policy from someone who should know better indicates serious moral poverty. Perhaps it goes beyond that. A false idol has been made of prohibition, and Walters and his colleagues bow down to it no matter how it degrades them or the rest of us. To me, that's immoral and disgusting. Walters may be playing defense, but in the most offensive manner. Stephen Young, an editor at DrugSense Weekly -- -- is the author of Maximizing Harm -- -- and the blog -- Even other drug warriors who are just as conniving and dishonest as John Walters describe an unlikable bureaucrat, both imperious and isolated. Source: AlterNet (US)Author:  Stephen Young, DrugSense WeeklyPublished: May 02, 2005Copyright: 2005 Independent Media InstituteContact: letters Website: Articles:Drug Czar Plays Defense Rejects Medical Marijuana Proposal Cloud Medical Marijuana Debate 

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Comment #20 posted by mayan on May 03, 2005 at 16:33:45 PT
Moral Poverty
The Bush Administration has long since lost it's credibility and Tony Blair is just a Bush clone. This new tactic of blaming cannabis for mental illness reeks of desperation. We must be getting close!
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Comment #19 posted by runderwo on May 03, 2005 at 15:16:56 PT
um, ok
Again, they claim cannabis "caused" these problems because at some point after the person started using cannabis, the problems showed up. They are not controlling at all for problems that pre-dated the first cannabis use but went undiagnosed until some later point, where cannabis then takes the blame. For example, if I was depressed and sought out cannabis, then later was diagnosed with depression, I would become part of their statistic, because they assume that the depression occurred at the same time the diagnosis did. It's that lame.
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Comment #18 posted by afterburner on May 03, 2005 at 13:30:50 PT
How Convenient, Mr. Walters (comments #1-4,6,8-15)
Are these the same anecdotal and self-reporting-based studies that rehash other flawed studies that frequent visitors or residents of this site have already read too many times before? These often quoted studies do not meet the US governments own criteria for double-blind testing, so beloved of the FDA, that bastion of truth and responsibility that approved Vioxx and other deadly drugs. If there are truly new studies, why not release them before the press release? I feel like the ideas in my last post, comment #7, are from a different planet than the one Walters, Bush, Blair, Charles G. Curie, U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, and Professor Neil McKeganey inhibit, er, inhabit.DuPont, Robert L. M.D., now there's an *objective* observer! Drug Abuse and Social Policy in America: The War That Must Be Won. by
DuPont, Robert L. M.D.
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Comment #17 posted by FoM on May 03, 2005 at 13:26:53 PT
Max Flowers 
I'm glad I'm not alone in my thinking. I will never come to terms with what we did to them. It had nothing to do with 9-11 and everyone knows that but some just don't care and that makes me really worry.
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Comment #16 posted by Max Flowers on May 03, 2005 at 12:59:26 PT
FoM, exactly... the national schizophrenia
I have been awestruck by that same fact. We have millions upon millions of people pretending that they think what the US is doing in Iraq is right, when deep down they have to know it's wrong. It's almost like a case of mass hypnosis or something... it's astounding. And disturbing. A terrorist attack is a horrible thing to have happen here (real or manufactured), but it doesn't justify going to war against a country (the wrong one!?) as a reaction to something done by (alleged) suicidal crazed individuals. 
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Comment #15 posted by FoM on May 03, 2005 at 12:35:05 PT

I agree that mental health problems are on the rise. We were lied to and invaded a sovereign nation and we are suppose to just go along like everything is just fine. That is only one reason that people are getting a little frayed around the edges but a very important one.
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Comment #14 posted by PainWithNoInsurance on May 03, 2005 at 12:32:20 PT

Mental health
I think mental health problems are on the rise with or without marijuana.
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Comment #13 posted by FoM on May 03, 2005 at 12:14:45 PT

My Favorite Song When Walters is on The Warpath
They're Coming To Take Me Away Ha Ha Ho Ho!!!

