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The Week Online with DRCNet
(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)

Issue #104, 8/20/99

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

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  1. Household Survey Reports Decrease in Teen Use, While Overall Use Remains Flat
  2. Superior Court of Guam Upholds Freedom of Religion for Rastafarian
  3. San Francisco Plans Methadone Expansion
  4. Members of California Congressional Delegation Urge Governor to Sign Needle Exchange Bill
  5. ACLU Sues Oklahoma School District Over Student Drug Testing
  6. United Kingdom: Liberal Democrat Leader Charles Kennedy Calls for Royal Commission on Drug Policy
  7. News in Brief
  8. NORML Foundation Launches Marijuana Ad Campaign in San Francisco
  9. Lindesmith Center Seminar Series, Autumn 1999
  10. Errata: Methamphetamine Bill Alert, Kubby Plant Count
  11. EDITORIAL: Governor Bush's Cocaine Problem

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1. Household Survey Reports Decrease in Teen Use, While Overall Use Remains Flat

Rob Stewart, Drug Policy Foundation,

The Clinton administration announced on Wednesday that while overall illegal drug use remained flat in 1998, past-month teenage drug use went down. White House drug policy director Gen. Barry McCaffrey called the findings in the 1998 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse "good news demonstrating that America's team effort is working. However, we must not let our guard down."

Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala also expressed overall optimism -- "it looks like we have turned the corner" on teen drug use -- tempered with "we must not rest."

McCaffrey's and Shalala's excitement was mainly generated by the 13.1% drop in past-month (or current) use reported by 12-17 year olds, which went from 11.4% in 1997 to 9.9% in 1998, a statistically significant decrease. Teens also reported a significant decrease in the use of inhalants, from 2.0% to 1.1%, and a non-significant decrease in marijuana use, from 9.4% to 8.3%. (In statistical terms, "non-significant" means the data isn't strong enough to know if the decrease is real or not.)

Although both officials cautioned that there were other worrisome trends, such as increased use reported by 18-25 year olds, their tone was noticeably brighter than two years ago when they announced another drop in teen use. In August 1997, the NHSDA found that overall use by 12-17 year olds fell 17.4%, from 10.9% in 1995 to 9.0% in 1996, which is lower than the 1998 finding. Yet, McCaffrey characterized the change as a "_slight_ drop" [emphasis added]. The Washington Post quoted Shalala on Aug. 7, 1997, as saying that "drug use is still unacceptably high" and "we shouldn't hang out the victory flag yet." Those responses were more realistic than Shalala's "turned-corner" phrase, which implies that trends are turned around in one year.

Lynn Zimmer, a professor of sociology at CUNY Queens, told the Week Online, "Drug use trends are always going to fluctuate." "I would expect," Zimmer added, "that [Shalala and McCaffrey] are saying that we have 'turned the corner' because they still have to go through the allocation process for their media campaign, which went nationwide last year."

(The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign is a joint multimedia advertising effort by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Even though the campaign plans on five years of federal funding, ONDCP must ask Congress to approve money for it every year. Some Republicans in Congress have been critical of the campaign, especially since ONCDP has not concentrated the ads in states voting on policy reform initiatives.)

Both the 1997 and 1998 Household Surveys include specific results for Arizona and California using oversampled data. Both states approved initiatives in 1996. HHS added the information "to measure the potential impact of these voter initiatives." The 1998 NHSDA found that, although drug use reported by persons 12 and older in both Arizona (7.4%) and California (7.2%) is higher than the national average (6.1%), the differences are not statistically significant.

Indeed, the survey found "significant decreases from 1997 to 1998 in the rate of illicit drug use among Arizona youth age 12-17 (from 16.8% to 13.4%) and young adults age 18-25 (from 21.8% to 17.2%)." Californians age 12-17 reported no significant change in marijuana use, which was 6.8% in 1997 and 7.4% in 1998. "Rates for both youths and adults [in California] have been stable since 1995," the survey said.

