Those of you who missed the legalization debate last week at Intellectual Capital, can access the archive at http://www.intellectualcapital.com/issues/98/0723/.) There are discussion forums following both Charles Blanchard's and Nadine Strossen's articles, as well as following the online poll. The debate was especially rousing, thanks to the participation of Blanchard, ONDCP's chief counsel, and ONDCP staffer Rob Housman.
Two weeks ago, DRCNet summarized ONDCP chief Barry McCaffrey's visit to Europe in which he made a spectacle of himself by promulgating extreme, verifiably false data about the Netherlands in the international media. Most notably, McCaffrey claimed, during a speech in Sweden, that the homicide rate in the Netherlands is double the homicide rate in the United States. It turned out that McCaffrey's number was off by a factor of ten, and that the homicide rate in the U.S. is 4 1/2 times that of the Dutch. (See http://www.drcnet.org/wol/050.html#footinmouth.)
The performance of ONDCP staff on intellectualcapital.com was little better. For example, Rob Housman wrote on page 3_c that "... if you look at 1992, U.S. youth drug use is way below Dutch (10.6 versus 30.2 percent prevalence). So where are your facts?"
A week earlier, a DRCNet representative attended Barry McCaffrey's press conference at the National Press Club and picked up one of ONDCP's press packets, which included several colored charts. One of the charts explains the origins of Housman's numbers: the U.S. numbers are for ages 12-17 while the Dutch numbers are for ages 16-19. It is obvious that 16-19 year olds, half of whom are legal adults (at least by U.S. standards), are going to use marijuana more frequently than 12-17 year olds, half of whom are under 15. In no way is this a valid comparison between the two countries. (We've scanned the ONDCP graph and have posted it online at http://www.drcnet.org/graphs/ondcp1.html.)
Housman also wrote, "how do you know about Netherlands use? They have not released full youth drug use stats since 1992 -- wonder why? So how can you compare?" We're not sure what he means by "full stats", but there certainly are adequate statistics available for as recently as 1997, with which to make a legitimate comparison. For example, a publication of the Netherlands Institute of Health and Addiction reports that past-month and lifetime prevalence of marijuana use among Dutch 12-18 year olds are 11 and 21 percent respectively. The corresponding U.S. rates, from the University of Michigan Monitoring the Future Study, are 18 and 38 percent -- the opposite of what Housman and ONDCP claimed on the net and to the media. (Much more such data is available from the Common Sense for Drug Policy "Drug War Factbook", at http://www.drugsense.org/factbook.htm.)
When the defenders of current drug policies have to constantly resort to the most misleading tactics to make their case, what does this suggest about the policies?
(Note: staff of the ONDCP are known to be monitoring this list as well as DRCNet's discussion lists. We invite them to submit a response to this piece, but forewarn that we are likely to print a response to their response.)