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Law Enforcement: Karen Tandy Resigns As DEA Chief

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) head Karen Tandy is resigning, an agency spokesman announced Monday. Tandy, who was the first woman to hold the top job in federal drug law enforcement, served four years as director. She will leave to take a position as a senior vice president with Motorola.

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Karen Tandy
"It just doesn't get any better than this -- leading 11,000 extraordinarily gifted people in DEA around the world who sacrifice everything to live our dangerous mission 24-7, every day of the year, in order to protect America's children and communities," Tandy said in a statement announcing her resignation. "I will forever remain grateful to President Bush for this opportunity."

During Tandy's tenure, the DEA took credit for combating the growth of clandestine methamphetamine labs, which have declined by nearly two-thirds in four years. But the primary reason for the decline in home-cooked meth is the result of laws restricting easy access to precursor materials, both at the state and federal level. The decline in home meth labs has also resulted in meth of higher quality produced in Mexican super lab being imported into the US in greater quantities.

Tandy also expanded the DEA's presence in Afghanistan, now home to 93% of the world's opium supply. While the agency claims successes, including "historic extraditions of Taliban-connected drug lords," the poppy crop this year is 34% larger than last year, and the trade continues unabated.

But Tandy's most lasting legacy will probably be her leadership of the DEA as the agency cranked up its futile war against medical marijuana patients, producers, and dispensaries in California. Under Tandy's tenure, the DEA has conducted dozens of raids against operations legal under California law, in spite of the expressed opposition of state and local officials in many cases. The operations have been so unpopular in California that DEA raiders routinely have to call on local law enforcement to provide protection against outraged citizens protesting their raids.

Tandy, a former associate deputy attorney general at the Justice Department, will serve as Motorola's top spokesperson for public policy, focusing mostly on global telecom policy, trade and regulation.

Feature: San Francisco Ponders a Safe Injection Site, Would Be the Nation's First

San Francisco city officials last Thursday took a tentative first step toward opening the nation's first safe injection site for drug users. In an effort to reduce the city's high number of fatal drug overdoses, as well as slow the spread of blood-borne infectious diseases, such as HIV and Hepatitis C, the city's public health department teamed up with a coalition of health and social service nonprofit groups to present a daylong forum on safe injection sites, how they work, and how they can be established.

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O'Farrell St., Tenderloin district, SF (courtesy Wikimedia)
San Francisco's needle-using population is estimated at between 11,000 and 15,000, with many of them being homeless men. While injection-related HIV rates are relatively low, Hepatitis C is spreading quickly among drug users. About 40 San Franciscans die from drug overdoses each year.

Injection drug use is also a quality of life issue for businesses and residents in areas of the city like the Tenderloin, where public injecting is not rare and dirty needles can be found on the streets. The neighborhood, a center of services for down and out residents, is often mentioned as a potential location for a safe injection site.

Safe injection sites are up and running in some 27 cities in eight European countries, as well as Australia and Canada. They have been shown to reduce overdoses, needle-sharing, and the spread of disease, as well as entice some users into drug treatment -- all without causing increased drug use, crime or other social disorder.

The symposium was cosponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition, the Drug Policy Alliance, and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and was organized by a local consortium of community-based groups known as the Alliance for Saving Lives. That broad-based umbrella group includes public health officials, service providers, legal experts, injection drug users, and researchers.

"Having the conversation today will help us figure out whether this is a way to reduce the harms and improve the health of our community," said Grant Colfax, director of HIV prevention for the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

Vancouver's Insite safe injection site, the only one in North America, was held up as a model for a potential similar program in San Francisco. Both Dr. Thomas Kerr of the British Columbia Center on Excellence in AIDS, who has evaluated InSite, and the facility's program manager, Sarah Evans, addressed the forum about their experiences.

Evans described the Downtown Eastside Vancouver facility as a bland place where drug users can come in and inject in a safe, sterile environment under medical supervision, then relax in a "chill out" room where they are observed. "It looks kind of like a hair salon," Evans said of the bustling space. "If we were a restaurant, we would be making a profit."

