Americans' Attitude To Illegal Drugs Softening

Americans' Attitude To Illegal Drugs Softening
Posted by FoM on October 04, 1999 at 07:27:39 PT
By Jan Cienski, National Post 
Source: National Post
WASHINGTON In what some see as a signal that American attitudes toward narcotics are softening, yet another American would-be political candidate has admitted he used illegal drugs during a wilder youth. 
This time it's macho movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger, who says he's thinking about a run for governor on California in 2002. Asked about past drug use, he responded, "I inhaled, exhaled, everything." Two weeks earlier, Bill Bradley, the challenger for the Democratic presidential nomination, said in a nationally televised interview: "I have used marijuana several times in my life." Neither revelation raised a murmur of interest. "The politicians are starting to catch up to the people in some ways," said Mark Mauer, head of the Sentencing Project, a Washington-based think tank that studies the fight against drugs. "Enormous numbers of middle-age Americans have used drugs at some point in their lives." The same collective yawn was also accorded to Al Gore, the vice-president, Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, and other national politicians who admitted to taking the occasional puff on a joint. Bill Clinton, the U.S. president, came under closer scrutiny when he was questioned about drugs in his first presidential campaign. But that was because he made the eye-rolling assertion that he had smoked a joint but had never inhaled. George W. Bush, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, was briefly under the gun last month for tip-toeing around the issue of whether he had used marijuana and cocaine. He says he made "mistakes" in his youth but has not used illegal drugs in the past 25 years. The lack of public reaction to news that some of America's leading politicians dabbled in drugs that could have landed less fortunate people in jail comes amid reports of the toll caused by the two-decade campaign against drugs. Drug arrests have soared from about half a million in 1980 to triple that number in 1997, according to a recent report by the Sentencing Project. Backers of the anti-drug effort point to a 50% drop in the rates of drug use from 1985 to today, but people on both sides of the debate lament the human cost. "Addicted Americans -- parents, siblings, and children -- are not the enemy. They require treatment," said General Barry McCaffrey, head of the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy, in congressional testimony. In recent years, the appetite has waned for meting out ever-harsher terms for drug offences. Last year, Michigan substantially scaled back a law that mandated life without parole for distribution of 650 grams of cocaine or heroin. The penalty was the same as for first-degree murder. Now, prisoners can get parole after 15 years. Other states have brought in specialized drug courts that allow judges to send drug offenders for treatment instead of to prison. In the states, traditionally laboratories for political experimentation, a couple of governors have suggested the United States should go the Dutch route and partially legalize drug use. Jesse Ventura, the flashy former wrestler who governs Minnesota, wants the government to give up fighting drugs. "Drugs and prostitution, those should not be imprisoning crimes," he told Playboy magazine. "The government has much more important things to do." But the people in charge of the war on drugs see things a little differently. Gen. McCaffrey told Congress that, "Given the negative impact of drugs on society, the overwhelming majority of Americans reject illegal drug use."October 4, 1999Copyright  Southam Inc. The Wild Bunch - 10/03/99 - Newsweek
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Comment #2 posted by Rod on October 05, 1999 at 13:48:12 PT
McCraffrey lost his credibility long ago.Lets keep writing the fools in congress & perhaps they willget the message.On second thougt understanding requires something between the ears and that is an issue of debate in itself.(&%#$ $ ) idiots
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Comment #1 posted by Ken on October 04, 1999 at 19:25:14 PT
What rot
What I love about this is McCaffrey's quote: "Given the negative impact of drugs on society, the overwhelmingmajority of Americans reject illegal drug use."When the majority of Americans are in favor of any use of Marijuana (like the DC vote) then they are wrong. When shooting off his mouth, however, he can claim the majority are behind him.Yet another load of bull.
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