Posted by FoM on August 24, 1999 at 08:19:17 PT|
By Joseph A. Califano Jr.
Source: Washington Post
As the national media turns its laser beam on George W. Bush, it might be well to recall how culturally acceptable marijuana, cocaine and LSD were -- and how ignorant we were about the dangers of those drugs -- in the 1970s, when the presidential candidate was "young and irresponsible."
In 1970 Congress repealed tough penalties on marijuana possession and established a maximum penalty of one-year probation for first-time possession. If probation were successfully completed, the proceedings would be dismissed.
For those 21 and younger, successful completion of probation expunged the arrest and indictment and no record would remain of the offense.
In 1971 NORML -- the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws -- was formed to press for legalization of marijuana. In 1974 High Times was first published to celebrate the new drug culture.
President Richard Nixon named conservative Pennsylvania Gov. Raymond Shafer to chair a congressionally mandated Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse.
In 1973 the commission recommended that Congress decriminalize possession of marijuana for personal use, and the cognoscenti of the time applauded its action.
In 1977 President Jimmy Carter asked Congress to eliminate criminal penalties for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana and replace them with a $100 fine.
Over the decade, 11 state legislatures representing about a third of the U.S. population decriminalized marijuana. The Alaska Supreme Court held that the privacy clause in its state constitution protected possession of marijuana in the home for personal use.
At the department of health, education and welfare, we were more concerned with herbicides used to kill marijuana than marijuana itself.
As secretary of the department, I opposed the use of paraquat to kill marijuana plants, because the Centers for Disease Control and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences indicated "that the smoke of paraquat-contaminated marijuana is likely to cause lung damage when inhaled in sufficient quantities by marijuana users."
By the early l980s, more than 60 million Americans had tried illegal drugs, including 50 million who had smoked pot. One in 10 high school seniors smoked marijuana daily; nearly four in 10 were current smokers (had smoked within the last month).
Cocaine was not as widely used as marijuana, but the number of regular users (at least monthly) in the late '70s and early '80s was counted in millions, not thousands. By 1982, 22 million Americans had tried cocaine.
Several physicians, scientists and sophisticates said that cocaine was a nonaddictive recreational drug. Rich kids on college campuses snorted the white powder, as did Wall Street investment bankers who found it not only produced a great high but also allowed them to work incessantly on mega-deals with little or no sleep.
Indeed, by the mid-1980s, the American people -- 5 percent of the world's population -- were consuming 50 percent of the world's cocaine (a situation that pretty much continues to this day). Timothy Leary, a Harvard University professor, played Pied Piper of LSD and hallucinogens for our young.
Then, startled by the cocaine overdose death of basketball star Len Bias in 1986, the nation awoke to the impact of such widespread drug use.
We learned that LSD could fry the brain; cocaine was indeed addictive (and in smoked form fiercely so) and could incite users to states of paranoia and violence; and marijuana could savage short-term memory and ability to concentrate, stunt emotional and intellectual development and increase the risk of using drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
Older and wiser, the nation turned against drug use, revived and increased criminal penalties (especially for dealers and those who sold to children) and mounted major public health campaigns to educate our young about the dangers of drug abuse. (By 1990 casual drug use had dropped by half.)
Against this backdrop, the remarkable thing about the current crop of presidential candidates is that so few smoked marijuana, and none (with the unknown exception of George W.) snorted cocaine.
For George W. I have some unsolicited advice about how to negotiate the political white line in 1999. Stop moving the stake in the ground (from won't respond, to seven years, to 25 years); answer the question whether you ever used cocaine and set out in depth what you believe our nation's drug policies should be in the context of the facts and experiences that we know today, not the fantasies and expectations that we dreamed of in the 1970s.
Tell us your view of the dangers of those drugs: their addictive power; the effectiveness of treatment; the ineffectiveness of interdiction; the role of criminal laws, prisons and drug courts; and the importance of the family, church, and school to battling drug use by kids.