While InSite has seen some 800 drug overdoses, said Kerr, none of them had been fatal because of the medical supervision available at the site. His research has found increases in addicts seeking treatment and decreases in abandoned syringes, needle-sharing, drug-related crime and other problems since the clinic opened three years ago, he said. Those findings suggest it is worth doing elsewhere, despite the criticism it will attract, Kerr said.

But while the science appears to be on the side of such facilities, political reality is a different matter. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome's office has said that he does not support safe injection sites, and by this week, even public health department spokesmen were keeping mum. "We're not talking to the media at all any more," Colfax said on Tuesday in response to inquiries about what comes next.

While there has been community concern, the only vocal reaction has been coming from Washington, DC, where one senator, Republican James DeMint (SC), has introduced an amendment that would cut off federal health funds for any locality that starts a safe injection site, and where the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has attacked the idea via the press and its Pushing Back blog.

Bertha Madras, ONDCP deputy director of demand reduction, told the Associated Press the fact that the idea was even being discussed was "disconcerting" and "poor public policy." According to Madras, "The underlying philosophy is 'We accept drug addiction, we accept the state of affairs as acceptable.' This is a form of giving up."

But Hilary McQuie, Western Director for the Harm Reduction Coalition, and one of the guiding forces behind the push for a safe injection site in San Francisco, pronounced herself unworried about either DC opponent. "DeMint's measure is a rash overreaction that won't go anywhere," she predicted, "and as for ONDCP, well, I won't even debate them. It's none of their business; this is a local issue, not a national one."

It's a local issue that McQuie and others have been working patiently on for some time now. "We initiated the Alliance for Saving Lives about a year ago," she explained. "It's mostly agencies that work with drug users, and we've been meeting monthly. We've had some quiet conversations with the health department, and we decided it was time to take the next step."

Now it's time for advocates to build more community support for a safe injection site, including bringing the mayor and the Board of Supervisors on board. Even with science on their side, they have some work ahead of them.

"We know the issues and the science," said Randy Shaw, a long-time community activist working on homeless issues in the Tenderloin, "but no one here wants more of these kinds of facilities." "Why should the poor people of the Tenderloin have to live with all these problems? There are junkies in Golden Gate Park, there are junkies in SOMA, there's more drug traffic at the 16th Street BART station than anywhere in the Tenderloin," he said. "If some neighborhood wants to accept it, that's fine, we just don't want it in the Tenderloin."

City officials have made the neighborhood "a containment zone," Shaw complained. "We already have methadone clinics, needle exchanges, food programs, shelters, drug treatment programs. Now they don't even think about putting things in other neighborhoods." Some activists want to turn the Tenderloin into Hamsterdam, the industrial neighborhood turned into a drug trafficking free zone in the HBO show The Wire, Shaw said. "But we're a residential neighborhood."

"It's controversial," conceded Tenderloin Economic Development Project executive director Julian Davis, a supporter of the idea. "Some folks think the Tenderloin already has too high a concentration of these kinds of services, while others think like this sort of facility would enable drug users as opposed to ending drug addiction in the Tenderloin."

But Davis has a different perspective. "I look at the Tenderloin and I see that our city, our society is already enabling open drug use and drug dealing," he argued. "The idea behind the site is to get some of these users off the street and inside, where they can get access to services, and also to stop the needle-sharing and the spreading of HIV and Hep C. I see quite a few potential benefits from this."

And so the public discussion begins in San Francisco. It will be a long and twisting path between here and an actually existing safe injection site, with much work to be done at the neighborhood, municipal, state, and federal levels. It could take years, but advocates are confident its day will come.

"I think we will have a safe injection site eventually," McQuie predicted, "but how long that will take depends on how well we organize, who's in power, and how much pressure those in power locally feel from the feds."

Drug Czar Opposes Effort to Reduce Drug Overdoses

The Office of National Drug Control Policy hates harm reduction. It's strange because they're supposed to be helping people with drug problems and yet all they ever do is defend the government's authority to punish and injure these very people. Not only that, but they actually go out of their way to oppose programs that prioritize saving lives over making drug arrests.