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Comment #12 posted by FoM on May 03, 2005 at 12:04:05 PT

Related Article from The Associated Press
Officials: Marijuana Use Can Lead to Mental Health Problems 
 May 3, 2005 WASHINGTON (AP) _ A warning today from government officials, scientists and mental health experts about the dangers they say marijuana poses to teens' mental health.National Drug Control Policy director John Walters says there's growing evidence that marijuana use -- particularly during the teen years -- can lead to depression, thoughts of suicide, and schizophrenia. And he says the age at which children start smoking pot is a critical factor.Officials pointed to a new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. It suggests adults who first used marijuana before age 12 were twice as likely to be classified as having serious mental illness in the past year as adults who first used toked up at age 18 or older.Copyright 2005 Associated Press
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Comment #11 posted by FoM on May 03, 2005 at 11:57:37 PT

News from NORML - Allen St. Pierre 
May 3, 2005Hello All,Unfortunately, SAMSHSA's press conference today re-invigorating specious scientific claims that cannabis is a major concern re mental health and a possible source for teen suicide is getting excellent pre-conference coverage from the major media outlets.We've entered a new epoch in the government's propaganda war against cannabis: Today's cannabis (not your parent's cannabis!!) is super powerful and may cause mental damage, especially to the youth.The government should pay attention to their own history as Anslinger and other pot prohibitionists, needing to justify the extreme government intervention where none was previously needed, Anslinger et al set out to cast cannabis as a psychosis-inducing drug that caused 'mental illness'. Defense lawyers and prosecutors were faced with criminal defendants claiming cannabis made them crazy (read: mentally ill) and the courts accepted this premise based on the government's insistance that cannabis made it's users stark raving mad.Obviously the government backed away from such unfounded claims. Today, this very day, the federal government will once again take us down this well-trodded path.One presumes the results, in time, will be the same: there is no genuine public health concern regarding the use (even the abuse) of cannabis and a demonstrable, causal realtionship with mental illness.There are plenty of studies and position papers to refute today's government press conference, many found at the websites of NORML, CSDP, MAP, DRCNet, DPA, MPP--that is not at issue.However, in the meantime, the government will have, for a few more years, hardened the attitudes and raised the fears of parents, health professionals, education professionals, law enforcement, the lapdog media and policy makers keen on maintaining the status quo regarding cannabis prohibition.Not a good day in the book called Marijuana Prohibition.The government has flown a Nahas-like figure in from Scotland to 'help' sound the alarm, once again, against cannabis.Regards,-Allen St. Pierre NORML 
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Comment #10 posted by FoM on May 03, 2005 at 10:30:30 PT

C-Span and The Drug Czar John Walters
News ConferenceMarijuana Use and Mental HealthOffice of Natl. Drug Control PolicyWashington, District of Columbia (United States) ID: 186587 - 05/03/2005 - 1:00 - No SaleDuPont, Robert L. M.D., President, Institute for Behavior and Health
Walters, John P., Director, Office of Natl. Drug Control Policy
Curie, Charles G., Administrator, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services AdministrationMental health experts and government officials will discuss marijuana use and mental health in teenagers. They are expected to release research they say links some mental disorders with marijuana use.

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Comment #9 posted by runruff on May 03, 2005 at 09:51:12 PT:

"W's" puppet.
Blair would say anything Dubya told him to say. Hasn't he proven this already?
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on May 03, 2005 at 09:19:19 PT

Cannabis Isn't The Enemy Mr. Blair!
Blair Issues Warning About Cannabis Use By Andrew Woodcock, PA Political Correspondent May 3, 2005Prime Minister Tony Blair spoke today of his growing concern about the dangers of cannabis, raising speculation that he would like to see the drug’s controversial reclassification reversed.Speaking to a group of concerned parents during a General Election event in Lancashire, Mr Blair said there was increasing medical evidence that cannabis is “not quite as harmless as people make out”.He also warned that youngsters who smoke cannabis may move on to harder drugs.Complete Article:
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Comment #7 posted by afterburner on May 03, 2005 at 07:35:42 PT