Select Results from the 1998 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (H-10):

  • an estimated 13.6 million Americans (6.2% of the population age 12 or older) reported using an illegal drug within the past 30 days in 1998. Although this number is slightly less than the 13.9 million estimate (6.4%) for 1997, the difference is not statistically significant. By comparison, 1979 was the highpoint for current use when the estimate was 25.4 million (14.1%).
  • White, non-Hispanic respondents reported a non-significant decrease in overall drug use from 6.4% to 6.1%, but African Americans and Hispanics reported non-significant increases from 7.5% to 8.2% and from 5.9% to 6.1%, respectively. The president of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse in New York told USA Today (8/19) that both minority groups reported "whopping increases in cocaine and heroin use," but the survey only had racial/ethnic breakdowns for past-month cocaine use, not heroin. The data showed a statistically significant increase reported by Hispanics (from 0.8% to 1.3%), but a very slight decrease for African Americans (from 1.4% to 1.3%).
  • Between 1997 and 1998, there was no change in the percentages of youths age 12-17 reporting great risk from using cigarettes, marijuana, cocaine or alcohol.
The 1998 Household Survey is based on a sample of 25,500 people meant to represent the civilian, non-institutionalized US population 12 years old and older. The survey is available from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's website at or by calling (800) 729-6686.

2. Superior Court of Guam Upholds Freedom of Religion for Rastafarian

Richard Milsom for DRCNet

If you have ever wondered what a strong interpretation of the 'free exercise clause' of the First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of religion might mean for the 'war on drugs,' then you may be very interested in news of a legal decision recently handed down in the US Territory of Guam.

On July 29, 1999, Judge Michael J. Bordallo of the Superior Court of the United States Territory of Guam dismissed the charge of 'Importation of a Controlled Substance' (a 'First Degree Felony') originally lodged against Ras Iyah Ben Makahna in 1991.

Mr. Makahna, a practicing Rastafarian, had asserted that the marijuana that he had in his possession was essential to the practice of his religion and, as such was included under the freedom of religion protections of the United States Constitution.

Guam's government attorneys have until August 27, 1999 to declare whether or not they will appeal Judge Bordalla's decision.

The legal ramifications of this case are complicated by the fact that Guam, as a US Territory, is subject to provisions of the 1899 Treaty of Peace which was enacted when Spain ceded authority over Guam to the US after the Spanish-American War. In addition, as a territory, Guam's relationship to federal statutes and Supreme Court decisions is somewhat different than is the case for the 50 states.

Ras Iyah Ben Makahna's defense relied upon the First Amendment of the US Constitution, the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and Guam's own 'Organic Act' which guarantees religious liberty to residents of the island territory.

The Superior Court of Guam held that, due to legal factors deriving from Guam's territorial status, the 1997 decision of the Supreme Court that overturned RFRA (City of Boerne v. Flores) was not binding in this case.

An extraordinary coalition of drug policy reform activists, civil libertarians and members of a diverse collection of religious communities worked for the passage of RFRA-which was passed as an attempted response to the famous 1990 'peyote case' (Employment Division, State of Oregon v. Smith).

Undoubtedly, this case will leave many freedom of religion and drug policy reform activists throughout the United States wondering 'what might have been' if RFRA had not been overruled by the same court whose earlier action it sought to counter.

The 'Guam case' of 1999 may also inspire some serious thought about 'what might yet be' in terms of possible legal protection of the religious use of currently outlawed plants held sacred in certain religious communities.

The Superior Court of Guam is on the web at

Note: Senate Bill 1428 would prohibit DRCNet from linking to the sites below:

For information on the effects of the drug war upon religious freedom in the US, visit

Visit and for information about "entheogens" or the religious use of substances.

3. San Francisco Plans Methadone Expansion

Taylor West, [email protected]

San Francisco took another step this week in efforts to greatly expand access to methadone treatment for heroin addicts. Acting on a resolution passed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in February 1998, a working group of physicians, pharmacists, and methadone patients advised the city to make methadone treatment more easily available by allowing more doctors to prescribe the drug to addicted patients. Federal and local funds have been allocated to study the feasibility of such a move.