Predictably, therefore, ONDCP was quick to attack an effort to reduce drug overdoses in San Francisco by opening a safe injection site. As usual, their arguments aren't even related to the topic at hand:
Proposed "Safe-Injection" Site in San Francisco Ignores Proven Solutions to Treating Drug Addicts

Drug treatment works. How do we know? Today, there are millions of millions of Americans successfully recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. These courageous Americans are living proof that effective drug treatment can save lives and reduce our national drug problem.

That's why it's so troubling to see this…
It shouldn't even be necessary to point out that the effectiveness of drug treatment has nothing to do with safe injection. The idea here is to keep at-risk users alive long enough to get them into treatment. These programs create a vital point of contact for connecting users to medical professionals and treatment options.

ONDCP's childish protestations simply overflow with unintended irony:
Indeed, no one proposes aiding and sustaining an alcoholic by providing a supervised site for alcohol use.
Um, what? These supervised sites are called "bars," and no one ever gets alcohol poisoning at them. Alcohol poisoning is the hallmark of unsupervised parties where inexperienced underage drinkers consume surreptitiously. The circumstances under which drugs – be they alcohol or heroin – are consumed has everything to do with the relative safety of the user. What a simple concept that is.

But, as is often the case in the debate with ONDCP, the question is not what they understand, but rather what they really care about. To the Drug Czar, harm reduction is an "approach that accepts defeat." ONDCP only cares about reducing drug use. If drugs are used, then they feel "defeated," regardless of whether lives are saved.

For everyone else, "defeat" isn't defined solely by the frequency with which hits of dope are jacked into the veins of some bright-eyed youngster. Defeat is when that person's life is turned upside down, when they get sick, when they share a needle, when their lifeless body is found crumpled and cold on a park bench.

Preventing these things is the goal of the harm reduction community. It is an achievable goal, and those who stand in the way become apologists for disease, decay, and death.
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DEA Director Resigns, Says She Had an Awesome Time

DEA Administrator Karen Tandy announced her resignation today, marking her 4-year tenure with another trademark Tandyism:
"It just doesn't get any better than this," Tandy said in a statement about her time at DEA. [Washington Post]
Well, at least somebody had a good time. Now Tandy is moving into the telecom industry:
Tandy told employees she was leaving to take a job as a senior vice president of Motorola, DEA spokesman Garrison Courtney said. Motorola is a leading sponsor of a DEA traveling museum exhibit about global drug trafficking and terrorism…

Did you guys hear that? Motorola is a major private funder of insidious drug war propaganda and decorates its highest offices with exhausted anti-drug soldiers. Let's all make a mental note of how socially conscious this company is.

In the meantime, I would encourage the Bush administration to takes its sweet time finding exactly the right replacement for her. Formerly a DOJ prosecutor, Tandy rose to fame by successfully taking down menace-to-society Tommy Chong for selling water bongs. She was appointed to DEA's top office forthwith.

In light of the Bush administration's already notorious difficulties filling the vacant directorships of various federal agencies, let me offer a couple possible replacements:

Assistant U.S. Attorney George Bevan is a hardcore drug war legal genius who fought for 5 years to get Ed Rosenthal a one-day sentence for supplying marijuana to sick people. Bevan is so aggressive that U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer had to throw out some charges and accuse him of malicious prosecution.

Better yet, former Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty prosecuted the totally-innocent pain management doctor William Hurwitz and was subsequently forced to resign in the U.S. Attorney firings scandal. If you need the law mutilated for political ends, this guy is a total pro.

Ultimately, finding qualified applicants to head the DEA shouldn't be too hard considering how famously delightful it is to work there.

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Someone Tell the Drug Czar That Hemp Isn't a Drug

The brave drug warriors at ONDCP need so much help. They are just as confused as can be about so many things, but they wear industrial strength earplugs and never go on the internet except to periodically blog about how confused they are. It would be funny if they weren't destroying America.

So anyone who still thinks these people are serious should visit the Drug Czar's blog right away and read his recent post, "Terminated! Gov. Schwarzenegger Vetoes Pro-Drug Hemp Bill." It is downright delusional; a perfect encapsulation of the thinly-veiled psychosis that festers beneath the skin of the powerful Drug War Experts in Washington D.C.
While drug legalization groups extol hemp as some kind of miracle-plant, many Americans aren’t getting the full story. Industrial hemp and marijuana are not just "related" – they come from the same cannabis sativa plant.

