Do Drug Offenders Need Treatment or Prison?

  Do Drug Offenders Need Treatment or Prison?

Posted by FoM on October 27, 2000 at 15:48:43 PT
TalkBack Live Transcripts 
Source: CNN Talk Back Live  

DARYN KAGAN, HOST: In Alaska, they're calling it the "dope and rope initiative." Voters are being asked to decide if the use, sale and possession of hemp products, including marijuana, should be decriminalized.California's Proposition 36 calls for drug treatment rather than jail time for those convicted of nonviolent drug crimes. Proponents say it would relieve overcrowded prisons. Opponents maintain it relieves lawbreakers of responsibility and limits what judges can do. 
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)MARTIN SHEEN, ACTOR: They're locked into it, you have to get their attention. This precludes a judge from using that leverage. (END VIDEO CLIP)(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)DANIEL LABRAHAMSON, YES ON 36: There's not enough drug courts, there's not enough treatment programs; and what Prop 36 does is expands capacity dramatically so that more people everywhere in California can get drug treatment.(END VIDEO CLIP)KAGAN: One California county will even decide if people can grow marijuana for personal use. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The war on marijuana is a bust.(END VIDEO CLIP)KAGAN: Are current drug laws working? Should they be changed our possibly eliminated altogether?Welcome to TALKBACK LIVE. I'm Daryn Kagan, filling in today for Bobbie Battista.The question of the day: Are drug laws costly, ineffected -- ineffective, actually, and outmoded? The issue comes up, in some form, every election season. Today we're going to look at some of the ballot initiatives that are being considered this November. We're going to start with Alaska. They have Ballot Measure 5, which would legalize hemp products, including marijuana, in Alaska.With us, first up, Scott Kohlhaas, he is co-sponsor of that initiative; and Scott is joining us today live from our Washington bureau. Scott, good to see you. SCOTT KOHLHAAS, PROPOSITION 5 CO-SPONSOR: Thank you, it's good to be here.KAGAN: Explain to us what it is you're trying to achieve in Alaska.KOHLHAAS: Well, we think it's important for the people of Alaska to vote yes on Prop 5 because it's time to change the priorities.Our first priority should be to protect people. To protect adults from the police kicking down their door, arresting them and putting them in prison with murderers and rapists. But at that time same time, we need to protect children. This stuff is all over the place, we need to get it off the streets, much like alcohol and tobacco.KAGAN: Well, you bring up children. Let's go right to the age issue, because this would make it legal, once you're 18, to use marijuana, is that right?KOHLHAAS: Right.KAGAN: And, as I understand it, in Alaska you have to be at least 19 to buy cigarettes and at least 21 to buy alcohol; so you'd be able to buy marijuana even younger than you could cigarettes and alcohol. KOHLHAAS: Yes.KAGAN: And that's OK?KOHLHAAS: I'm personally responsible for the 18 age in there because I believe, and I think most Americans believe that if you're old enough to die for your country, if you're old enough to get married and old enough to have children -- and, of course, we put the future of the country in the 18-year-old hands with the vote -- then you're old enough to sit on the couch, if you want, and smoke a marijuana cigarette.KAGAN: You're OK with that.What about the people who say, you know what, you're just going to turn Alaska into a place where a bunch of potheads just come and sit around and smoke pot?KOHLHAAS: Well, some people say that, it's true, because we love Alaska, it's a great land and we cherish it. And some of us want to keep it a big secret, we don't want to share it with everyone, so we are afraid of an influx or a rush; but the truth is that you can get this pretty much anywhere. And so you can get it, if you really want it -- you can get it at home.So I don't really see a big influx of people.KAGAN: So it's not a matter of access, of being able to get marijuana, your problem is what happens to you if you're caught with it -- it's what the legal system does with people who use marijuana?KOHLHAAS: Well, I could have a doctor come on and tell you the medical reasons why we need to vote yes on 5, and I could have an expert come in to talk about the environmental reasons why -- I am a Libertarian, so I will explain to you the philosophical reason why.The fact is that you own your life, you own your body, and you have the right to live in whatever manner you choose as long as you don't infringe on someone else's right to do the same. And in politics, then, in a free society you have to have the freedom of choice to buy all the 9,000 products the hemp plant produces and not run the risk of going to jail.So there are many reasons why we want to change the law but -- of course, the ultimate goal is we want to change the law.KAGAN: Well, as you can imagine, there are a few different opinions on this matter and with us here in Atlanta...KOHLHAAS: Really?KAGAN: Yes. Stay tuned, stay with us, Scott, you're going to hear some of them.With us here in Atlanta is Sue Rusche, she is executive director of National Families in Action. She is also co-author of "False Messenger: How Addictive Drugs Change the Brain."Sue, welcome to TALKBACK LIVE.SUE RUSCHE, FAMILIES IN ACTION: Thank you very much, I'm glad to be here.KAGAN: You just heard Scott, he's just talking about living in a free country and being responsible for your own actions, and Alaska is a great place to live. If they were able to pass an initiative like that, would that be someplace you'd want to be.RUSCHE: Not for a minute. Alaska had decriminalized marijuana during the 1970s, and at that time so many kids used marijuana in Alaska that their rates of use, of ever using -- monthly use, weekly use and daily use, addictive use -- was three times the rate of that of the rest of the kids, adolescents in the United States.Right now Alaska has the highest rate of any illicit drug use and the highest rates of addiction to elicit drugs and to alcohol, and I think Alaska is nuts to think about making a drug more available, which means more people will use it and they'll have higher rates of all kinds of problems, including addiction.KAGAN: So you're worried about the kids, but what about the responsible adult who looks at marijuana and just using you know a marijuana cigarette at night like someone else would go home and have a martini or a glass of wine?Why shouldn't those people be able to do, in the privacy of their own home, what you can do if you want to go home and have a drink tonight when you're done with work?RUSCHE: Well, I think that's a good question. I think that -- what I want you to tell me is what we're going to make illegal if we make marijuana legal?Are we going to get rid of tobacco, are we going to get rid of alcohol -- because we simply cannot afford what it will cost us if we have three addictive drugs that are legal and readily available to adults. I'm worried about adults as well as kids, by the way, and about their health.KAGAN: Scott, feel free to jump in here. What do you have to say to the addiction argument -- that you're just encouraging people to have more problems with an addictive substance?KOHLHAAS: Well, I think, again, that there wouldn't be a single member of the Libertarian Party who wouldn't agree that the entire war on drugs has failed miserably, so when Sue mentions all these statistics, it's true; and it's a disaster, but that means we need to change priorities.So, as far as the addiction part of it: You can get it now, and the people who want it can get it now, so I don't really see a giant increase in use. In fact, I'd like to ask, Sue a yes or no question and I think I know the answer...KAGAN: She's listening. KOHLHAAS: ... but if this Prop 5 passes and, let's say it passed all over the country, would you light up a marijuana cigarette? RUSCHE: Since I don't smoke tobacco cigarettes, no. I don't want to be addicted to anything else. KOHLHAAS: The answer is no. And, really, that will be the way it is in the future as it is now. People will...RUSCHE: That's crazy. You've got to look at what happens to tobacco in this country and you've got to look at how many states have now sued the tobacco industry in order to get money back for what state -- what our tax dollars -- what it's cost our tax dollars, to treat all the people who are addicted to tobacco and who are dying from emphysema and heart disease and other kinds of diseases that nicotine produces.If we legalize marijuana, or if Alaska does, or any other part of the -- any other state in the United States legalizes marijuana, we remove the barriers to two things that stop use, and that is we will no longer be able to stop advertising and we will no longer be able to stop marketing to increase consumption. That's the American way.KAGAN: But there are restrictions on both of those things when it comes to tobacco.RUSCHE: No.KAGAN: Advertising, you can't advertise.RUSCHE: No; the Supreme Court has upheld the tobacco industry's right to advertise cigarettes. And you're right, there are now some negotiations to try to reduce advertising and marketing to kids, but you show me a state in this country that has reduced adolescent smoking since those things, those measures began to be discussed.KAGAN: Scott I want to -- OK, go ahead and I'll ask my question.KOHLHAAS: Well I wanted to tell Sue that -- and she knows it -- that people are using it now and -- so I don't think it's going to do any good to continue to put people in prison with murderers and rapists. And you're worried about the children; what does it do to the children of a family where the parents have been arrested and imprisoned?RUSCHE: You know, Scott, we put all kinds of people in jail who have broken laws and been convicted in a court of law of breaking those laws.I don't think that you can show me a single person in Alaska or any other state that has been arrested and convicted in a court of law and put in jail for smoking a joint. Those folks who are in jail on drug-related charges are there because they have moved, in the federal prison system, an average of 300 pounds of marijuana -- those who are in federal prisons for simple possession of marijuana, they plea bargain down.I don't think -- I think that -- your arguments would have us have no laws. Why should we put anybody in jail who's broken any law if you're going to worry about their children. KOHLHAAS: Now, Sue, I think you're living in a dream world if you think that no one is in prison for possessing and smoking marijuana. There are hundreds of thousands of arrests every year and I want everyone to know... RUSCHE: That's true, but you've got to look at what they're arrested for. It's not for smoking a single joint. It's for possession with intent to distribute many pounds, many tons, and they plea bargain down through the court system to simple possession. KAGAN: Scott, before -- well, go ahead. KOHLHAAS: We are letting -- go ahead.KAGAN: Go ahead. KOHLHAAS: I just wanted to say that we're letting out rapists and murderers to make room for peaceful people. RUSCHE: Not true. (CROSSTALK)KAGAN: Actually, one part of the initiative that I want you to comment on, and we might not have time before the break, part of the initiative, people who are in jail in prison right now on marijuana- related charges you would have them released, and their records cleaned. Is that right? KOHLHAAS: Absolutely. KAGAN: And reparations.KOHLHAAS: They are prisoners of war, and, yes, the initiative does call for a commission to look at restitution. Now that commission will be made up of people appointed by the leaders -- the political leadership of Alaska, and I don't believe a single dime will be paid to these people who have been placed in prison. But I want you to understand that anyone who has been languished in prison for years because of this drug war, any peaceful person who's been in there will be released. And we will look at restitution. Though I don't think they'll get anything, I think the government owes them something because this...KAGAN: So, somebody knowingly broke a law. They smoke pot, went to prison, spent time there. They should have money coming their way? KOHLHAAS: You know, there are wrong -- there are right and wrong laws. You know, Martin Luther King was beaten by nightsticks as he tried to resist some of the wrong laws that we have. And that is why we are working within the system to change this wrong law. KAGAN: OK. And quickly, as we go to break, I just want to turn the tables a little bit as did you to Sue, and have you answer your own question. If this was legalized, will you be using pot in Alaska? KOHLHAAS: No. KAGAN: You will not? KOHLHAAS: No, and there will be many others who will not. KAGAN: OK. All right, interesting answer. We will take a break. As we go to break, we want to let you know that you can take part in our online chat -- actually, online chat. We also have an online poll. The question today: Are U.S. drug laws too strict? Answer yes or no. Right now yes is leading the way 57 percent to 43 percent. We'll ask you to go online while you stay tuned. Vote there, and we'll show you the results by the end of the hour. Right now we're going to take a break and we'll be back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)KAGAN: Welcome back to TALKBACK LIVE.As we continue our conversation about different initiatives on ballots concerning legalizing drugs, illegal drugs. Now a couple of e-mails, because we want to go to our audience. Greg writes in: "As a life-long Alaskan," and I hope you can read that with the blower there, "life-long Alaskan, I believe this proposition is ludicrous. Our substance abuse problem up here is horrible. To legalize this drug would put us at more of a disadvantage." And then we have Kathie in Oregon, who write: "U.S. laws are ineffective. They haven't stopped drug abuse, instead they have created drug lords." What about this war on drugs. We spent billions and billions of dollars and still we have a huge drug trafficking. Scott, is that one of the things that you're concerned about? KOHLHAAS: Absolutely. KAGAN: That we've spent all this money and there's people still using drugs. KOHLHAAS: Well, of course, we're concerned with the philosophical reasons first -- that you own your life and we don't live in a free country unless you have the freedom of choice with this. But there are very many practical reasons why we need to take this step and vote yes on 5. The crime is insane right now. The corruption is insane, and we're seeing all the effects that we saw during prohibition in the '20s. So I think what we should do is -- I think we can separate this issue from -- as they separate alcohol and tobacco from cocaine. I think we can separate this, and I think we can treat it as we treat alcohol and tobacco. Get it off the streets and get the crime down. KAGAN: Sue, why isn't this any different than prohibition and alcohol in the '20s. RUSCHE: It is a huge -- there's a big answer to that question. Alcohol was legal. Then we tried to make illegal, and the horse was already out of the barn. Marijuana has never been legal. Now Scott's going to scream because back in the 1800s it was legal. KAGAN: But also it was legal for a while in Alaska. It was. RUSCHE: No, it was decriminalized. In Alaska, people could possess up to four ounces, et cetera. And that's when we saw use among kids go up. But I want to come to this question -- I've let Scott get away with it twice, that the war on drug has failed. We now have half the number of people using illicit drugs on a regular basis that we had in 1979. And two-thirds of our adolescents and young adults, kids of college age, and first starting their careers, and that's because we had a huge prevention effort that worked very hard despite all the trafficking and all of the illicit behavior going on to try push drugs on people. We were able to reduce drug use by preventing, working for prevention and asking people to keep the laws and obey them. I can't see there's something wrong with that. KOHLHAAS: Sue, let throw a number at you. KAGAN: No throwing. This is a nice show, Scott. KOHLHAAS: Right. No slinging. Well, we just incarcerated the two millionth American I think it was last month, and we incarcerate more people per capita than any nation in the world and we are supposed to live in a free country. Now you -- every other country has laws against these things. Now, if you want to live in these other countries, that's great. But there should be at least one place in the world where things are different, and where you have the freedom of choice. That's why people have run to this country and now we have what we see as two million prisoners of war. And I want people to know, and understand, when the Libertarians are elected, then we will have a situation where we give amnesty to about half of those two million, then they get another chance. KAGAN: Let's go to our audience. Let's give our audience here in Atlanta a chance to chime in. Here is -- is it Stacy? Stacy from Illinois. STACY: Here's how I feel: I'm tired of paying for everybody else's irresponsibilities. I paid for my family, you pay for yours, I smoke cigarettes. I pay high taxes. I don't complain to anybody. If you want to take drugs, you pay high taxes. I think if we made it legal we would get rid of all of these drug pushers and I don't want to pay for anybody's incarceration. I'm already paying for way too many. I'm sick of it. I don't want to pay for anybody's rehab. Take responsibility. If you want to overdose and kill yourself, that's nice. Do it. I don't care. Sue, it was nice you said you are worried about everybody, that sounds real good and maybe a lot of people are going to hate me. I think a lot of people feel the way I do but they're embarrassed to say it. It's not that I hate other people, I just believe nobody wants to take responsibility for themselves. I raised my kids, you raise your kids. I'll pay for my own, you pay for your own. It would lower prices at the stores, food, clothing, everything. There's so much stealing going on because of all of the illegal drugs, that who pays more -- we do. KAGAN: What about the tax issue?KOHLHAAS: Stacy, I just want to... KAGAN: What of the tax issue? Would you be willing to tax marijuana if it was legal and at least let the government get a piece of the action?KOHLHAAS: Well, I just want to say first, before I forget, I want to tell Stacy that you should never be ashamed to be live and let live. That is your worldview, that is your philosophy, and that is a good philosophy. You shouldn't be forced to live for other people and their irresponsibility, so you're right about that. Now, as far as the taxation goes, we have not provided for any tax system in our initiative. That will be up to others to figure out. I'm not into creating more taxes. I'm into cutting taxes. I'm a libertarian. So, that will have to be figured out. I'm not sure. I support the eventual repeal of all taxation, and so I'm not concerned about building in a tax system to this initiative. KAGAN: Sue, what if it did happen to be legalized? Would you like to see it taxed, so at least that money, just like tobacco money, goes to a different purpose?RUSCHE: I think we need to look at the example you've just given, the tobacco industry, and that is that all of the taxes that we levy on cigarettes at the local and state and national level do not reach what it costs us to treat all the people who've been hurt by that drug in terms of public insurance and private insurance. And so I don't think taxing -- legalizing drugs and then taxing them is going to begin to pay for all of the trouble that we're going to have and all the sick people we're going to have. KOHLHAAS: It seems like Sue's big problem is with the socialized medical system. Naturally, people should not be forced to pay for other -- for Stacy who smokes. She should have to pay for her own medical care. And so I don't think your argument is with people living their own lives. I think your problem is with the socialized medical...RUSCHE: No, Scott, I know what my problem is. I know why I object to your bill. But what I think that you've got to do and Stacy's got to do is think about the fact we can't zip ourselves up in baggies and live all by ourselves in this world. We have children, we have families, we have co-workers, we have people that we need to be helpful to and responsible with as well as some of our people have to -- we have to be responsible for. That is our children. I think that the whole question of legalizing more drugs means that we will have more addiction and we will have more addiction- related crime. A lot of the folks who are in jail are there because they've hurt someone because they were drunk on alcohol and they beat their wives or they beat kids or they abused their children, and somebody is picking up the tab for correcting that damage and paying for it. I don't want anymore drugs out there to make more of those problems that we are going to have to pay for whether Stacy wants to or not. KAGAN: Two interesting arguments on both sides of this discussion. I want to thank Scott Kohlhaas and Sue Rusche for joining us today. Coming up next, we're going to continue our conversation. From Alaska to California now, it's proposition 36: Does it treat the sick or does it coddle criminals?According to a study by the Alaskan Division of Public Health, nearly a third of the state's high-school students surveyed last year reported that they had smoked marijuana in the previous month.(COMMERCIAL BREAK)KAGAN: Welcome back to TALKBACK LIVE, continuing our discussion as we turn our attention now to California's proposition 36. It concerns the treatment of people who commit drug-related crimes. Joining us are two representatives from California. Democrat Maxine Waters will be with us in just a moment, and right now, we have Republican Doug Ose. Congressman, good to see. REP. DOUG OSE (R), CALIFORNIA: Good afternoon. Thank you, Daryn. How are you today?KAGAN: Doing just fine. Good to have you here with us. I believe you're from the Sacramento area, Northern California. OSE: That's correct. KAGAN: Well, it's good to have you along. This thing, Proposition 36, a good thing or a bad thing in your eyes?OSE: This is a flawed proposition that needs to be voted down, pure and simple. It's got so many flaws that I don't know where to start, but I'd be happy to do that. KAGAN: Pick -- come on, just pick one. OSE: Well, it's not written by anybody associated with the medical industry. There's no doctor input into this entire initiative. There's not a single word in here talking about how treatment is to be provided. In fact, if you look at the entire initiative, about 4,500 words, 3,500 of the words deal with changes to criminal statute, and the rest deal with how the money is going to be distributed, but not a single word about treatment itself. If our objective is to provide treatment who are trying to rid -- to people who are trying to rid themselves of this drug scourge, that's what we ought to be doing. But this initiative does not do that. KAGAN: What about the big problem of all these people who are talking up space in prison and jail that cost the government, I think, about $24,000 a year for each person to have them behind bars? There's too many people like that, a lot of people believe, and that this would help empty some of the prisons and give space to really violent, really hard-core criminals. OSE: Before -- before -- Daryn, before I got involved in this, I checked that exact argument out, and if you look at who's there, the people who are actually incarcerated for drug possession or trafficking or