Tell us how we should handle young men and women who try drugs or get hooked. If George W. does that, I don't believe anyone will hold against him his actions (assuming the worst) in swimming with the tide of naive nonsense about drugs during the 1970s.
Most important for the nation, such action by George W. might lead to a historical first: a serious discussion among the presidential candidates about the nation's drug policies that might spark the kind of research effort and investment in treatment for the abuse and addiction of all substances (illegal drugs, alcohol and nicotine) -- the nation's No. 1 disease and public health enemy -- deserves.
Tuesday, August 24, 1999; Page A17
Clinton Takes a Stand on Cocaine, He Never Used It-8/24/99
Comment #2 posted by ROBINSON on July 26, 2001 at 16:47:55 PT:|
|I am doing a projct on the 20th century but the toipc i pick is on drugs i what to know what kind of illegal drug were usde in the 20th century.|
[ Post Comment ]
Comment #1 posted by FoM on August 24, 1999 at 10:20:42 PT:|
Nando's in-Depth Look at the 20th Century
Some Republican presidential candidates are urging front-runner George W. Bush to put the question of illegal drug use behind him by responding to the issue forthrightly.
At the same time, Bush's competitors and supporters maintain that past indiscretions, including possible drug involvement, should not disqualify the anyone from the presidency. And they emphasized there is no evidence Bush ever used narcotics.
But several candidates suggested that a more complete, direct response was required.
"Just answer the darn question and get rid of it," Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah said as the issue dominated the Sunday television talk shows.
Hatch said Bush, the governor of Texas, opened the way for inquiries by giving partial answers. "If there wasn't anything here, then George Bush should have just said there wasn't," Hatch said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "If there was, I think he, at this point, should answer it, get it behind him, because the polls show most of the American people are forgiving."
While Bush, 53, has acknowledged he once drank heavily and made "mistakes" in his youth, there has been no evidence or even credible allegation that he ever has used cocaine or any other illegal drug. When pressed on the matter last week, he gave varying answers and finally said he had not used illegal drugs in the past 25 years. He would not elaborate.
"He has a right to privacy," Sen. John McCain of Arizona, another GOP presidential contender, said on CNN's "Late Edition." He declined to say whether Bush should address the issue further.
But social activist Gary Bauer, also running for the 2000 Republican nomination, said on "Fox News Sunday" that Bush and other candidates should "have to answer questions that go to law-breaking. I think anything that involves a felony, I don't see how you can get away with" not answering such questions directly.
Former Vice President Dan Quayle, another rival for the GOP presidential nomination, said he admired Bush for trying to draw a line by not discussing his private life, but he "opened the door a bit" for further inquiries by giving partial answers.
"Once he started talking about it, you really probably are somewhat obliged to answer these questions," Quayle said on ABC's "This Week." Still, he called the issue of Bush's past indiscretions "a sideshow" in the campaign.
Bauer said Republicans have a duty to give clear answers on the drug issue. "We went nuts when Bill Clinton said he tried marijuana and didn't inhale. There were a lot of people in my party ... that just pounded on that for months and months and months," he said.
Except for Bush, all of the GOP candidates have said unequivocally that they have never used illegal drugs. Vice President Al Gore and former Sen. Bill Bradley, rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, both have admitted experimenting with marijuana during their youth.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota told CNN that the drug questions were legitimate but that Bush need not be compelled to provide answers. "I do think that the American people ought to hear a lot more about his past and about his positions," Daschle added. "They haven't heard much yet."
But two Republican governors - Frank Keating of Oklahoma and Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania, both strong Bush supporters - said their colleague had sufficiently answered the questions about drug use.
"I don't care what somebody did in college as long as he didn't kill somebody," Keating told ABC. "He's taken his stand and we ought to move on," Ridge said on Fox.
Meanwhile, a Fox News-Opinion Dynamics poll found that 72 percent of those surveyed said experimental drug use while young should be forgiven, but 69 percent said they would want to know about a candidate's past cocaine use. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.