The real agenda of hemp enthusiasts is to legalize smoked marijuana and it is no coincidence that legalizing hemp would complicate efforts to curb the production and use of smoked marijuana by young people.
Now, I could explain that hemp actually is a useful plant. I could propose that a hemp bill can't be "pro-drug" because hemp isn't a drug. I could point out that the farmers who want to grow it don't care about marijuana legalization. I could argue that Americans already know it's a type of marijuana. And I could even prove that you can't grow commercial marijuana anywhere near it due to cross-pollination.

But that would be pointless, because the Drug Czar doesn't care about these things. All he cares about is that marijuana legalization advocates sometimes participate in criticizing U.S. hemp policy, and if those people want hemp, he will burn to the ground every damned stalk until they pry the flamethrower from his shriveled dead hands.

In fact, as a marijuana legalization advocate, I should maybe shut up about this, lest I fuel the Drug Czar's deranged fantasy that people who want to make pants and granola bars are actually part of a diabolical conspiracy to turn California into the world's biggest rehab clinic.
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The Drug Czar's Blog Accidentally Admits That Drug Laws Ruin Lives

Yesterday, in a post titled "Random Drug Testing Can Save Lives," the Drug Czar once again blogged himself into a corner. The piece quotes extensively from a Kentucky newspaper article, which argues that random drug testing will save students from getting arrested:
"There was a tragedy in Scott County last week. A young man's future was ruined, and the events that took place will likely haunt him for the rest of his life.

Unless you've been on vacation, you've probably already heard that a superstar athlete on the Scott County basketball team was arrested on felony drug charges, which could result in him going to prison for as long as 10 years. [Georgetown News]

That's awful. But what does this have to do with random drug testing?

...Whether we realize it or not, the real tragedy is this young man wasn't caught sooner, through a less punitive program intended to help youthful offenders, not send them to prison. The greater tragedy, to my way of thinking, is that we, as a community and a school system, haven't seen fit to acknowledge reality and implement a random drug testing program in our high school, and perhaps our middle schools.

So what exactly did this young man do that could get him locked away for 10 years? He was arrested for 1.6 grams of crack on school grounds. Crack/powder sentencing disparity + school zone = 10 years for a one-day supply of drugs.

By conceding that this young man's life has been ruined, the Drug Czar does far more to indict our brutally unfair sentencing laws than to promote random drug testing. He is literally telling us that we should let him collect urine from our children, otherwise his drug soldiers will put them in jail for a decade.

And if that doesn't make your head spin, consider that cocaine leaves your system in 1-2 days and will rarely come up in a drug screen anyway. You can smoke crack all night on Friday and pass a drug test on Monday, so none of this whole insane conversation about saving people from crack laws with drug testing even makes sense to begin with.

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When The Drug Czar Says We're Winning The Drug War, It Means Nothing

The insufferable Robert Caldwell at Human Events writes love letters to the drug war. His latest masterpiece begs presidential hopefuls to entice him by sharing their most hardcore drug war fantasies.

Oddly, Caldwell tries to explain the urgency of the matter by claiming that everything's going phenomenally well. His entire argument consists of a tiresome series of Drug Czar quotes. "John Walters…begs to differ", "Walters offered a slew of statistics", "Walters argued, persuasively", "Walters rightly cites", "Walters notes," and on it goes. The whole thing might as well have been signed by John Walters under the title, "My Awesome Drug War."

Yet, as Pete Guither notes in a helpful new page, it is literally the job of the Drug Czar's office to distort facts in support of the drug war. The GAO even admits it:

Given this role, we do not see a need to examine the accuracy of the Deputy Director's individual statements in detail.

So we really can dispense with the notion that the Drug Czar is available to give us unvarnished assessments of drug war progress. It is, in fact, illegal for him to do that. Asking the Drug Czar how the drug war is going is like asking Colonel Sanders if his chicken is any good.