what have you, you'll see that by and large the vast majority of them have plea-bargained down their original charges to a drug possession or something similar charge. And as a result, what you see is, when you actually look at the record, they're incarcerated for drug possession. But in fact, it is a plea bargain that they have come to because the original charges were far more serious charges, charges such as drug trafficking. KAGAN: But do you agree that the war on drugs is not working, that there's a big problem here with the billions of dollars that the government is spending and you still have all these people using drugs and going to jail just for that? Something has to be done.OSE: I do agree with you, Daryn, that our effort to eliminate drugs from our society could stand improvement. And what we need to do, as this initiative says but does not do, is focus on treatment in particular. In fact, this year the federal government spent $6 billion nationwide on treatment programs. Last week, we passed a bill off the floor of the House setting aside $485 million over the next five years for additional treatment program.This week in the Commerce, Justice, State appropriations bill, we put $63 million in for treatment. The flaw here, what we are talking about here is Proposition 36. And Proposition 36 says it's treatment. But there's not a single piece of evidence in the initiative -- no words, nothing -- about how treatment is to be delivered. In fact, what is in there denies treatment to people who are incarcerated for drug offenses. It specifically prevents the use of these funds to treat people in jail right now for drug addiction.KAGAN: Here's a good comment and question from somebody in your home state of California. It's from Paul, who writes and asks via e- mail, "It's a shame that the potential leaders of our country," Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush, "do not talk about the No. 1 problem in the United States." And he believes that's drugs. Do you think there's been a lack of discussion on the campaign trail, Congressman, about the drug problem this year?OSE: Daryn, I do believe there has. This is not an easy problem.I sit on the Drug Policy Subcommittee of the United States Congress. I'm on the speaker's task force. This is something people would rather turn away from and not face, but in fact it is possibly the greatest threat we face. When we have young people -- this past year we had over 16,000 people whose deaths in the United States were attributable to drug use. That is a tremendous loss of life, and we need to do something about it.KAGAN: Congressman, we'll ask you to stand by and stay with us...OSE: OK.KAGAN: ... We're going to take a quick break. We're going to find Congresswoman Waters, we'll and continue our discussion after this.(COMMERCIAL BREAK)KAGAN: Welcome back to TALKBACK LIVE.That opening shot can kind of make you hungry there. Snacks after the show for everybody. Meanwhile, we're continuing to talk about a California drug-treatment initiative, and on the phone with us right now is John Schwarzlose, president and CEO of the Betty Ford Center in California.John, good talk with you.JOHN SCHWARZLOSE, PRESIDENT & CEO, BETTY FORD CENTER: Thank you.KAGAN: what's your take on this Proposition 36? It sounds like it's something that might be right up your alley since you are in the treatment business.SCHWARZLOSE: We are in the treatment business, and over the last two years have treated over 20,000 citizens of California. But we are strongly against this proposition. And the reason is it is not about treatment. It is a very poorly written proposition.And we're -- we're against what the drug war has done. We have been loud critics of our nation's drug war and what it has accomplished. It has accomplished very little.But that's not what this proposition is about. We've been trying to get people across our state to read the actual proposition, and of course that's been a hard thing to do, because most people go into the ballot box without being able to do a lot of research.But it is a poorly written proposition. It is not about treatment, and so we're taking a strong stand against it.KAGAN: If it's not about treatment, then what's it about in your eyes?SCHWARZLOSE: It is about the decriminalization of drugs. And George Soros, the primary financial backer, has make it very clearly, very open about that that's what it's about. What I'd like to see is take that money and expand drug courts. In California, we have 110 drug courts that are showing wonderful results across our state. We need money to examine those drug courts. Let's put our money where it's working, not coming up with a new kind of system that is unproven and that really is not about treatment. KAGAN: John and Congressman Ose, I want you to stand by and continue our conversation.I'm going to bring in some members of our audience here. Here's Aikens from Massachusetts.AIKENS: My problem isn't with the legalization of drugs or not -- legalizing or not. The problem is the people that are in jail, they're in jail for drug use. What rehabilitation are they getting? Are they being treated? And what is the use of putting people in jail for using drugs when they're not being treated for the drug use and they come back out and they're going to keep using the drugs.So why don't we treat the people for the drug problem and not just incarcerate them?KAGAN: John, why don't you take that one first? If you could rule the world and set up a system like you think it would work best, what would you do for somebody who is using drugs and is breaking laws?SCHWARZLOSE: This gentlemen's question is perfect, because what we should do with people that are arrested for simple possession is send them to a drug court, where this person's offered treatment rather than jail. And if they comply, if they do what the judge orders, they will not spend time in jail. They will get treatment. And in drug courts across California, these people