Apart from Personal Use, a Key Issue Stays Away

Apart from Personal Use, a Key Issue Stays Away
Posted by FoM on March 05, 2000 at 08:55:56 PT
By John Donnelly, Globe Staff
Source: Boston Globe
The war on drugs, which is likely to get another huge boost in funds, seems to be missing in action in the presidential campaign.The candidates' silence on drug policy, analysts say, may be attributable to the lack of easy solutions. Or it may stem from a widely shared belief that any position even hinting at reducing penalties for drug use would be political suicide.
The only headlines involving drugs in the presidential race have been whether the candidates themselves used them - not the uses of the budget, which has jumped from $13.5 billion in 1996 to a proposed $18.9 billion this year, and which includes a plan to fight drugs in Colombia.Former senator Bill Bradley and Vice President Al Gore both have admitted to using marijuana in their younger years, and Governor George W. Bush of Texas is still trailed by unsubstantiated allegations of cocaine use.And while Senator John McCain says he never used illicit drugs, his wife, Cindy, has admitted she once stole prescription drugs from the charity she directed.Such talk is a major change from eight years ago, when Bill Clinton, then a candidate, said he had smoked marijuana but had not inhaled.''People can now actually speak frankly about their past marijuana use, and it doesn't damage them at all,'' said Michael Massing, author of ''The Fix,'' a history of the war on drugs. ''You would think that would lead to more rational discussion about drug policy, but it hasn't.''Massing said the refusal to discuss lesser penalties ''is baffling in many ways because Americans have become more tolerant on most issues. This campaign is encouraging to the fact that anyone seen as imposing a narrow moral view has been rejected - except on the drug issue.''Reacting to the issue's obscurity, a 36-group coalition, including the Young Women's Christian Association, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, has called on candidates to answer 10 questions on drug policy.The questions cover the candidates' stance on a $1.6 billion Colombian aid bill; whether they support the means the United States uses to fight drugs, with one-third of the budget going toward treatment and prevention and two-thirds toward law enforcement and supply interdiction; and whether the United States should ''continue to rely so heavily on incarceration as a solution to drug problems.''More than 1.5 million people a year are arrested for drug offenses. In federal prisons, 60 percent of the inmates are sentenced for drug-related crimes, the overwhelming majority for low-level offenses.''The drug war is the biggest head-in-the-sand issue in American policy, and we hope the candidates face up to it,'' said Kevin B. Zeese, president of Common Sense for Drug Policy, a nonprofit group based in Falls Church, Va. ''It's always been safe to do more of the same, but now more of the same is getting to be absurdly expensive.''It's almost a $20-billion-a-year project,'' Zeese said. ''We're only spending $600 million a year on after-school programs. We say we're fighting the drug war to save our kids; I say we're fighting it to rob our kids.''The silence on the issue does not result from lack of knowledge. In an unusual move, a White House official said, the US drug-policy coordinator, Barry R. McCaffrey, told President Clinton last year that he planned to be available to all campaigns.McCaffrey has conferred with Gore, and he met Bush for two hours in Texas. McCaffrey has had a relationship with the Bush family dating to the Gulf War, when Bush's father was president and McCaffrey was a general in the Army.Of the four major candidates, McCain has expressed the most hawkish positions on drug policy. He wants to increase penalties for selling drugs, supports the death penalty for drug kingpins, favors tightening security to stop the flow of drugs into the country, and wants to restrict availability of methadone for heroin addicts.In a policy address last month, he said the Clinton administration was ''AWOL on the war on drugs'' and he would push for more money and military assistance to drug-supplying nations such as Colombia.Bush has said little on the issue. A campaign spokesman, Scott McClellan, said yesterday that the governor favors the Colombian military package ''to make sure their military is well-trained and well-equipped to fight the drug traffickers.''As governor, Bush favored tougher laws for drug offenders, including signing legislation that allows judicial discretion to sentence first-time offenders possessing less than one gram of cocaine to a maximum of 180 days in jail. (Previously, first-offenders received automatic probation.) Bush also is a strong supporter of faith-based initiatives to fight addictions.Bradley and Gore offer different solutions.Breaking slightly with Clinton administration policy, Gore said he supports giving doctors greater flexibility to prescribe marijuana to relieve patients' pain. Otherwise, Gore closely adheres to the framework of current policy.Gore said he would push for ''tougher drug penalties and enforcement,'' would increase drug interdiction efforts, would expand drug courts and would institute a $2 billion national media campaign targeted at preventing youth from using drugs. He is supportive of the Colombian plan.Bradley wants to spend more money on drug treatment. He says that ''the more effective way to deal with the drug problem is to tackle the demand side at home rather than at the supply side,'' said a campaign spokesman, Josh Galper.As for the Colombian plan, Bradley would ''give limited assistance,'' Galper said. ''The important thing for him is that the effort is not turned into a US war.''Bob Weiner, spokesman for McCaffrey, said he believed drug policy has been a non-issue because there was little disagreement with current policy. ''We've worked hard to have this not be a political football,'' he said.But Thomas J. Umberg, one of the architects of the Colombian aid plan as deputy director of supply reduction in McCaffrey's office, who recently left to rejoin his old law firm in Washington, said he was surprised about the lack of debate.In polling done by his former office, he said, it was found that ''the drug issue is one of very high interest among voters, but people's views were that we should do everything. We should interdict, do prevention, do treatment, lock up criminals for a long period of time.'' The conclusions could squelch debate, he said, or it could encourage candidates to make choices.''There are some large issues before policy makers now,'' Umberg said. ''What is our international role in drug control? What should the federal government do about treatment? What about prevention? And how about state initiatives concerning decriminalization? You would think there's enough to talk about.''Washington - Campaign 2000This story ran on page A21 of the Boston Globe on 3/5/2000.  Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company. Related Articles & Web Sites:Common Sense for Drug Policy War on Drugs in U.S. has Backfired Drug War Recalls Mistakes of Vietnam Al?
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Comment #1 posted by Blue Berry on March 05, 2000 at 10:39:29 PT:
Wag the Dog
The issue does not get discussed because the tail does not "Wag the Dog". And folks, in case it escaped you, all of these candidates are the tail - the system in place is the Dog.These candidates are virtually all ex drug users. In Mc Quain's case his wife stole Percocet and Vicodine from a program she led to supply drugs to the less needy. She was a pill poppin maniac who stole from the needy to supply her habit. When she was caught by the Feds she was shown all of the leniency possible and was allowed to "enter a program" to deal with her drug problem (and not charged with anything for stealing drugs.The poor (and sick) "enter the prison" - the rich "enter the program"In spite of the leniency shown his wife - Mc Quain says that the sick, poor and black folks should do more jail time for their "indiscretions". The same mercy shown to his wife should be shown to no one else (except the rich and powerful of course)Have you seen the "McQuain's wife - drug thief" tale on TV or heard it on the radio? Has it been extensively discussed and debated? Why not. Well the media tail don't "Wag the Dog" either folks. The fact that these candidates will even consider completely ignoring this "War on Sanity" alone should show you how morally bankrupt these "puppets" are.And poll takers wonder why the voting rate plummeting in this country?No folks, change won't come from these bozos. Change will primarily come from lawsuits filed by modern day patriots like Steve Kubby and others.Want to help. Find your local drug trials and do what you can to make sure that the jury is "fully informed" of their power to judge the laws as well as the offender. (visit below link for more info)
Fully Informed Jury Association 
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