Pubdate: Fri, 10 Oct 2003
Source: Drug War Chronicle (US Web)
Author: Phillip S. Smith, Editor


Drug War Horse and Pony Show Inside, Protestors Outside

US drug czar John Walters brought a high-level team of prohibitionists
to Boston Wednesday to enlist New England governors' increased support
in the war on drugs. While the presentation inside was predictable,
the presence of demonstrators outside the summit let participants know
that resistance to drug war without end is increasing.

Organized by the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts, Massachusetts
NORML affiliate MassCann (, and the Marijuana
Policy Project (, more than two dozen people
gathered at Faneuil Hall for a 9:00am press conference outside the
building and subsequent picketing. Focused primarily on the medical
marijuana issue, demonstrators carried signs reading, "It is evil to
deny sick people medical marijuana," and chanted "Medical marijuana
now!" as they handed out informational pamphlets to tourists,
businesspeople and workers at Quincy Market, MassCann reported.

Inside, Walters, new DEA administrator Karen Tandy, Dr. Andrea
Barthwell of the drug czar's office (,
and fellow prohibitionist medicos Dr. Mark Kraus of the Connecticut
Society of Addiction Medicine and Dr. Billy Martin of Virginia
Commonwealth University assailed the six New England governors with
their typical blend of hysteria, misinformation, and hyperbole.
Referring to heroin use in the area, which was a major focus of the
summit, DEA head Tandy offered up the notion that "you might as well
be sitting at the border of Colombia in this New England region."

Tandy, Walters and crew blamed the region's high rate of heroin use on
insidious dealers using gaily painted bags and free samples to entice
young users, but Tandy herself inadvertently pointed to the
fundamental reason for the incontrovertible signs of increasing heroin
use. "In Boston, you can buy what used to be a $40 bag for $4," she
said noted, failing to draw the obvious conclusion that three-plus
decades of war on drugs hadn't worked.

If Tandy didn't get it, there were signs that at least one of the
governors did. Connecticut Gov. John Rowland, once known as a
hard-nosed drug warrior, criticized the emphasis on law enforcement.
"I believe we can't put a dent in supply," Rowland said. "The drugs
are here because the demand is here. There are six million people who
need treatment while only one million are getting treatment. We're
debating nickels and dimes for American people who are dying, while we
spend $87 billion for the reconstruction of Iraq."

Still, like the other governors, Rowland wasn't about to turn down any
federal money. And Walters, Tandy and company were happy to oblige by
announcing the formation of a new, DEA-led task force to attack heroin
use in the region. But even Walters found himself forced to urge
prevention and treatment and not just law enforcement. "If we want to
reduce the number of people in prison, we have to stop young people
from starting," Walters said, making sure the governors knew the
administration had allocated $200 million for treatment this year.

He also had another prevention idea: random drug testing for high
school students. Although the Supreme Court has approved only limited
drug testing of students, Walters was ready to take it to the next
level. "This is a silver bullet," Walters told the governors. "I know
this is a tool that will make a difference."

"It was pretty disappointing," said Fatema Gunja, newly-hired
executive director of the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts (the
organization's first full-time staff person), who attended the
sessions. "Heroin was the main angle, and while medical marijuana was
on the agenda, they didn't really engage in any kind of debate or
discussion about it," she told DRCNet. "One panelist [Billy Martin]
went so far as to concede marijuana might have some medical value, but
then said it wasn't worth spending the money to find out. Neither did
the governors seem very interested. Only Massachusetts Gov. Romney
even really asked about it -- he asked why it hadn't been studied more."

"It was more fun outside," laughed Gunja, referring to the protest.
"It was interesting to see Walters and Tandy and the usual suspects do
their rhetoric in person, but outside with the patients and the
activists was better. The big media was all inside, but the local
press was very interested in our stories and point of view."

May the drug czar receive a similarly warm reception wherever he goes.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake