Pubdate: Sun, 16 May 2004
Source: Peoria Journal Star (IL)
Copyright: 2004sPeoria Journal Star
Author:  Pete Guither


Deputy Drug Czar Andrea Barthwell's recent trip to Peoria was reported
in the Journal Star as an effort to prevent drug abuse. It was nothing
of the kind. It was, in fact, another opportunity for that office to
promote disinformation.

The administration knows that treatment is more popular than
enforcement, but despite Barthwell's claims, it has had no intention
of giving up any of its enforcement cash. Andrea's boss, John Walters,
is on record as deriding the need to embrace treatment.

In the May 11 article, Andrea Barthwell is quoted as saying, "About 45
percent of the $12 billion federal anti-drug budget is for treatment
and prevention. That is up from past years." What she neglects to
mention is that the treatment percentage is up due to a dishonest
shift in budget reporting. The Bush administration changed the
percentages by simply removing from the drug war budget the $4 billion
spent each year to prosecute, try and imprison federal drug offenders.
It's still spent, but is no longer considered part of the cost of the
drug war. Change the rules and make the numbers look better.

For Andrea Barthwell to claim the administration cares about treatment
and prevention is absurd, particularly when federal agents are still
stepping all over state law to harass sick medical marijuana patients
in California, plus jailing doctors and going after water pipes and
hemp foods. The administration's push for enforcement has actually
hurt treatment opportunities by overwhelming treatment centers with
criminal justice referrals for simple marijuana possession. Most of
these mandatory treatment offenders do not have a dependence problem,
but they end up taking beds away from those who really need treatment.

Finally, the administration pushes for drug testing in schools -
demonstrated in studies to be costly and ineffective - instead of
pushing for, and funding, after-school and extracurricular activities
that have been shown to reduce drug use.

The Government Accounting Office, in response to a request by Rep. Ron
Paul, recently noted that providing misinformation is part of the
mission of the drug czar's office. Deputy Drug Czar Barthwell does her
job well.

Peter Guither


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