are returning to their jobs, to their families. We just have to use systems like the drug courts that are working.KAGAN: Congressman, would you support that as well?OSE: I would. I think Mr. Aikens has a great point.In fact, Proposition 36, the money that's appropriated within it, none of it by its own writing can be used to provide treatment to people who are currently incarcerated. Now that is a fundamental flaw. Compare that with what we did on the floor of the House yesterday, where we provided $63 million for treatment to people who are in prison for exactly the point that Mr. Aikens makes. And that is that we need to find a way to get people who are currently incarcerated who are suffering from this disease. -- and it is a disease -- the treatment, the medical treatment they need.KAGAN: Our audience member, Norvell, is a very talented young man here. He's monitoring our chat room, and listening in, and has a comment all at the same time. Norvell, go ahead.NORVELL: Right, I disagree with the notion that drug users, such as like marijuana users, anyway, need treatment. I think that -- well, listening to the World Health Organization, they recently put out like a long-term study conclusively stating that marijuana is far less dangerous than both alcohol and cigarettes. So I think that the whole notion of them needing treatment is completely wrong. And I think it's unworkable for us to pay it for it anyway. KAGAN: John, I bet you at the Betty Ford Center might have something to say about that. SCHWARZLOSE: Well, I don't really disagree with him. Simple marijuana use and possession, in most states, including California, is treated today with a fine. People are fined. They don't spend time in prison. What happens is the chronic marijuana users do need treatment. The casual marijuana users, I would agree with him. We are not -- we don't put those kind of people in treatment.KAGAN: And here's J.R. J.R.: Yes. I don't know that I agree with the need for a drug court. I think that gives the judges a bit more subjective reasoning power. They've already -- they're already way too subjective in doing what they do. As a result, we have a disproportionate numbers of individuals of certain classes going to prison being incarcerated. I believe what should happen is that all of those drugs that are dangerous -- for example, known human carcinogens and drugs of that nature -- should of course remain illegal. However, drugs that have not been backed by medical science showing any sort of harm or danger, or are more no more addictive than, say, caffeine -- which is available to children of all ages -- should be left alone. KAGAN: And if you gentlemen can stay with us -- we are going to take a break -- we'll let you comment on what J.R. had to say more -- right after this. According to the Department of Justice, drug and alcohol counseling was available in nearly 90 percent of state and federal facilities, but only 10 to 20 percent of prison inmates participated in treatment during their incarceration.(COMMERCIAL BREAK)MATT: Hi, my name is Matt and I'm from American University. I think that non-violent, first-time drug offenders should definitely have the option of drug rehabilitation. Mandatory minimums are racist and ineffective. Studies have shown that rehabilitation can work. Furthermore, the purpose of our prison system is to rehabilitate the people. And here's our chance to do so. KAGAN: Welcome back to TALKBACK LIVE.This being CNN, we are lucky enough to have many international visitors with us today. And we were asking some of them during the commercial break what they think of how we as Americans are handling this problem. And we were talking to Elena from Russia. You had a comment and then also told us how it is handled in Russia if you are found with illegal drugs. ELENA: Salers are punished hardly, yes. But you -- I can't say that I'm -- I know everything about this point. But the users is usually called patients. And if they want, they having a treatment. But that is only -- they are free choice to have a treatment. And if they want to have a good treatment, they should pay for that and pay a lot. Not everybody can afford this payment.I think that the main idea of treatment is the accountability, to be responsible of what you did. And you should choose that: I want to be treated. Only this way treatment can be successful. Otherwise, it's nothing, just wasting money and wasting of time. KAGAN: Congressman, was that you trying to get in there? Or what was John? John, you still with us? John Schwarzlose, Betty Ford Center, are you still with us?SCHWARZLOSE: I'm here.KAGAN: OK, good. I would imagine that, in your position, being with this world-famous Betty Ford Center, that you must treat people from all around the world and also have contact with a lot of international people. Have you been able to gain anything by that interaction and get an insight of how different cultures treat their drug problems? SCHWARZLOSE: Oh, very much so. In fact, we have actually visited Russia, where that young woman is from, as a guest of their government. And we've learned a lot. And I think that they have learned a lot from what we are doing in this country. And the bottom line is, there is not a country in the world that has a total answer to the drug problem. KAGAN: Anywhere that you are particularly intrigued by how they handle it, though? SCHWARZLOSE: Well, I kind of like the way that they do it in Scandinavia, because they have a relaxed -- like in Sweden and Finland, fox example. They have the relaxed attitudes, but when people need treatment, the government makes sure that they get treatment. And here in this country, we have huge waiting lists at treatment centers. People don't have access to treatment. And so that's the kind of thing that I would like to see us fix. KAGAN: Congressman, in your research, have you seen those same problems: not enough access to the kind of help that people really need? OSE: Daryn, I think