Methadone is a synthetic narcotic that curbs heroin cravings without causing the extreme highs and lows associated with heroin use. It has proven successful in helping addicts stabilize their lives and end their heroin addictions without suffering from severe withdrawal. In San Francisco, as in most of the country, methadone treatment is carried out primarily through clinics, where patients must go daily to receive their prescribed dose.

However, the San Francisco working group concluded that by using only large scale methadone providers like clinics, many heroin users are not getting the treatment they need. The group's suggestions centered around adapting the methadone treatment system to include more individual doctors prescribing methadone and the cooperation of some pharmacies in supplying the dosages.

Dr. Alice Gleghorn, Research Manager for the Community Substance Abuse Services division of the San Francisco Department of Health, explained the concept to the Week Online. "We're trying to expand treatment availability across the board," he said. "We're not talking about every doctor in the city now being allowed to prescribe methadone. We want to create a larger program for certifying physicians, with training and education, and involve certain pharmacies as well." Gleghorn explained that many individual doctors' offices do not have the facilities to fill the daily distribution needs of methadone patients. However, by allowing certified doctors to prescribe methadone and involving pharmacies in the distribution process, the system can be made more personalized and accessible to the city's heroin users.

Support for expansion of methadone treatment has been notably strong in San Francisco. "We are the one city in the country with a completely unified response to the methadone system," Gleghorn said. "Every [local government] department has been very supportive. We know how bad our heroin problem is. Thirty years of research has demonstrated that methadone is one of the most effective treatments for heroin addiction."

In the federal government, regulation of methadone programs is in the process of changing over from the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration to that of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Because the effects of this changeover are uncertain, it is not clear how federal law will relate to San Francisco's plans. However, both President Clinton and Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey have expressed support for methadone treatment programs and a dissatisfaction with the current methadone system.

Dr. Gleghorn emphasized the integrated nature of the city's plans for its methadone program. "This is simply one part of San Francisco's efforts to provide treatment-on-demand to our drug addicts. No other city is making that as much of a priority as we are. This is another effort to improve access to treatment, the choices, and the care available to those addicted to drugs. That is our overall strategic goal."

Read our coverage of the federal government's proposed changes to methadone regulations at

You can learn more about methadone maintenance treatment at,, and

4. Members of California Congressional Delegation Urge Governor to Sign Needle Exchange Bill

Earlier this week, DRCNet sent an action alert to our California subscribers, asking them to contact the legislature in support of AB 518, a bill to provide clear, legal protection to needle exchange programs operating with the authorization of their localities. AB 518 has passed the Assembly, but Gov. Gray Davis has threatened to veto the bill if it passes the Senate.

Yesterday, (8/19), Rep. Nancy Pelosi and 20 other members of California's Congressional delegation sent a letter to Davis, urging him to support and sign AB 518. The letter noted that "injection drug use is the primary source of heterosexual, female and mother-to-newborn transmission of HIV in California and the second leading cause of HIV transmission among all Californians" and that "several communities in California have established needle exchange programs using emergency declarations," but that without clear legal protection, "many localities in California will not implement such lifesaving programs because of the
continued legal ambiguities."

Please call Gov. Davis at (916) 445-2841 and urge him to support and sign AB 518. If you are from California and haven't contacted the legislature, please visit to send an e-mail or fax and look up your state senator's phone number.