The Real Issue
Excerpt from kap's link, Chiva: After the Bust: , with [comments]"Two things are for sure. One: the relentless expansion of profit-making endeavors through history we call empire has forged the colossal organization of mass society, everywhere engendering fragmentation of institutions one from the other, fragmentation of sectors of society, fragmentation of self interest, and fragmentation of how people perceive self interest. Complex predicaments result -- like the interweaving of global trafficking with personal suffering and addiction -- presenting contradictions for which no single solution can be complete.[Empire building causes fragmentation of society through ego destruction (Mircea Eliade). Margaret Mead, the famous anthropologist once said that where a tribal, pre-industrial society encounters an industrial society, the tribal society crumbles. Globalization, once described as MacWorld, is such a force for neo-empire building by neo-cons. Community is lost to fragmentation. The tribal societies, some still living a stone-age existence until recent decades, have been yanked into the industrial mainstream by the international disruption called World War II and the subsequent economic exploitation of global resources.]"Two: beyond the complexity of the pros and cons of legalization lies a bottom line as bold as a felt-tipped slash. Humans have always sought means to attain altered states of consciousness. The glitch: people displaced to mass society typically seek fulfillment outside the ceremonial container that has traditionally guided the experience and given it meaning. And that container cracks into one more lost shard with each season that we do not return to the sustainable ways of farming, gathering, hunting, and fishing or understand our existence in spiritual terms."[Human quest for alteration of consciousness is universal, all times, all races, all cultures. The religious, spiritual "ceremonial container" of tribal society has largely been lost. People individually, or in small temporary groups of neo-tribes, try to recapture the sense of meaning by partaking of psychoactive plants, powders, and pills outside the "container," i.e., recreationally. This is why the community is more important than the cannabis in cannabis community. We are rediscovering, recapturing, the lost sense of community in person and on the Internet. [However, the neo-community is not a retreat to earlier tribal days and ways. It is a fusion of industrial society and neo-tribal society: Spaceship Earth (Buckminster Fuller), Global Village (Marshall McLuhan), the Para-primitive Solution (Gordon Rattray Taylor), Consciousness III (Charles Reich), Cybernetics and Society (Norbert Wiener). It is ego transcendence (Mircea Eliade). Prohibition, AKA the War on Some Drugs, fails to provide safe alteration of consciousness by lumping magical medicines, like cannabis, together with poisons and pills. When we want to grow our plant, we are partially returning to the roots of "sustainable ways of farming, gathering, hunting, and fishing."]ego destruction leads to ego transcendence, if you want it.
Norbert Wiener related links
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on May 03, 2005 at 07:17:05 PT

