NORML E-Zine April26

Discussion in 'Marijuana News from The USA' started by RMJL, Apr 27, 2001.

  1. NORML E-Zine
    Volume 4
    Issue 18
    April 26, 2001

    The NORML E-Zine is a free weekly compilation of major news
    items regarding marijuana policy. Text of archived stories
    are available on NORML's website at:
    http://www.norml.org/news/archives/index2001.shtml

    Drug Czar Candidate's Record Out of Step with Public, Health Professionals

    Bush Pick Supports Jailing Marijuana Smokers, Peruvian
    Shoot-Downs; Criticizes Drug Treatment, Medical Marijuana

    Washington, DC: Innocent citizens, seriously ill patients
    and minor marijuana offenders are among those most likely to
    become caught in the crossfire of the war on drugs under
    strategies endorsed by leading Drug Czar candidate John P.
    Walters, who was named yesterday by The New York Times as
    Bush's top choice for the job.

    "The expected appointment of John P. Walters as the next
    Drug Czar is a serious mistake," warned NORML Executive Director
    R. Keith Stroup, Esq. "Instead of finding a 'compassionate
    conservative' to lead our anti-drug efforts, President Bush
    has selected a man whose views are regarded as harsh and
    extreme, even among drug warriors. Walter's views favoring
    incarceration over drug treatment and education runs contrary
    to the American public, 74 percent of whom now say that our
    current 'do drugs, do time' strategies are a miserable
    failure."

    Walters, who served as Deputy Director of the Office of
    National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) under the previous Bush
    administration, is a staunch proponent of incarcerating drug
    offenders - including recreational and medical marijuana
    users - and has lobbied Congress to stiffen federal penalties
    for marijuana. He also opposes state laws that exempt medical
    marijuana patients from criminal penalties, despite the fact
    that 73 percent of the public support legalizing the drug for
    medical purposes, according to a March 2001 Pew Research
    Center poll.

    In addition, Walters is a major proponent of militarizing
    the drug war, and is a longtime advocate of a controversial
    US/Peruvian program that shoot downs unarmed, civilian
    airplanes suspected of carrying drugs. Government officials
    abruptly suspended the program last week after the Peruvian
    air-force fired upon a plane carrying American missionaries
    in which a woman and her infant daughter were killed. U.S.
    and Peruvian officials mistakenly believed the plane was
    transporting cocaine.

    In a 1996 background paper written for the Heritage Foundation,
    a conservative Washington, DC think-tank, Walters praised
    the program and urged Congress to expand the use of military
    force in drug interdiction. "Foreign programs are cheap and
    effective," he wrote. "An example: America's chronically
    underfunded program in Peru ... has managed to shoot down
    or disable 20 ... airplanes since March 1, 1995. ... [We]
    have an opportunity to save American lives by helping the
    Peruvians press their attacks on traffickers." He added:
    "The U.S. military cannot solve the drug problem, but it
    can make a profound contribution to cutting the flow of
    drugs through interdiction. The budget needs to reflect
    this national priority."

    Walters is also a vocal proponent of mandatory minimum
    sentencing for drug offenders, a tactic opposed by the American
    Bar Association, Supreme Court Justices William Rehnquist
    and Stephen Breyer, and recently criticized by President
    Bush who told CNN in January that "long minimum sentences
    for first-time users may not be the best way to occupy jail
    space or heal people from their disease." In 1996, Walters
    testified before Congress in opposition to recommendations
    made by the U.S. Sentencing Commission that would have removed
    the existing mandatory minimum criminal disparities between
    crack and powder cocaine sentencing. In various editorials,
    Walters has repeatedly dismissed the notion that certain drug laws
    and drug law enforcement tactics disproportionately incarcerate
    minorities as one of "the greatest urban myths of our time."
    Walters has also argued that the Sentencing Commission "should
    be barred from proposing changes in criminal penalties in
    cases where Congress has established mandatory minimum
    sentences."

    Although there are now more drug offenders serving time
    behind bars than the entire U.S. prison population of 1980,
    Walters rejects accusations that the drug war excessively
    targets and prosecutes drug users and minor offenders. "The
    idea that our prisons are filled with people whose only offense
    was possession of an illegal drug is utter fantasy," he wrote
    in a March op-ed for The Weekly Standard. However, according
    to the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics,
    roughly 25 percent of America's 2 million prisoners are serving
    time for drug offenses.

    Walters remains one of the lone critics of expanding drug
    treatment strategies. While he supports "coerced treatment"
    and "faith-based treatment programs" for convicted drug offenders,
    he has called voluntary treatment ineffective - recently mocking
    the reoccurring drug problems of actor Robert Downey Jr. "It's
    hard to imagine a worse advertisement for the effectiveness of
    drug treatment than Robert Downey Jr.," he wrote. Recently,
    McCaffrey sharply criticized Walter's disregard for drug
    treatment in The New York Times. "Some of his positions in
    my own view need to be carefully considered by the confirmation
    committee," he said, referring to Walter's resistance to embrace
    treatment over incarceration.

    "Walters is another white male from the conservative Washington,
    DC think-tank crowd who supports the 'shoot-first-and-ask-
    questions-later' approach to the drug war," Stroup summarized.
    "He is out of touch with the attitudes of the American public
    and an extraordinarily poor choice to serve as the nation's
    Drug Czar."

    For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, Executive
    Director of NORML, at (202) 483-5500 or Allen St. Pierre,
    Executive Director of The NORML Foundation, at (202) 483-8751.


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