According to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, the bill is set to be heard on the Senate floor on Thursday, 8/26, some law enforcement groups have been lobbying hard against the bill, and some Democratic members who were expected to vote for the bill now appear shaky. So, please also call the following senators:

Senator Betty Karnette (D-Long Beach/Cerritos/Artesia/ Rolling Hills)
Capitol Phone: (916) 445-6447
Capitol office staff: Charles Wright or Chris White
District phone: (562) 997-0794

Senator Adam Schiff (D-Burbank/Glendale/Pasadena)
Capitol phone: (916) 445-5976
Capitol office staff: Carlos Machado
District phone: (626) 683-0282

Senator Joe Dunn (D-Orange County/Santa Ana/Anaheim/Garden Grove)
Capitol phone: (916)445-5831
Capitol office Staff: Elena Lopez
District phone: (714) 705-1580

Senator Joe Baca (D-San Bernardino/Ontario/Pomona)
Capitol phone: (916) 445-6868
Capitol office staff: Barbie Beard or Manny Hernandez
District phone: (909) 885-2222

Senator Jim Costa (D-Fresno)
Capitol phone: (916) 445-4641
Capitol office staff: Stephanie
District phone: (209) 264-3078 or (805) 323-0442

In addition to these members, two other Democrats that are expected to vote against the bill based on their previous voting record on needle exchange are Senators Steve Peace (San Diego) and Jack O'Connell (Santa Barbara/San Luis Obispo/Ventura). However, it would still be good for them to hear from people in their districts:
Senator Steve Peace (D-San Diego)
Capitol phone: (916) 445-6767
Capitol office staff: Lucy Camarillo or Sally An Romo
District phone: (619) 463-0243 or (619) 427-7080

Senator Jack O'Connell (D-San Luis Obispo/Santa Barbara)
Capitol phone: (916) 445-5405
Capitol office staff: Traci Verardo
District phone: (805) 966-2296 or (805) 547-1800

Finally, one Republican who is expected to vote for the bill is Senator Bruce McPherson from Santa Cruz/Santa Clara/ Salinas. Calls from constituents thanking him for his likely support would be helpful. His district office numbers are (831) 425-0401 and (831) 753-6386.

5. ACLU Sues Oklahoma School District Over Student Drug Testing

(courtesy NORML Foundation,

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a complaint against a rural Oklahoma school district that administers drug tests to all students who wish to participate in extracurricular activities.

Other school districts have employed mandatory drug-testing, but many of the activities in the Tecumseh School District are tied to the student's classes. Students who refuse to submit to the urine test for the activity would then be forced to drop the associated class, thus losing credits for graduation.

The ACLU contends this is a violation of a student's right to a public education, as well as the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

"First, schools wanted to test student athletes, then it was students in extracurricular activities, and now it's students competing in quiz bowls and performing in chorus, where does it end?" said Graham Boyd, Director of the ACLU's Drug Policy Litigation Project. "The district's drug testing policy is more about symbolism than substance. Tecumseh officials initiated urine testing without any evidence of a drug problem at the school and at a time when government reports show that teen drug use is on the decline nationally."

The ACLU's complaint is available online at

6. United Kingdom: Liberal Democrat Leader Charles Kennedy Calls for Royal Commission on Drug Policy

Kerie Sprenger for DRCNet

In a bold move, the new leader of Britain's Liberal Democrat party, Charles Kennedy, broke ranks with the government's hard-line position on drug policy, calling for a royal commission to examine the matter. Mr. Kennedy is of the opinion that the time has come for an in-depth examination and debate of drug policy in the United Kingdom, with emphasis on education, differences in sentencing across the nation, and enforcement issues. He would like to include the voices of many experts, including police officers, many of whom believe that the war on drugs is a complete failure. Kennedy stops short, however, of backing legalization, even of decriminalization of marijuana for medical purposes.

That a British politician is calling for an examination of the drug laws is nothing new, as one journalist likened the debate to a yearly ritual much like the summer cricket. What is new is that party leadership is taking this position. The Liberal Democrats are Britain's third-largest political party. Under Paddy Ashdown, the former party head, the Lib Dem's enlightened position on drug policy was downplayed, for fears the party's credibility might be damaged. Kennedy, who was elected to his position just over a week ago, has caused a minor uproar in government by taking this stance. Ann Widdecombe, the Tory Shadow Home Secretary, told The Guardian newspaper, "Charles Kennedy clearly has yet to learn how a responsible party leader should behave."