(This blog post was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

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Editorial: Yes, the Drug War Really is Still Failing, DEA and ONDCP

David Borden, Executive Director

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David Borden
When the drug czar announced a few weeks ago that cocaine prices had gone up -- a sign of success in the drug war, so he claims -- I was surprised but not shocked. I was surprised -- slightly -- because in most years for the last few decades the price has dropped and dropped and dropped. Retail, or "street" cocaine prices are about 40% of what they were in the early 1980s, and that's without adjusting for inflation. Factor in inflation and it's closer to 20%, a five-fold decrease.

The reason I wasn't shocked is simply because within this steep, long-term decline, there have been upticks now and then, maybe once every four or so years. I was surprised in the way that one is surprised when flipping two coins and seeing both of them come up heads. Most of the time that doesn't happen -- you either get two tails, one is heads and the other tails, or the first one comes up tails and the second one comes up heads. But in one out of every four tries, on average both of them will come up heads.

I was surprised again on Wednesday, when I saw the same story come up a second time a few weeks later, this time in the Los Angeles Times. But not very surprised -- ONDCP and DEA have an obvious incentive to continue to pitch a story that seems favorable to them for as long as there's interest in it.

Unfortunately, the key word here is "seems." It certainly seems like a big jump when you read what they told the Times: "[T]he cost of cocaine increas[ed] 24%, from $95.89 to $118.70 per gram over the six-month period ending in June." Okay, but when looking at the DEA information sheet, one learns that that number is an average including all cocaine purchases during the time period, both wholesale (trafficker to dealer) and retail (seller to customer). The retail average -- the meaningful quantity when it comes to the end result -- went from $145.42 to $166.90, a lesser 15% increase.

Ultimately, price is not really the end result to judge the drug program, of course. The final result of importance, setting aside civil liberties issues, is the net harm to society of both drugs and drug policies. Driving up prices can lead to more crime, for example, and more of those who are addicted suffering financial destitution and driven to extreme circumstances. Price -- in this case, the adjusted price for a pure gram -- is considered a measure of a drug's availability -- the higher the price of the drug, the less available it is, and the fewer expected users. Or at least that's the theory. In this discussion, retail price is defined as purchases of up to 10 grams, the range used by the DEA in its STRIDE data collection program.

If so, it seems pretty silly to talk about prices rising over half a year to $167, in light of this:

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/cocaine-prices.gif

(You'll notice I'm missing a few years. I had trouble finding 2001-2006 data online this morning. I'd appreciate if someone could point me in the right direction, and I'll post a complete chart back here then and in our blog. The price data is from the aforementioned STRIDE program, divided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index figures.)

Given how small the street price of cocaine still is compared with the past, this recent news just doesn't seem to me like something to brag about. Also, the DEA's write-up says they analyzed data going back to April 2005, but only goes on to discuss what happened from December of last year. I wonder what that means.

Bottom line, when you're only presenting the last six months to reporters, after multiple decades of data show something different -- when you don't even present the entire time range that you analyzed in the very study you just completed, your argument is weak. Sorry, the drug war really is still failing, just like it always has.

You can learn more about the drug czars' data shenanigans by picking up a copy of "Lies, Damn Lies, and Drug War Statistics." Better yet, order one from us.

Update: Some good info on this from WOLA, and discussion in the Washington Post blog.

Latin America: US Plans to Supersize Mexico Drug War Aid -- $1.4 Billion Package in Works

Move over, Plan Colombia -- here comes Plan Mexico. Tucked into the Pentagon's massive budget request is at least $1.4 billion in anti-drug aid for Mexico, the Dallas Morning News reported Tuesday. The aid package, which would be spread over two-years according to the report, represents a nearly twenty-fold increase over current anti-drug aid levels, which are estimated at about $40 million this year.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/dea-mexico-cash.jpg
cash carefully stacked for camera following bust last March by DEA and Mexican authorities
US and Mexican officials speaking off the record told the Morning News the two countries have agreed on the aid package, which will reportedly include better training and high-tech tools to combat the drug trafficking organizations that are engaged in bloody wars among themselves and with the Mexican government, but will not involve US troops.

