Pubdate: Sat, 04 Mar 2000
Source: Ventura County Star (CA)
Copyright: 2000, Ventura County Star
Author: Tom Kisken


Much of medical marijuana 'a crock,' official asserts at Reagan

The White House drug czar said further research is needed on the
medical use of marijuana chemicals, maintaining Friday in Simi Valley
that he supports anything safely helping people control pain and illness.

Barry McCaffrey also blew a harsher message to the 20 or so advocates
who brought a marijuana plant and a bevy of signs and banners to the
entry road leading to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.

"A lot of this is a crock," he said of medical marijuana. "Ask a
doctor if he really wants a big blunt stuck in a patient's face as

The director of the Office of National Drug Policy spoke at the final
day of a national conference on addiction -- another headline name in
an event that earlier featured former Secretary of Education William
Bennett, former Attorney General Edwin Meese, broadcast journalist
Lesley Stahl and Pulitzer Prize-winner William Safire.

On a day in which several speakers lauded the ongoing efforts against
substance abuse, McCaffrey bristled at what he called the
misperception that the U.S. consumes the majority of the world's
illegal narcotics.

"It's complete nonsense," said the retired general and Vietnam War
hero. "E This isn't an American problem, it's an international problem."

Though some have hinted at problems, McCaffrey predicted Congress
would support the proposed $1.6 billion aid package aimed at fighting
drug traffickers in Colombia, the world's most prolific cocaine producer.

Domestically, he said, the federal government is spending an
ever-increasing amount of money to fight substance abuse. He put much
of the burden on state and local governments, suggesting they need to
do a better job of making sure the federal money sent through them is
well spent.

He praised D.A.R.E. programs and called for parents and community
groups to make sure their children are supervised during after-school
hours. But the drug czar railed against methamphetamine production.
And he took a swipe at criminal justice systems, suggesting drug use
is rampant in the nation's prisons.

"Why should we have prisoners testing positive at the same rate as the
general public?" he said.

McCaffrey's presence prompted the protest by members of the Ventura
County Alliance for Marijuana Patients. Told of the general's comments
about medical marijuana, spokeswoman Andrea Nagy noted that research
has shown the validity of the treatment.

Also at the conference on Friday, a recovering addict of prescription
drugs told of how she would misrepresent herself to doctors and
manipulate them into unintentionally feeding her habit. Not only did
they not pick up on any symptoms of addiction, they never asked her
about any drug problems.

Dr. Reed Tuckson, vice president of professional standards with the
American Medical Association, said primary care physicians need to be
better educated. Somehow, the stigma of addiction has to be minimized
so doctors and patients can communicate honestly.

Former first lady Nancy Reagan sat in on the day's closing
presentation, drawing a standing ovation and prompting organizers from
the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse to dedicate the
conference to her.

Much of the final day was spent on encouragement. Charts were shown
detailing an almost 50 percent decrease in the monthly use of illegal
drugs over a 13-year period. Other graphics suggested that anti-drug
advertising is successful at changing the way teen-agers view drugs.

"This so-called war is not only winnable, we are winning it," said Jim
Burke, chairman of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

Steven Schroeder, CEO of a philanthropic foundation dedicated to
fighting substance abuse, also praised efforts but said future
challenges include getting parental groups and other grass-roots
organizations more involved.

"The overriding challenge for all of us is to move this issue onto the
public agenda," he said. "Why is it so hard to get people to care?"
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MAP posted-by: Derek Rea