Both of the major political parties in Britain, the Tories and Labour, have a "just-say-no" outlook on drug policy. Kennedy is trying to bring reality to the table, by opening an honest debate. He would like to reconnect non-voters with the political system by bringing to the fore the issues that are affecting the average person. His spokeswoman told the Week Online that the Liberal Democrat party had always planned on calling for a royal commission once they had sufficient political voice, and had adopted this position in a party conference a number of years ago. "Mr. Kennedy feels that the issue should be dealt with in a mature debate. Discussions on the matter have long been repressed," she said.

Paul Matthews, a Home Office spokesman, gave the Week Online the official government position. "There are no plans for a Royal Commission, as it would be of no real value," he said. "The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs is a statutory body that already handles drug policy in the UK. The government s position is clear: there are no plans to decriminalize marijuana for recreational use."

Matthews went on to say that marijuana as medicine would be treated no differently than any other licensed drug in the UK. After it has gone through clinical trials, and its safety, efficacy and quality is tested, marijuana can go through channels like any other drug. A license to grow marijuana as medicine for clinical trials has been issued to GW Pharmaceuticals, and trials are expected to commence in the near future. This will be the first major trial of marijuana as medicine in the United Kingdom, though 20 other licenses have been granted over the years for academic and therapeutic study.

Danny Kushlick of Transform, a British drug policy reform group, believes that the next election will have a positive effect on the UK s drug policy, as the Liberal Democrats are expected to take several seats that went Labour's way in the last election. "It looks hopeful," he said. "The Lib Dems shouldn't experience too much outside [US] pressure on this issue, as they are in the third place politically." The two major political parties in Britain apparently feel considerable pressure to follow American drug policy that the Liberal Democrats, being a lesser, though up-and-coming power, have yet to experience. Mr. Kennedy's spokeswoman, when asked if Mr. Kennedy was concerned about pressure from the US State Department, told the Week Online, "We don't really worry about things like that."

It remains to be seen whether Mr. Kennedy's call will be heeded.

Please visit Transform on the web at

7. News in Brief

Jane Tseng, [email protected]

Hawaii: Impeachment Petition Filed against Mayor in Eradication Scandal

A group of marijuana advocates in Hilo, Hawaii has filed an impeachment suit against Mayor Stephen Yamashiro and six county council members. The lawsuit claims that the officials violated the county charter by failing to conduct a mandatory program review of the marijuana eradication program "Green Harvest" and that the "special study" that was ordered on the program in 1996 was inadequate. The impeachment petition included in the lawsuit charges Yamashiro and the council members with denying justice, destroying domestic tranquility, and creating more crime and hard drug use when they supported the "Green Harvest" program. Yamashiro said he is considering resignation as an alternative to spending the estimated $30,000 dollars it would cost to defend himself against the suit. Other officials have said the charges do not concern them.

Michigan: Six Police Officers Indicted on Drug and Civil Rights Violations

Six Detroit police officers were indicted by a federal grand jury this Tuesday (8/13) on drug and civil rights violations. The officers are charged with beating and robbing people in their precinct, and hoarding drugs, money, and guns from illegal searches of drug houses. Three of the six officers are also charged with taking bribes, possessing drugs and drug paraphernalia, and protecting drug dealers. If convicted, the officers face a maximum of 10 years in prison and/or fines of up to $250,000. The officers charged with conspiracy to distribute face an additional maximum of 20 years in prison and/or fine of up to $1 million. Over two dozen police officers in Detroit have been charged with corruption in the last two years.

"Drug Czar" Unlikely to Drink "Bong Water"

"Bong Water" is a new tool in the war against drugs -- at least according to entrepreneur Ira Scott. Real Things Distributing, of which Scott is the CEO, recently developed "Bong Water," a carbonated citrus drink. Advertised under the slogan "Stoned to the Bone," Bong Water is distributed in 12 ounce bottles and comes in flavors like Ganja Grape, Banana Spliff, Original Chronic, Sensimilla, and Ripped Raspberry. When asked about his product and its association with drug use, Scott said that he is against drugs and is "pleased to offer Bong Water as a cool and satisfying alternative to underage drinking or participating in the drug culture."