According to the latest reports, some 2,000 people have been killed in drug prohibition-related violence in Mexico this year, eclipsing last year's toll of 1,900. Mexican President Felipe Calderon has responded vigorously, deploying more than 20,000 Mexican army troops in drug producing states and cities plagued by cartel violence. That move has been harshly criticized by the government's own human rights office, but welcomed in Washington as a sign of strength and commitment.

Officials from both sides of the Rio Grande told the Morning News the power of the drug traffickers posed a threat to both countries. "We either win together or we lose together," said Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora in interviews last month.

The legislative process is weeks from completion, and officials said there will be hearings on the proposed massive aid increase in coming days or weeks. It will undoubtedly be challenged on the Hill, both by those skeptical of investing money in "corrupt" Mexico and by those skeptical of massive foreign anti-drugs programs. Still, it could well pass, given broader congressional concern about the border.

Some skepticism is coming from unexpected quarters. Phil Jordan, former head of the DEA's Dallas office, told the newspaper the aid could end up as money being poured down a rat hole. "Until you reduce US demand for drugs and weed out the immense corruption among Mexico's law enforcement, pouring more US money into Mexico won't necessarily solve the problem," he said.

Mexican Attorney General Medina Mora agreed in part with Jordan, but also raised another issue. "The US government needs to do more in reducing the drug consumption, and it needs to do its part in the equation of stopping the flow of cash and weapons," he said. "The US law is too flexible, too permissive when it comes to gun possession, and unfortunately many of those guns, particularly high-power assault weapons, too often end up in the hands of ruthless drug cartels."

Look for a coming battle in Congress as the defense appropriation bill moves forward.

Does Partnership for a Drug Free America Oppose Random Student Drug Testing?

As the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) parades around the nation promoting random student drug testing in schools, one of its biggest allies has remained conspicuously silent on this controversial issue. The Partnership for a Drug Free America (PDFA) has been the loudest "anti-drug" voice in America ever since its famous 1987 "This is your brain on drugs" ad and currently produces ad spots for ONDCP's National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign.

Yet despite extensive cooperation between the two organizations, PDFA appears not to have bought into ONDCP's hype surrounding random student drug testing. PDFA Parental Advisory Board Member Judith Kirkwood has vocally condemned the practice in the press and on her blog, calling it ineffective and invasive. Meanwhile, the PDFA website, which provides extensive "anti-drug" resources for families, only recommends drug testing at the discretion of parents, with suspicion of drug use, and under medical supervision.

For clarification, we contacted PDFA to verify the organization's stance on student drug testing. Surprisingly, their media contact was initially unprepared to address the issue. We eventually heard back from PDFA Deputy Director of Public Affairs Josie Feliz, who acknowledged that "We stay away from that a little bit. It's an individual decision for parents to make." Finally, when pressed, she said, "We don't have policy one way or the other on this."

Of course, saying drug testing is "an individual decision for parents to make," certainly sounds like a policy statement, and one which contrasts sharply with that of ONDCP. The Drug Czar has aggressively touted random student drug testing as a central tool in the effort to reduce drug use among youth. Indeed, his goal is without a doubt to collect urine from as many students as possible with minimal supervision and no individualized suspicion of drug use.

We can only guess why it might be that PDFA does not advocate random student drug testing, but possibilities abound:

*Tests frequently return inaccurate results.
*Numerous studies show testing does not reduce drug use.
*Testing treats innocent students as drug suspects.
*Testing encourages use of less-detectible/more dangerous drugs.
*Tests are easily obscured by cheating.
*Testing requirements discourage participation in extra-curricular activities.
*Testing requires school administrators to look at students' genitals while they urinate.
*Testing takes money away from programs that actually work.
*Testing distracts students and teachers from educational priorities.

Whatever their concerns may be, PDFA's unwillingness to promote random student drug testing is the correct position to take. It is unlikely that they would part ways with their colleagues at ONDCP -- undoubtedly a politically uncomfortable situation for them -- if they were not convinced that random student drug testing is the wrong answer in the fight to reduce youth drug abuse. All of this is symbolic of the growing consensus among physicians, addiction specialists, educators, parents, and students that these programs are severely misguided.

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