Press Release from ONDCP
Press Release Source: Office of National Drug Control Policy White House Drug Czar, Research and Mental Health Communities Warn Parents That Marijuana Use Can Lead to Depression, Suicidal Thoughts and SchizophreniaTuesday, May 3, 2005Serious Psychiatric Impact of Marijuana Use Evident in Growing Body of Research WASHINGTON, May 3 /PRNewswire/ -- The Nation's Drug Czar, John P. Walters, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Administrator, Charles G. Curie, joined with scientists and experts from the leading mental health organizations today to alert parents about the danger marijuana poses to their teens' mental health."A growing body of evidence now demonstrates that smoking marijuana can increase the risk of serious mental health problems," said Walters, Director of National Drug Control Policy. "New research being conducted here and abroad illustrates that marijuana use, particularly during the teen years, can lead to depression, thoughts of suicide, and schizophrenia. This is yet another reason that parents must stay closely involved with their teens and ensure that they are not smoking marijuana."A number of prominent studies have recently identified a direct link between marijuana use and increased risk of mental health problems. Recent research makes a stronger case that cannabis smoking itself is a causal agent in psychiatric symptoms, particularly schizophrenia. During the past three years, these studies have strengthened that association and further found that the age when marijuana is first smoked is a crucial risk factor in later development of mental health problems.A report released today from SAMSHA found that adults who first used marijuana before age 12 were twice as likely as adults who first used marijuana at age 18 or older to be classified as having serious mental illness in the past year than were adults who first used marijuana at age 18 or older."Kids today are using marijuana at younger ages, putting them at greater risk," said Charles G. Curie, SAMHSA Administrator. "We have found that the younger a person starts smoking marijuana, the greater the likelihood they have of developing an addiction and serious mental illness later in life.""Mental health disorders such as depression and schizophrenia contribute to the mortality of our citizens, and suicide is one of the leading preventable causes of death," said U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.S. "As a society we must do everything we can to promote mental health and prevent mental illness - and that includes keeping our kids drug-free. Parents and teens alike must realize the long-term effects marijuana can have on the brain."Several recent studies have linked youth marijuana use with depression, suicidal thoughts and schizophrenia:  -- Young people who use marijuana weekly have double the risk of
    developing depression.  -- Teens aged 12 to 17 who smoke marijuana weekly are three times more
    likely than non-users to have suicidal thoughts.  -- Marijuana use in some teens has been linked to increased risk for
    schizophrenia in later years.  -- A British study found that as many as one in four people may have a
    genetic profile that makes marijuana five times more likely to trigger
    psychotic disorders.Evidence has recently emerged that some people's genetic make-up may predispose them to be particularly vulnerable to the effects of marijuana on mental health. For instance, a major study out of the Netherlands concluded that use of the drug "moderately increases" the risk of psychotic symptoms in young people but has "a much stronger effect" in those with evidence of predisposition."The nonchalance about marijuana in Europe and the U.S. is worrisome," said Neil McKeganey, Ph.D., Professor of Drug Misuse Research and Director, Centre for Drug Misuse Research, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland. "Marijuana is the first illegal drug that many young people use and teens don't view it as a serious drug, and when children are exposed only to advice from kids like themselves, the risks seem meaningless. We're starting to see marijuana in a new light given recent research into the connection between marijuana and mental illness."This new evidence comes with a warning to parents, as they are the most important influence in their teens' lives when it comes to drugs. "Tell your teens the facts and tell them not to use marijuana," said Robert L. DuPont, M.D., President of the Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc., and a leading advocate for the power of parents in preventing drug use. "Take meaningful actions to see that they do not. A vital part of your job as a parent is helping your teen grow up drug-free."As part of the Office of National Drug Control Policy's (ONDCP) National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, this outreach effort features a compendium of recent research linking marijuana and mental illness and an Open Letter to parents on "Marijuana and Your Teen's Mental Health." The letter highlights some of the new research about the serious consequences of teen marijuana use on mental health and is signed by ONDCP and 12 of the Nation's leading mental health, behavioral health and addiction treatment organizations: American Psychiatric Association; American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; American Society of Addiction Medicine; Asian Community Mental Health Services; Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse; Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc.; National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association; National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers; National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare; National Latino Behavioral Health Association; National Medical Association; and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. The letter begins appearing next week in USA Today and newspapers in the 25 largest cities nationwide, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, and will also run in The Nation, The National Journal, The National Review, The New Republic, Newsweek, Time and The Weekly Standard.On the Media Campaign's Web site for parents, , adults can learn more about how marijuana affects the developing teen brain, including the links between marijuana and depression, suicidal thoughts and schizophrenia. Visitors can take a virtual tour of a human brain to learn how marijuana impairs, and even changes, the functionality of the centers responsible for maintaining overall mental health. Parents can also view responses from a qualified psychiatrist on the most common questions regarding marijuana and mental health.For more information on the ONDCP National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, visit .Source: Office of National Drug Control Policy
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Comment #5 posted by kaptinemo on May 03, 2005 at 05:45:21 PT:

Breaking radio silence again
While reading at AlterNet I've recently come across an excerpt from a book that documents a personal experience at the community level regarding anti-drug operations in New Mexico in the late 1990's/early 2000's: Chiva: After the Bust: book itself can be found here: though the topic is hard drugs, and therefore usually not bothered with here, in the excerpt you find some interesting comments being made regarding the legalization issue particularly with regards to the problem of moving from illegal legal ones - as in from La Cosa Nostra to Big Pharma. And how that rarely improves the lives of the supposed beneficiaries. Some very incisive comments are made by the author, and are bound to initiate some discussion given what appears to be happening with GW Pharma and Sativex. But the actions of government were especially of interest:*After the drug arrests in Chimayó, the Department of Justice came shrieking into el norte like gang busters. Literally. They wanted to fund a task force to be based in the US Attorney's office that would publicly tout the "success" of its anti-drug militarism in Latin America, push for tightened immigration laws as an anti-drug strategy -- and hand-feed Río Arriba a "suitable" recovery plan, with an emphasis on police assault. Read: make Río Arriba its "poster county" for the drug war.Lauren Reichelt was invited to attend a meeting in Pojoaque with a representative of drug czar Barry McCaffrey's D.C. office. She had already had some experience with the DOJ. One agent had pressed her to fashion statistics to document that overdose deaths had plummeted after the bust when he knew that they had shot up. Another wanted the county to "appear" to hold meetings for developing local strategy, but insisted DOJ dictate who would preside, how the meetings would be run, and who would be acceptable to attend.When Reichelt arrived at the meeting, she was shocked. To begin, a lineup of uniformed generals and National Guardsmen festooned with medals reported their extensive service to the nation. Then McCaffrey's people unveiled their purpose: they were going to produce a series of public-relations spots for national TV with New Mexico children complaining that Gov. Johnson's stand on legalization was causing their classmates to use drugs.*Yepper...your tax dollars at work - actively being used to lie to the American people (overdose deaths go up AFTER the bust, but the figures were supposed to prove the program was working and show fewer deaths after LEO intervention) and undermine politically a sitting, elected Governor. For what OTHER POSSIBLE USE could this have been for? The Feds have been out of control for too long, and this just illustrates that fact very bald-facedly.
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Comment #4 posted by OverwhelmSam on May 03, 2005 at 03:19:16 PT

Grasping At Straws
It seems Walters is willing to support any anti-marijuana example he can find, no matter how flimsy. But I have to give Walters credit, due mainly to his fanatical zeal against marijuana users, tens of dozens of laws have been relaxed and passed in favor of leniency towards marijuana users during his tenure. Keep up the good work Walters, we realize you're on our side after all. I can't speak for everyone, but I really do appreciate you're initiative to make everyone tired of your ridiculous lamentations about the dangerous weed, LOL. Thanks Guy! Keep going! It's working!Overwhelm Uncle Sam
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Comment #3 posted by stoner spirit on May 03, 2005 at 02:56:09 PT:

Drug Zaar
This person is looking for another way or opprotunity to step on others, and shove his will onto others as well, he is the problem, not cannabis. Besides, cokane and heroin are way different than cannabis, but the zaar can't tell the difference anyways. When will this numb-nut be out of office anyways?, or unless he somehow found a way to keep him self in that place just to make power grabbs for a good long time.
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Comment #2 posted by BGreen on May 03, 2005 at 00:29:26 PT

walters Numbers Mean Nothing
Since taking up his position four years ago, John Walters has overseen a fall in the use of illegal drugs among young Americans by 17%, and the administration is hoping that figure will reach 25 % by 2007.walters must be more of an idiot than we ever thought if he actually believes what the DARE generation tells him.These kids tell the adults what they think the adults want to hear REGARDLESS of the truth.In fact, I don't even trust the results of this poll because the cops have turned a bunch of this generation into lying little trolls.The Reverend Bud GreenNew Survey: 7 in 10 Teens Admit School Cheating A Moral CrumblingThe "Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth," a study of the attitudes and habits of 8,600 students in grades 9 through 12, found:7 in 10 students admitted cheating on a test at least once within the past year.92 percent had lied to their parents in the past year.78 percent had lied to their teachers.More than 1 in 4 said they would lie to get a job.Nearly 1 in 6 had shown up for class drunk in the past year.68 percent said they had hit someone because they were angry.47 percent said they could get a gun if they wanted to.
New Survey: 7 in 10 Teens Admit School Cheating
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Comment #1 posted by BGreen on May 03, 2005 at 00:14:31 PT