what John has said is accurate. But Proposition 36 does nothing to address that issue. I want to go back for a minute to Nathaniel's comment from American University about treatment for first-time users. Proposition 36 doesn't allow for proper treatment of first-time users. And the reason is that the single-most effect effective means of monitoring behavior from someone who is abusing drugs is drug-testing. And Proposition 36 specifically excludes that from being eligible for funding under the initiative. And it's a terrible problem for doctors and professionals who are trying to rid people of this scourge if they can't have some means of holding the drug abusers who are trying to cure themselves accountable for their actions. KAGAN: And we'll continue their conservation -- more on that, more on drug-testing. I would like you to ask a couple questions about that, Congressman. But we need a break. And we'll talk about more after this.(COMMERCIAL BREAK)KAGAN: Drug offenders accounted for 23 percent of the state prison population in 1995, up from 6 percent in 1980. They accounted for 60 percent of the federal population ion 1997, up from 25 percent in 1980.Welcome back to TALKBACK LIVE.Continuing our conversation, first a little housekeeping item. We told you that Congresswoman Maxine Waters was going to be with us. She did intend to and had a scheduling conflict, was not able to be with us today. So in the interest of fairness, getting more out on the other side of the argument -- we've heard plenty against Proposition 36 in California -- I want to the bring in Dave Fratello. He is for Proposition 36 and in fact working with the people to put that on the ballot in California.Dave, are you with us?DAVE FRATELLO, CAMPAIGN FOR YES ON PROP 36: Yes, I am.KAGAN: Tell us why it would be a good idea to pass Proposition 36 in California?FRATELLO: Well, because the alternative hasn't worked. We've got basically 36,000 people going to jail or prison every year, who instead would go into drug treatment under this initiative.We do have an experimental system that's been mentioned, the drug courts. But they are reaching about 5 percent of all the people who would be eligible under Proposition 36. So we need to do a lot more.And Prop 36, it looks like it's pretty likely to pass. We're going to have a lot of challenges ahead to make quality treatment programs available and to make this whole thing work throughout the system, but it's a fundamental change in our drug policy and, we hope it will be a national model.KAGAN: We have with us also Representative Doug Ose, Dave, just so you know. He represents the Sacramento area in Congress for California, and he -- well, Congressman, I won't speak for you. You go ahead and jump in. You said that 36 is not a good idea. There's not enough or nothing in there about rehab.OSE: Thirty-six is fundamentally flawed. If you go back and you actually read the initiative, 4,500 words long, 3500 words deal with changes to penal-code statutes. There's not a single word in there about treatment. This is about treatment. Drug abuse is a medical disease that requires medical professionals. Proposition...KAGAN: Congressman, I just want to make sure that Dave gets plenty of time to respond.FRATELLO: Yes, that's really a bizarre statement. I mean, of course it's a change in the criminal law, so there are a lot of words in there about it. But the fundamental issue here is that the initiative provides mandatory treatment for first and second offenders and it provides money to pay for that treatment. That's going to go through our state department of alcohol and drug programs to the counties. The counties will set up what kind of programs they think they need.That's a step-by-step process, very much a localized process. And, you know, the reason that I believe this initiative has drawn support from the medical community -- from the California Society of Addiction Medicine, from the nurses' association, from the drug and alcohol counselors -- this has really ended up a debate between drug treatment and medical professionals versus law enforcement.KAGAN: Dave, we have to take a quick break. Stay with us.Dave Fratello, Congressman Ose, we'll wrap up our conversation after this.Stay with us.(COMMERCIAL BREAK)KAGAN: We have only enough time to say goodbye. Than you to all of our guests, our studio audience and of course you at home. I'm Daryn Kagan."STREET SWEEP" is up next.Have a great weekend.TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT: (US Web)Aired: October 27, 2000 - 3:00 p.m. ET Copyright: 2000 Cable News Network, Inc.Contact: cnn.comFeedback: IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.California Campaign For New Drug Policy On California Proposition 36 Hemp in AlaskaAl Anders, Chair2603 Spenard RoadAnchorage, Alaska 99503 (907) 278-HEMP E-mail: freehempinak gci.netVisit their web site: http://www.freehempinak.orgHemp 2000R.L. Marcy, ChairP.O. Box 90055Anchorage, AK 99509907-376-2232 (p)Fax: 907-376-0530 (f)E-mail: marcy hemp2000.orgVisit their web site: Drug Policy Initiatives CannabisNews Articles - Alaska Articles - Proposition 36

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Comment #6 posted by FoM on October 30, 2000 at 15:02:18 PT
Thank You CongressmanSuet
It's been a long day and the Doctor increased his Lasix and I just made a nice dinner for my husband and father in law. My sister came down and she is an active part of Hospice and we are seeing if we can get some in home help because it is now almost impossible to leave him alone. He is so fragile now. He was so big and strong and now so frail. I'm sorry about your Mom too. I guess my mind has been sidetracked because of this but the news came early this morning which was helpful because I was able to get it posted and take care of things here.I could be wrong but I think AOCP was just venting and comparing the fact that harmful tobacco and alcohol are legal so why isn't Cannabis. I agree with that for sure!
