DrugSense FOCUS Alert #163 Tuesday March 7, 2000 

DrugSense FOCUS Alert #163 Tuesday March 7, 2000 
Posted by FoM on March 07, 2000 at 17:52:45 PT
Presidential Candidates Fail Drug Policy Test 
Source: MapInc.
Anyone looking for different approaches to drug policy issues from the major candidates for U.S. president must be sorely disappointed. Variations on the messages and drug policy ideas of John McCain, George Bush, Al Gore and Bill Bradley are microscopic, even though more citizens seem to want change. 
This week the Boston Globe analyzed the drug policy positions of the four major candidates and found, basically, business as usual. All the candidates are standing by the traditional idea of drug prohibition, even though each of them have had personal experiences that challenge basic notions about the drug war. Gore and Bradley admit to using marijuana, while Bush won't completely deny using illegal drugs and McCain saw his wife's substance abuse problem addressed with compassion, not punishment. However, they all still seem to think prohibition and punishment is the best policy for the rest of us. Please write a letter to the Boston Globe to say that basic drug policy reform is a very important issue that all the candidates need to confront with real honesty, not more toughness. Thanks for your effort and support. NOTE: an exceptional press release has been sent out on this topic including a letter signed by scores of organizations nationwide including the ACLU and the YWCA. The URLs below flesh out this important story and provide a copy of the original press release, the open the letter to all presidential candidates, and the ten questions developed by the NCEDP to be posed to our candidates.Original Press Release: Open Letter to Presidential Candidates: Ten Questions for Our Presidential Candidates: WRITE A LETTER TODAY:It's not what others do it's what YOU do! PLEASE SEND US A COPY OF YOUR LETTER OR TELL US WHAT YOU DID: (Letter, Phone, fax etc.)Please post a copy your letter or report your action to the sent letter list (sentlet if you are subscribed, or by E-mailing a copy directly to MGreer Your letter will then be forwarded to the list with so others can learn from your efforts and be motivated to follow suit. This is VERY IMPORTANT as it is the only way we have of gauging our impact and effectiveness.CONTACT INFO:Source: Boston Globe Contact: letter EXTRA CREDIT:The Chicago Tribune also did an Oped on the same subject. Please consider writing them a letter or sending a copy of your Boston Globe LTE to them.A RECORD POLITICIANS AREN'T TALKING ABOUT: Source: Chicago Tribune Contact: ctc-TribLetter EXTRA CREDIT #2Write any paper in the nation on the subject of drug policy in the presidential debates. Find the email address for sending LTEs to these papers at: ARTICLE:US: Apart From Personal Use, A Key Issue Stays Away URL: NewsHawk: Pubdate: Sun, 05 Mar 2000 Source: Boston Globe (MA) Copyright: 2000 Globe Newspaper Company. Contact: letter Address: P.O. Box 2378, Boston, MA 02107-2378 Feedback: Website: Author: John Donnelly, Globe Staff Cited: Common Sense for Drug Policy Note: Check the new "We Can Connect You With the Right Reform Group" page at: Find the MAP archived items on Bush and Gore at: and APART FROM PERSONAL USE, A KEY ISSUE STAYS AWAY: 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.'' SAMPLE LETTER:To the Editor of the Boston Globe, I believe drug policy reform is one of the most important issues facing the country today, so I was pleased to see the Boston Globe's story on the attitudes of presidential candidates ("Apart From Personal Use, A Key Issue Stays Away," March 5). While it's nice to see the media coverage, it's very disappointing to learn that the four major contenders for the presidency are so unwilling to challenge the drug war. More citizens have been able to see that our current system of prohibition is a cruel failure. This has been clearly demonstrated whenever state medical marijuana initiatives are placed before voters.The public is trying to send the candidates a message on this issue, yet all candidates remain committed to ignoring the message. It's enough to make one wonder whose interests Bradley, Bush, Gore and McCain are really considering. Do they care more about the law enforcement institutions and drug testing companies that profit from this multi-billion fraud, or the average people who are being demonized and punished by drug war profiteers? When I weigh the evidence, the answer leads me away from voting for either Republicans or Democrats in the presidential election, as it did in 1996.Stephen YoungIMPORTANT: Always include your address and telephone numberPlease note: If you choose to use this letter as a model please modify it at least somewhat so that the paper does not receive numerous copies of the same letter and so that the original author receives credit for his/her work. ADDITIONAL INFO to help you in your letter writing efforts:3 Tips for Letter Writers Letter Writers Style Guide TO SUBSCRIBE, DONATE, VOLUNTEER TO HELP, OR UPDATE YOUR EMAIL SEE: UNSUBSCRIBE SEE: Prepared by Stephen YoungFocus Alert Specialist CannabisNews Search & Archives of MapInc & DrugSense News Items:
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