But when Scott issued a press release associating Bong Water with the anti-drug efforts of Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, the General's office was not amused. A spokesman told The Washington Post that Scott had not been given permission to use Barry McCaffrey's name and suggested that Scott's product makes light of drug paraphernalia and drug use. Bong Water is now available in Indiana and Chicago.

8. NORML Foundation Launches Marijuana Ad Campaign in San Francisco

(press release from the NORML Foundation,

A public advertising campaign launched in San Francisco by the NORML Foundation urges that the government "stop arresting responsible pot smokers."

The 30 billboards located on San Francisco bus shelters bear one of two headlines: "Honk, if you Inhale," and "A Pot Smoker is Busted Every 45 Seconds -- and You Wonder Why We're Paranoid." The ads direct readers to the NORML Foundation's toll free number and to its web site.

"Around 12 million adult Americans smoke pot regularly in their homes and still hold down demanding jobs, raise families and lead productive lives," said Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director. "We're calling on those individuals to send a message to the state and federal governments -- responsible marijuana use by adults is commonplace, safe and should be decriminalized."

For more information, please contact NORML at (202) 483-5500. The ads can be viewed online at

9. Lindesmith Center Seminar Series, Autumn 1999

Wednesday, 9/9, 11:00am-1:00pm (*lunch briefing, note time)
Opiate Overdose Deaths: Lessons from Australia
Wayne D. Hall, PhD, executive director, National Drug and Alcohol Research Center, University of New South Wales, analyzes recent trends in opiate overdose fatalities in Australia. Hall, professor of alcohol and drug studies, explores a range of initiatives for reducing death rates.

Thursday, 10/7, 4:00-6:00pm
The War on Drugs: From Jim Crow to Mary Jane
Graham Boyd, JD, director, American Civil Liberties Union National Drug Policy Litigation Project, Reginald T. Shuford, JD, staff attorney, American Civil Liberties Union, and Esmerelda Simmons, JD, director, Center for Law and Public Policy, Medgar Evers College, survey racial disparities arising from drug prohibition. Boyd provides an historical overview of the impact of drug prohibition on African-Americans. Shuford analyzes the issues of "driving while black" and racial profiling. Simmons examines the Rockefeller drug laws, with particular attention to the effects of mandatory sentencing upon African-Americans in New York.

Thursday, 10/21, 4:00-6:00pm
Drug Policy Reform 2000: Opportunities and Challenges
Ethan Nadelmann, JD, PhD, director, The Lindesmith Center, examines recent drug policy developments in the United States and abroad, focusing on there implications for overall drug policy reform strategy.

Tuesday, 11/2, 4:00-6:00pm
Preventing and Managing Binge Drinking in College Students: A Harm Reduction Approach
G. Alan Marlatt, PhD, professor of psychology and director, Addictive Behaviors Research Center, University of Washington in Seattle, analyzes trends in alcohol consumption among college students, based on research funded by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Marlatt, editor of Harm Reduction: Pragmatic Strategies for Managing High Risk Behaviors (Guilford Press, 1998), offers techniques for managing and preventing alcohol-related harms.

Thursday, 11/18, 4:00-6:00pm
The "Pharmaceuticalization" of Marijuana
Lester Grinspoon, MD, associate professor of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, examines the Institute of Medicine's 1999 report on medical marijuana. Grinspoon, co-author of Marijuana, the Forbidden Medicine (revised edition, Yale University Press, 1997), critiques efforts to equate marijuana with pharmaceutical drugs.

Seminars are held at the Open Society Institute, New York, NY, 400 West 59th Street (between 9th and 10th Avenues). Please RSVP to The Lindesmith Center at (212) 548-0695, fax: (212) 548-4670, [email protected].

