Thursday, June 4, 2009
If You’ve Seen One Drug Czar....
The language of drug politics.
In a May 29 post on his Salon blog, Drug WarRant, Peter Guither deftly deconstructs the language of drug czarism, and its corrosive effect on rational dialog over drug policy:
--So far, there has been little or no discussion of marijuana from the newest drug czar, Obama’s man Gil Kerlikowske, now director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. “I've got to admit that it's a nice change from the reefer madness reign of Walters,” Guither writes. “Maybe Kerlikowske is following my mother's age-old advice... If you can't say something nice (and he can't by law), then don't say anything at all.”
--Prescription drugs are “the new crack.” To his credit, Guither worries about this new emphasis, and where it is likely to lead: “The prescription drug "epidemic" will be an excuse to further crack down on diversion, which will end up continuing the focus on pain doctors who prescribe large amounts of pain medication, with DEA agents deciding they know more than doctors. The result will be even more people suffering, unable to get the pain medication that actually makes life possible for thousands of people.”
--Drugs cause crime. As proof, Kerlikowske cites the statistic that half the men arrested in ten major U.S. cities tested positive for some sort of illegal drug, as reported by USA Today. From this data, Kerlikowske concludes that there is “a clear link between drugs and crime.” Guither notes that “There's a lot of reasons that people who have been arrested would tend to test positive for illicit drug use than the general population..... A very large percentage of arrests are for drug crimes, which naturally skews the population. Then there are socio-economic factors and a lot more.”
However, what the new drug czar is implying, writes Guither, is that drugs cause crime. “But implying that drugs cause crime is a lie. And that's what drug czars do.”
Kerlikowske has also come out in favor of greater use of drug courts as an alternative to prison sentences. Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance Network, told USA Today he agreed that drug use should be seen as a public health issue, but that “people shouldn't have to get arrested to get treatment."
Photo Credit: Lifehype Magazine
addiction drugs medical marijuana