The War Against The War on Drugs

  The War Against The War on Drugs

Posted by FoM on April 30, 2001 at 13:49:10 PT
By Margot Roosevelt 

How do you feel about the war on drugs? That may depend a bit on how you feel about the never-ending drama of Robert Downey Jr. Already facing a court date this week for a drug-related arrest in November, Downey was busted again last week when police found him lurking after midnight in an alleyway behind a motel in Culver City, Calif. He was cited for suspicion of being under the influence of a controlled substance. More serious charges, if any, will await the results of a urine test administered that night. Downey, who was immediately fired from Ally McBeal, quickly checked himself into a rehab clinic, a step that may or may not help him much when he stands before a judge yet again. 
So let's agree that the drug-infatuated actor is a loser. But is he a loser who needs medical help to break out of his addiction? Or is he one who ought to get more hard time--he has already done a year behind bars--because that's the only way to get some users to take rehab seriously? Is he a threat only to himself? Or is he the carrier of an infection that could spread if we don't lock him away? In short, should we treat him or trash him? Twenty years after the war on drugs got under way in earnest, the U.S. remains far from a consensus on that question. Even now, no one knows quite where George W. Bush stands on it. Signs are growing, however, that he sides more with the hardliners, even as states are backing away from the "lock-'em-up" policies they adopted in the past. Just last week the President told TIME that addiction "does require treatment, and I think we ought to look at all sentencing laws." But one day earlier, word leaked that Bush plans to nominate as his "drug czar" a man who has emphasized what he calls the "moral lesson" of law enforcement. John Walters, 49, who was chief deputy to former czar William Bennett in the first Bush Administration, believes nonviolent drug offenders should be diverted to treatment on first and second offenses. But he thinks only fear of jail time, be it weeks or months, will get some hard-core addicts (Robert Downey Jr.) into treatment and keep them there. Bennett describes Walters as "a hard-liner on all fronts" but says he is "not somebody who's ignorant of the effectiveness of good treatment and education." Walters already served briefly as drug czar after Bennett departed but quit in 1993, sharply criticizing then President Bill Clinton for offering "no moral leadership or encouragement" in the fight against drugs. Some 460,000 Americans are behind bars for drug offenses--a tenfold increase over 1980. (In 1996, referring to violent offenders, Walters said, "I am against the discussion...that there are too many people in jail.") Two weeks ago, in another sign that his heart is with the hard-liners, President Bush asked Congress to allocate $4.7 billion to the federal-prison system, projecting a 32% increase in inmates over the next five years, a jump largely fueled by mandatory drug sentences. Some $40 billion a year is already being spent by federal and state governments to prosecute and imprison drug offenders and to try to stem the flow of narcotics across the border. Drug use is down during the past 20 years, which is one important marker of success. But drugs are cheaper, purer and more plentiful than ever. More than three-quarters of Americans tell pollsters that the war on drugs is failing. Even before the film Traffic broadcast its bleak evaluation of the war, things had begun to change at the state level, where overburdened criminal-justice systems handle most drug offenses. In the past four years, states have passed 17 of 19 proposed ballot initiatives that loosened tough drug laws. While Congress shows little interest in repealing stiff federal "mandatory minimum" drug sentences, some 700 drug courts have been created or are being planned by various states to shepherd narcotics abusers through treatment rather than prison. Utah and Oregon curtailed police powers to forfeit the assets of suspected drug users. Nine states have legalized medical marijuana, including Oregon, Maine and Nevada. Much of the effort is being bankrolled by three prominent philanthropists: New York City financier George Soros; Cleveland, Ohio, insurance magnate Peter Lewis; and Phoenix, Ariz., entrepreneur John Sperling. Working together they have spent more than $15 million to promote the voter initiatives. Their consultants are scoping out Florida, Maine, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio for 2002 ballot propositions. "States are going to be the engines of reform," predicts New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, a Republican who has pushed through two addiction-assistance bills this year. "It's still too hot to touch from a national political standpoint," he says. In the largest experiment of all, California voters last November passed Proposition 36. Modeled after a vanguard policy in Arizona, it is expected to divert some 100,000 first- and second-time drug offenders from prisons into rehab over the next three years. "California's Proposition 36 highlights the disgust many feel for our current system," says Rocky Anderson, the Democratic mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, which has been dealing with a spate of heroin overdose deaths. "Punitive policies, at tremendous taxpayer expense, are an unmitigated failure." Anderson and like-minded officials are sending a message to the White House that if the Bush war on drugs means warehousing users, many states will be conscientious objectors. With reporting by Jess Cagle, Los Angeles and Elaine Shannon, Washington Note: As Bush proposes a hard-line drug czar, many states are retreating from the "lock-'em-up" approach.Source: CNN (US Web) Author: Margot RooseveltPublished: May 7, 2001Copyright: 2001 Cable News Network, Inc. Contact: Website Forum: Articles:Record of Bush Nominee Anchored in Losing Strategy Draco of Drugs Conservative Picked for Drug Czar New Bust for Downey

