US Marijuana Party

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Lawmakers Criticize White House Drug War Budget

By Alan Elsner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration on Thursday claimed major successes in reducing illegal drug use among teens, but lawmakers from both parties criticized its proposed budget that would cut several anti-drug programs.

White House drug czar John Walters told a House of Representatives panel that there had been a 17 percent reduction in drug use among teens in the past three years.

"Pursuing a strategy focusing on prevention and treatment as well as law enforcement and international programs, there are now 600,000 fewer teens using drugs than there were in 2001," Walters said.

In its 2006 budget submitted to Congress on Monday, the Bush administration proposed a restructuring of its anti-drug efforts with more money for overseas programs to curb supply.

At the same time, the budget would substantially cut funding for domestic programs aimed at reducing demand, putting more of the onus on state and local governments.

In total, the administration proposed spending $12.4 billion -- 2.2 percent above the $12.2 billion appropriated for fiscal 2005. The percentage allocated to domestic drug prevention would fall from 45 to 39 percent of this total.

Rep. Mark Souder, an Indiana Republican who chairs the subcommittee on criminal justice, drug policy and human resources, said he was troubled by some of the White House proposals.

"These cuts would certainly have a very dramatic impact on drug enforcement at the state and local level, at least in the short term," Souder said. "I am also concerned that the damage to federal, state and local law enforcement cooperation would be even more long lasting."


Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings said the consequences of Bush's drug budget cuts would be felt in classrooms across the nation, especially in poor neighborhoods.

He also questioned the data showing falling drug use among teens, saying the same surveys showed an increase in cocaine and heroin use.

"The data allows the President to claim victory ... but there is a disturbing trend going on in cocaine and heroin," Cummings said.

Surveys of high school students have shown a big decline in use of marijuana, the drug most commonly taken by teens.

Among the suggested program cuts were a 60 percent reduction in a program called "methamphetamine hot spots" which funds law enforcement, prosecution and environmental clean-up. The use of methamphetamine is soaring in rural America.

It would also eliminate the Safe and Drug-Free Schools program, leaving state and local governments to fund school-based drug prevention programs.

Walters said the programs being eliminated were ineffective. He said the administration was increasing funding in many areas, including a $15 percent boost in funds for drugs testing in schools.


  • It is sickening to see the amount of money our government is spending to reduce "teen use" of marijuana by 17 percent. Of course there was no mention of the economic and social cost of the ruined lives of adults (and their families) who have been busted for drug "crimes" that had nothing to do with "teens".

    I really do admire Loretta Nall for her work to reform the drug laws in this country, and I hope her efforts are successful.

    My own point of view on the drug issue is in an op-ed piece I wrote but did not publish. Instead I have posted it here-anonymously!!


    Any proposed legislation that would legalize marijuana would probably be more successful if it clearly and inclusively addressed the legitimate concerns of all sides of the issue.

    Conservative people do not want to see intoxicated people on their streets or near their children, but a large number of "other folks" want to alter their own consciousness as they see fit. These two needs could be met if the government would re-classify so called "drugs of abuse" as "restricted" rather than "prohibited". This means to prohibit the public use of the drugs and restrict them to adult private use only.

    (The model for legalizing marijuana use might be more accepted politically if it was closer to the model for private sexual behavior, rather than the currently circulating alcohol/tobacco model. Some opinion surveys need to be done on this, but I suspect that there would not be too much general support for allowing folks to smoke pot in public or at a bar or "coffeeshop" like they do in Amsterdam. Unlike the Dutch, too many voting Americans are just not tolerant of people with diverse lifestyles of any kind, especially if they are too public in their behavior.)

    Those same conservative people do not want "drug dealing" or "head shops" in their community, but a large number of "other folks" want to buy the items that such dealers and shops offer. These two needs could be met if drugs and head shop items were legally but discreetly available to adults by mail or phone or web order only. There would be no street transactions or shops in the community to offend anyone, and the "other folks" could legally buy the items they want. Allowing people to discreetly grow "personal use" amounts of plant drugs would also help to address the "drug dealing" issue.

    At the moment, the anti-drug people use the "child/teen endangerment" argument along with the "health risks argument" to push their agenda. Laws prohibiting the use/purchase of drugs by and in front of teenagers/children would address the first issue. Laws requiring drug purity as well as laws requiring scientifically accurate health risk information to be provided with any commercially sold drugs would address the second issue.

    The "drug addiction" argument can be addressed with valid scientific research. Most people really do care about their health and it is a minority who become hopelessly addicted to substances. Addiction and treatment information provided with the drugs would help to address this issue.

    Simply legalizing drugs would address the "narco-gang/terrorist money issue" by taking away the inflated profits of trading in contraband. If the price of currently illegal plant drugs dropped to that of coffee beans or cocoa beans (two accepted drugs the U.S. government calls "food") there would be no need for spraying toxic herbicides on Columbian peasants who understandably choose to grow the currently much more profitable coca leaves or cannabis flowers.

    Corporations and other employers do not want drug users to work for them because they feel that drug using employees are less productive and have more health problems and accidents than non-using employees. Drug users feel that their private behavior is none of their employer's business as long as they can perform on the job. No new laws are needed to address this issue, since employers already have the right to terminate or deny employment to persons who cannot perform their job.

    Another argument against legalizing drugs is the "driving/public safety issue". We already have laws against "Driving While Impaired" (DUI) and "impairment" includes "fatigue" and "prescription drugs" as well as alcohol and illegal drugs. There are physical tests that can determine if a person is fit to drive or operate machinery even if blood-testing drivers for marijuana and other illegal drugs cannot currently make this determination.

    The "drugs are unnatural" argument is of course quite empty. Plant drugs are quite natural and the most potent drug that anyone ever takes is on their plate every day. People in general and politicians in particular do not seem to understand that chemicals are the basis of their very life and they do not realize that food is literally a drug, and it is a drug that can have a dramatic impact on their mental and physical well-being. (see "The Zone" by Dr. Barry Sears)

    In addition to proposing legalization legislation that addresses the valid concerns of both sides of the marijuana/drug issue, all of us "other folks" need to get registered and get out and vote in every election. That means local elections, primaries, mid-term elections as well as the major presidential elections.

    The "anti-otherness" candidates won in 2004 because their conservative constituents got out and voted.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:12 PM  

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