walters is importing propagandists to lie
Notice that the speakers include the scot liar as well as the "parents of a 15-year-old cannabis user who committed suicide."What do they know that the MILLIONS of parents of perfectly NORMAL kids whose use cannabis don't know? I have parents so maybe I'm alive not because I use or don't use cannabis, but rather because MY PARENTS DIDN'T SUCK AND DIDN'T MAKE ME WANT TO KILL MYSELF!The Reverend Bud Green************************************************************US CALLS IN SCOTS DRUGS EXPERTA LEADING researcher into drug misuse has been invited to Washington by George W Bush's drugs czar to discuss the health dangers of cannabis.Professor Neil McKeganey, director of the centre for drugs misuse research at Glasgow University, will meet a team of mental health experts, scientists and high-ranking US government officials to discuss an emerging body of research that identifies links between cannabis use and mental-health disorders among teenagers.Mr McKeganey points to a "clear distance" between the US government's approach to cannabis misuse and those of Westminster and the Scottish Executive, and warns that the possible dangers of the drug, including depression and schizophrenia, could be overlooked in Britain should research and policy continue to focus on the "more dramatic impacts" of heroin and cocaine use.The academic will attend the high-profile conference in Washington tomorrow at the invitation of John Walters, director of the national drug control policy. Among those speaking will be the parents of a 15-year-old cannabis user who committed suicide.The meeting signals the latest step taken by the White House to dispel what Mr Walters has called a culture of "cynicism" and "misinformation" that has seen cannabis widely regarded as a soft drug.The drugs czar describes cannabis abuse as a "paediatric-onset disease" and supports confidential, non-punitive drug testing for teenagers as a way for them to get help while raising awareness of the drug's effects among their peers.Earlier this year, Mr Walters, who co-ordinates all federal drug programmes and spending, urged European countries to focus on treating users rather than simply tolerating drug use through reclassification, and raised concerns over cannabis, which he called "one of the biggest areas of ignorance".Mr McKeganey believes the British government and the executive should also commit themselves to greater investment in drug-prevention programmes in an attempt to reach out the nation's estimated 3.5m cannabis users. There is, he warns, a "culture of acceptance" in Britain that cannabis is harmless following its reclassification from Class B to Class C under the Misuse Of Drugs Act."While there has been a great deal of media coverage on the effects of reclassifying cannabis, it has clearly not been mirrored in government research," he said. "It is far more focused on the more dramatic impacts that heroin and cocaine can have."The US administration is conscious of the dangers of heroin and cocaine, but it has a very different approach from the UK government and the Scottish Executive in that it also regards cannabis as a serious risk. There is a clear distance in policy."Ways of workingTHE US APPROACHThe White House's drugs policy places emphasis on the treatment of users. Student-testing programmes allow 100,000 users access to faith-based care programmes each year, while drugs courts offer minor offenders drug education courses instead of jail. Since taking up his position four years ago, John Walters has overseen a fall in the use of illegal drugs among young Americans by 17%, and the administration is hoping that figure will reach 25 % by 2007.THE UK APPROACHThe Home Office says the issue of drugs classification is under "constant review." Cannabis was downgraded from Class B to Class C in January last year. The government is also thought to be considering introducing a two-tier system of classification due to the prevalence of high-strength strains of the drug, known as skunk. Since its downgrading in legal status, there has been a significant increase in the use and cultivation of cannabis in Scotland. 
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