When Drug Czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey traveled to Salt Lake City last week to deal with doping of the Olympic variety, he could not resist the chance to set Democratic Mayor Rocky Anderson straight about the virtues of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program.
Anderson had had the temerity to editorialize in Utah's largest newspaper against DARE as "a fraud upon the people of America" and then cut the program's funding. (See our coverage at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/148.html#saltlakedare/.) Adding insult to injury, the renegade mayor went on to make pointed attacks on current drug policy at last summer's Shadow Conventions, which resulted in profiles in Rolling Stone and the New York Times, where his views reached a larger, national audience.
Their encounter on December 6th was hardly a meeting of the minds.
Although Anderson diplomatically told the Deseret News the meeting was "honest and interesting," his blow-by-blow account was more telling. Anderson said he told McCaffrey the DARE program was "miserably ineffective" and that Drug Strategies, a respected, moderate Washington, DC, drug policy research group had given higher grades to alternate programs favored by the mayor.
"I stressed my view that we should focus our resources on what we know to be effective: good prevention and treatment programs," Anderson said.
"McCaffrey dismissed Drug Strategies," the mayor said. According to Anderson, McCaffrey claimed it lacked credibility because it was funded by George Soros, the drug czar's billionaire bete noire.
Anderson responded that it wasn't Soros, but foundations such as the Kansas Health Foundation and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation that funded Drug Strategies.
Actually, both men are partially correct. According to the Drug Strategies web site (http://www.drugstrategies.org/about.html), the organization receives funding from 15 different foundations, including Soros' Open Society Institute.
Anderson also tried to acquaint the drug czar with the scientific research discrediting DARE.
"I pointed out that there hadn't been one research article in a peer-reviewed journal reflecting that DARE is effective," said Anderson. "On the other hand, there have been numerous peer-reviewed studies finding that DARE is absolutely ineffective and a waste of money."
"He challenged me on that," continued the mayor, "but he was unable to cite anything that supports his long-held position on DARE. I gave him my card and told him to call if he found any such research."
Anderson should not have been surprised at the drug czar's stand. McCaffrey has repeatedly proven immune to scientific evidence that contradicts his opinions. This, after all, is the man who, when challenged on NBC's Today Show about DARE's inefficacy, retorted, "When you look at the faces of these children, that's all the science that I need."
Undaunted, McCaffrey also took Anderson to task for supporting the decriminalization of marijuana -- a step Anderson has not taken.
"He'd read that I'd advocated decriminalizing marijuana," Anderson said. "I do not favor decriminalization. I do favor a different approach, once people are in the criminal justice system, of treatment and education."
But not all was discord, the mayor said. The two non-controversially agreed that schools should play a major role in drug education and that athletes should not use performance-enhancing drugs.
McCaffrey has not commented on the meeting.
(Visit http://www.drcnet.org/DARE/ for further information on the DARE program.)