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Comment #7 posted by Robbie on May 01, 2001 at 12:39:01 PT

All of us
I appreciate the thoughts of everyone on this subject.I believe that those who receive national attention for their addiction problems are different than every other person in this society. While Strawberry and Downey are men of wealth and means, their addiction is the same as a minimum wage addict who is without the ability to get help. I don't pity these men, but they represent the reasons that the Drug War must end!Men who are otherwise able and willing members of society doing something that continues to harm them and place them in prison or treatment...are these rational men? Do they have a sense of faculty about themselves? Apparently not. So the answer to this failing in their person, this malady that seems to affect their thought processes and reasoning, this treatable condition of infirmity is to be solved by putting these patients in jail. ?How can a society that supposedly claims the label of "freedom, democracy, and righteousness" be so compliant in an action which damages the spirit of the notion of helping "addicts" they purport to want to help? How is jail a solution? "Please give up your democracy so that I can cure you." What are you curing? Who are you helping? Have Mr. Downey or Mr. Strawberry been helped with their interventions by the police and courts? Has it changed their manner?Are Strawberry and Downey spoiled? Insulated? Unaccountable compared to others? Possibly. But their situations are definite reasons that the governmental approach to changing people's minds about drugs is truly more harmful to the "addict" than the addiction itself.
Looks like clear skies for Saturday!
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Comment #6 posted by J.R. Bob Dobbs on May 01, 2001 at 05:27:49 PT

Loser? Libel!
>>Much of the effort is being bankrolled by three prominent philanthropists: New York City financier George Soros; Cleveland, Ohio, insurance magnate Peter Lewis; and Phoenix, Ariz., entrepreneur John Sperling. Working together they have spent more than $15 million to promote the voter initiatives.  Lest we forget, $15 million is a drop in the bucket compared to the billions spent by the establishment to fight the war, and to convince us we need to fight the war. With a drastically smaller budget, the reformers have made far more progress. Why? Perhaps because they have an idea whose time has come...>>So let's agree that the drug-infatuated actor is a loser.  Let's not! Let's agree that prohibition is a loser. Does this look like the resume of a loser?,+Robert
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Comment #5 posted by Imprint on May 01, 2001 at 01:33:05 PT:

Road to freedom
FoM,Please don’t censor yourself. I think Robert Downy JR. is an important aspect of the war on drugs. He clearly shows that a creative and productive person can have troubles. This is the way of life. In my opinion he has to go down the road of drugs to realize his full potential.  It may kill him, or not, the point is it is his journey; not yours, mine, the fellow next door and most of all not the governments job to force him in any one particular direction. We all must travel down some bumpy dirt roads to get to a smooth highway. This is exactly what is missing from this article. This article gives two choices, “treat him or trash him”. There really is a third choice, which is “Leave Him Alone”. While going down this dark alley, did he harm someone, did he create property damage? If the answer is yes then he should be arrested and prosecuted for these crimes. If the answer is no then he should be left alone or better yet taken home (is it so tuff to call a cab for him?). The bigger point that is being missed in this article is that self-indulgence isn’t a crime. That each of us has a different series of roads to travel in life and it’s no one’s business to decide which turn we must take next. We have lost our freedom to travel the paths that make us who we are. 
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on April 30, 2001 at 22:40:34 PT

I'd do my best
Hello,bobidybob,I was wondering if you are asking me a question. If so I'll try to stay away from articles about Robert Downey Jr. I thought this was about treatment and Initiatives for people who are addicts. That's what I got out of the article and why I posted it.
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Comment #3 posted by bobidybob on April 30, 2001 at 22:14:35 PT

I personally could give less than a steaming dung mound about robert downey jr. if anybody cared about his drug problem they'd stop hiring him. stop with the hard copy crap.
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Comment #2 posted by freedom fighter on April 30, 2001 at 17:42:43 PT

How do you feel about the war on drugs? 
just a war with things that do not move?just a war with things that you ate?Or is it just a war with people?Need I say more?If people want to live forever,take heed from this deaf yo-yoYou do not need a deaf man to tell you to banish the word"WAR"Do you?
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Comment #1 posted by anon coward on April 30, 2001 at 14:54:42 PT

The wrong question
In short, should we treat him or trash him?This is the wrong question.The right question would be, "Why aren't we leaving this guy alone to go to hell in his own way?"The whole treatment-v-punishment issue is a false dichotomy.
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