10. Errata: Methamphetamine Bill Alert, Kubby Plant Count

In last week's issue, the article "Methamphetamine Bill Contains Anti-Free-Speech Legislation" (, incorrectly identified Senator Gordon Smith as an independent from New Hampshire. In actuality, Gordon Smith is a Republican from Oregon; it is Bob Smith who is the Senator from New Hampshire. Gordon Smith is the cosponsor of this bill. DRCNet regrets the error.

The August 5 NORML Foundation article that we reprinted, " Kubby Case Begins in California, Interpretation of Prop. 215 at Issue," stated that a drug task forced had seized 360 plants from the home of Steve and Michele Kubby. That number was an initial, incorrect charge by police, which was subsequently revised downward to 260 plants. The Kubby's intend to show that half of those plants were not viable.

11. EDITORIAL: Governor Bush's Cocaine Problem

Adam J. Smith, Associate Director, [email protected]

First he refused to confirm or deny it. Later he would say only that "when I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible." Next he said that the issue wasn't relevant. Then he said that he wouldn't address "rumors." Then he said that he could pass a standard security check dating back seven years. Finally, he said that he could've passed the security check in his father's White House -- fifteen years. Though he had to think before specifying whether he could've passed it then or now. Now, no matter what he says, the issue seems destined to dog him until the day he comes clean.

Texas Governor and Republican presidential frontrunner George W. Bush, Jr. has a cocaine problem.

Under normal circumstances, an individual's past drug use, especially if that use occurred in the distant past, should not be relevant to their qualifications for present employment. But in the race for the United States Presidency, it is relevant on two counts. In fact, in Governor Bush's case, it is relevant on three.

As governor of Texas, George W. Bush, Jr. supported and signed legislation increasing penalties for drug possession in that state. In one instance, Governor Bush signed legislation mandating jail time for people caught with less than a single gram of cocaine. As a candidate, Bush's handling of the cocaine question offers clues as to how he deals with embarrassing mistakes -- admit them and move on, or obfuscate and side-step. As President, Governor Bush would preside over a national drug policy that is increasingly punitive, the driving force behind the Nation's ascendancy to the title of world's most prolific incarcerator.

In 1992, Republicans asked whether Democratic candidate Bill Clinton could summon the moral authority to send young people to war, given the fact that he had successfully avoided military service during his youth. Today, Governor Bush must be asked whether he can summon the moral authority to send young people to prison, given the fact that he had avoided the DEA in his youth.

It is becoming increasingly clear that George Junior most likely did toot a line or two back in his halcyon days. The relevant question, then, is whether or not he believes that five or ten years in prison would have been the appropriate societal response to that use. And if not, why he believes that such treatment is appropriate for the children of fathers who were not Ambassadors to China, Directors of the CIA, Vice Presidents or Commanders-in-Chief.

The truth is that George Junior was never in much danger of being treated like less fortunate Americans who get sucked into our runaway criminal justice system. As the rich son of a powerful man, it is unlikely that he would have been pulled over, searched, or busted in a street sweep. Rich people don't buy their coke on the street, in quarter gram increments. And if by some strange confluence of events he had been caught and arrested -- rather than sent on his way with a wave of his ID -- he would have certainly had an expensive attorney, and a spot waiting for him at the Betty Ford Clinic. The judge would likely have wished him well in his recovery. It would've taken an act of God or else an act of monumental stupidity on his own part for George Junior to have ever seen the inside of an American prison for drug possession.

But now he's running for president. And the questions keep coming. And his answers keep changing. And try as he might to create a statute of limitations for questions about his personal life, there is no such statute for hypocrisy. Sending people to prison, increasing their sentences by the stroke of his pen for the very behavior that he now claims is irrelevant in his own history, does not speak well for the honor or the conscience of the man. George W. Bush Jr. has a cocaine problem. But he's got a big lead in the polls, and more than thirty million dollars in the bank. He'll suffer an awful long time before he hits bottom. Right now, pathetic as it is to watch, his evasive machinations in the face of confrontation can only mean one thing. He's still in denial.

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