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Comment #5 posted by CongressmanSuet on October 30, 2000 at 08:45:25 PT:
Thank you FoM,
and Im sorry to hear of your Dads plight. Congestive heart failure is just one demon that plagues my family history. Not knowing his case, I would have to ask, is your Dad on Lasix, or some other intense diuretic? My aunt had a similar problem and when her limbs blew up as such, the Doc would increase her Lasix for a few days and she would get somewhat better. Its funny that AOCP would ask for a rescheduling of alcohol and tobacco, since the reason my Mom is in the hosp. is for treatment of advanced COPD and ehphysema, caused by 50+ years of 4 pack a day smoking habit. Oxygen 24 hr a day, nebuliser with steroids 4-6 times a day, all kinds of breathing medications, all this for a woman who honestly believed[shes not a brain surgeon] that because Ronald Reagen, many, many, movie stars, and countless doctors appeared in ads telling her it was safe, and could actually be good for you, that smoking was okay. To me, these poor people are the REAL victims of big tobacco. Times have changed huh? I hope your dad is feeling better, and if you have to get a few bikers over to the house to convince him to see a doc, well, so be it. Just get him in there! You are so right, time and life are precious, and we need to stop wasting what we have, and start appreciating it. 
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on October 29, 2000 at 20:33:17 PT
I'm sorry CongressmanSuet
CongressmanSuet, I wanted to say I hope your Mother will be doing better soon. Tonight we are worried about my Husband's Father. He is 86 years old and has been living with a pacemaker after a few heart attacks and we know that time is limited. Tonight his legs swelled up almost solid to the knees and he won't go to the hospital. He lives next door to us so we will see him in the morning. He will go to the Doctors in the morning if we have to drag him there. Life is precious and just way to short. I think his heart is just shutting down. Congestive heartfailure often behaves this way. Take care and love your Mom. My parents and child are gone so I know how important each moment with them is.Peace, FoM!
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Comment #3 posted by AOCP on October 29, 2000 at 17:33:00 PT:
CS, i apologize...
...for my seemingly-nasty wishes. I really do not wish to see anyone get cancer, but what i said was really just a slight tangent to my new line of drugwar-thinking. That is, i want those who rail against common sense like MMJ, needle exchange, or just illicits in general to see what it feels like to BE on the "other side". Therefore, i want tobacco and recreational alcohol to be made Sch. I substances immediately and have their possession, sale, and use completely prohibited. Whispering, speaking rationally, and yelling have made no headway into the ears of the prohibitionists. It's time for some "dynamite". Just so you know i'm not really a nasty, hate-filled SOB. I just like to see the scales balanced a bit. Life sure ain't fair, but i can dream...
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Comment #2 posted by CongressmanSuet on October 29, 2000 at 00:04:42 PT:
Now, now...
AOCP, that is terrible, wishing an illness on this woman, although I do get an interesting image of the idea, [like a Clockwork Orange, Alex daydream]and I would agree, needle exchange programs probably raise her blood pressue 20 points and make her "sweaty". I actually caught this one while I was visiting my 78 year old Mom in the Hosp. I think we need to try and aim more of our stuff towards the elderly. Not only did my Mom shock the 'hit out of me when she said she agreed with the guy from Alaska, but the elderly patient in the other bed chimed in. It seems that our biggest challenge comes from the 45-65 group, so lets ignore them and work on those we can reach. The young and reckless, and the old and alzheimer prone. Wait a minute, that didnt sound quite right......
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Comment #1 posted by AOCP on October 28, 2000 at 01:09:40 PT:
Karma's a-comin'
>KAGAN: So you're worried about the kids, but what about the responsible adult who looks at marijuana and just using you know a marijuana cigarette at night like someone else would go home and have a martini or a glass of wine?>Why shouldn't those people be able to do, in the privacy of their own home, what you can do if you want to go home and have a drink tonight when you're done with work?>RUSCHE: Well, I think that's a good question. I think that -I feel so cheated! I want to know what she was about to say!>what I want you to tell me is what we're going to make illegal if we make marijuana legal?...not this lousy coverup! Darn it! I'd love to take this woman on in a debate. Let's see what else she has "up her sleeve"...>Are we going to get rid of tobacco, are we going to get rid of alcohol --Forget about repealing MJ prohibition for a sec ... she's on to something, i tell you! By jove, she's about to shoot herself in the foot! Get clear!>because we simply cannot afford what it will cost us if we have three addictive drugs that are legal and readily available to adults.Now, THAT is one smelly brainfart. Holy cow. Lemme get this straight, now ... you mean booze and cigs are the only addictive drugs that are legal and readily available to adults? You sure must have a pretty strict definition of "readily available" or what you consider "legal addictive drugs". And what's up with the magic number of three? Is that the civilization water line or something wrt recreational substances? Can i call that the TitanicTheory (tm) from now on?>I'm worried about adults as well as kids, by the way, and about their health.Hmmmm ... i'll bet you're not too hot to trot on needle exchange. What else? Maybe MMJ is just a ruse for total drug legalization with marketing directed at kids, huh? You deserve an illness that could benefit from MMJ relief. Not cure, but relief. Karma's gonna getcha.
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