Newsbrief: Retrograde Drug Politics in Kentucky Governor's Race 10/31/03

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Drug policy is popping up in Kentucky governor's race, but the discourse is decidedly last-century. Faced with a rapid increase in methamphetamine use in the west and the rise of non-medical Oxycontin use in the east, former attorney general and Democratic gubernatorial contender Ben Chandler ( and Republican nominee Ernie Fletcher ( have been fighting over who is "tougher" on drugs, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported.

As attorney general, Chandler helped create a meth task force established by outgoing Gov. Paul Patton in 1996 and was a key force in ensuring the passage of tougher anti-meth laws two years later. The 1998 meth law made manufacture a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence, trafficking a five-year stretch, and simple possession a mandatory one-year stay behind bars. Chandler also helped create a 1997 prescription drug abuse task force that led to a tight prescription control law, and he claims credit for more than 300 prescription drug, mainly Oxycontin, diversion prosecutions. He also got high marks from Kentucky prosecutors of both parties, who told the Courier-Journal he did anti-drug publicity work and lobbied hard for funds for more prosecutors.

Chandler has promised even stiffer meth penalties as part of his anti-crime platform. In a sign of the political times, on Chandler's web site, drug policy and even criminal justice policy are both subsumed under the broader "security" heading. He is also now promising to appoint a drug czar to coordinate state anti-drug efforts.

That wasn't good enough for Fletcher and his running mate for lieutenant governor, former US Attorney Steve Pence. While out announcing the GOP anti-drug program last month, Pence said Chandler "has been asleep on the job." Then Pence blamed Chandler for the rise in methamphetamine and Oxycontin use. "On Ben Chandler's watch, drug abuse has exploded."

If Fletcher and Pence were taking the low road, Chandler was right there beside them as he retorted that Pence had once been -- gasp! -- a defense lawyer. "While Steve Pence defended the drug criminals in court, no one has done more to take on the drug problem in Kentucky than me," Chandler said. "My office has convicted more than 300 people on prescription-drug abuse since 1997."

Fletcher and Pence promised voters they would turn more meth prosecutions over to the feds, a technique pioneered by Pence in Operation Speedway, regardless of the quantity involved. As for Oxycontin, Fletcher vowed to increase the number of drug courts, tighten the state's prescription control system, and "empower community coalitions" to fight drug abuse.

The election is November 4, but from the tenor of the drug policy debate, there is little to suggest anything positive coming from either candidate once elected.

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Issue #307, 10/17/03 Editorial: It's Time to Rejoin the Free World | Presenting "BUSTED: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters" | Decriminalization Comes to Britain: House of Commons Passes Cannabis Rescheduling Bill | Leftist Legalizer Elected Mayor of Bogota in Voter Rebuke of Colombian President | Dutch Government Seeks Ban on Foreigners in Coffee Shops | One and a Half Million Drug Arrests Last Year, Nearly 700,000 for Marijuana, FBI Reports | Media Scan: David Borden on Cultural Baggage, Forbes, Alternet, Pot TV | This Week in History | Newsbrief: MAPS/UMass Marijuana Grow Proposal Gets Backing from Senators Kennedy and Kerry | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | Newsbrief: Campaign Comments -- Lieberman on Drug War Racial Disparities | Newsbrief: Federal Appeals Court Says Nervousness Not Enough to Prompt Driver Search | Newsbrief: More Death Squad Drug Killings in the Philippines | Newsbrief: Retrograde Drug Politics in Kentucky Governor's Race | Newsbrief: North Carolina Congressman in Drug Treatment Slush Fund Scandal | DRCNet Temporarily Suspending Our Web-Based Write-to-Congress Service Due to Funding Shortfalls -- Your Help Can Bring It Back -- Keep Contacting Congress in the Meantime | Perry Fund Accepting Applications for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 School Years, Providing Scholarships for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions | The Reformer's Calendar

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