05/03/13 Doug McVay

Fri - Doug McVay: Drug Czar deja vu, all over again

4:20 Drug War News
Friday, May 3, 2013
Doug McVay
Common Sense Drug Policy
Download: Audio icon 420050313.mp3


It's deja vu all over again.

The noted drug abuse and addiction expert Stanton Peele wrote, quote:

“A liberal consensus is emerging that American drug policy is wrong-headed in as much as it emphasizes interdiction and criminal prosecution of users, and that it should focus on treatment of drug abusers. But this new consensus in fact recycles outdated and disproved notions, is fundamentally reactionary and antagonistic towards drug users, and stands no chance of reversing either the extent of drug abuse in America or the repression of drug use and users.” End quote.

That's from a piece titled The New Consensus — “Treat ‘em or Jail ‘em” — Is Worse than the Old. It was published in 2001. It could as easily have been written yesterday.

I was following closely the release of the new drug control strategy document and the media around it, and I got this sense of deja vu. It took me a minute but I finally figured it out. I've seen this movie before. Kerlikowske's drug strategy is a remake of Barry McCaffrey's work in the 1990s.

Check it out. McCaffrey, at a luncheon speech in 2000 which was broadcast and transcribed by PBS's Frontline, said, quote:

“And so, in that sense, the real problem isn't letting 'em outta jail or putting 'em in jail. It's effectively addressing their chronic addiction through science-based treatment.

But, mostly, Americans don't get arrested, certainly by the Federal Government for simple possession of, of drugs they are personally abusing.”

End quote.

On April 25th of this year, ONDCP spokesperson Rafael LeMaitre – who I've taken to task on the Drug Truth Network in the past for his sloppy analysis – tweeted that during a forum at the Wilson Center Czar Kerlikowske said quote “most drug arrests don't happen at fed level. Feds don't focus on drug users.” End quote.

Raphael also tweeted this on April 25th, quote: “Nice piece in Pop Science! The White House's Latest Drug Policy Plan Is Actually Based On Science” End quote.

McCaffrey was famously known for dismissing the phrase “drug war”.

Kerlikowske famously dismisses the phrase “drug war”.

McCaffrey embraced treatment and promoted methadone and substitution therapy, which was fairly mainstream even then yet was considered radical by some.

Kerlikowske has begun to embrace harm reduction and is promoting access to Naloxone, which is fairly mainstream these days yet considered radical by some.

They both push drug courts and mandatory treatment.

Finally, both are dealing with seismic changes in the drug policy landscape. McCaffrey had to deal with the political landslide set off when Prop 215 legalized medical marijuana. Kerlikowske has had two states – including his own, Washington – legalize the adult social use of marijuana.

There's nothing wrong with a remake – ask Hollywood. But the drug czar's office is trying to claim this production is original so they've added a twist that spoils the plot and ruins their believability: Kerlikowske and his cohorts are calling it drug policy reform.

Really? Please. I know drug policy reform. Real reform means you stop criminalizing drug use. Gil. Baby. I like where you're trying to go with this, it's just too derivative. You need to write a new script.

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay with Common Sense for Drug Policy and Drug War Facts.