Pubdate: Wed, 15 Oct 2003
Source: Contra Costa Times (CA)
Copyright: 2003 Knight Ridder
Author: Scott Marshall
Cited: Office of National Drug Control Policy ( )
Cited: Drug Policy Alliance ( )
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Ashcroft, John)
Bookmark: (Bush, George)
Bookmark: (Walters v. Conant)


SAN FRANCISCO -- Marijuana is "the Trojan horse of the new millennium" and 
is being used by advocates to seek legalization of all dangerous drugs, a 
Bush administration drug policy official said Tuesday.

Studies show that 35,000 Californians arrested for possessing drugs have 
turned to drug courts to seek treatment instead of facing criminal 
penalties, a system created by Proposition 36, approved by the state's 
voters three years ago.

But "the jury is still out," said Andrea Grubb Barthwell, deputy director 
for demand reduction for the White House Office of National Drug Control 

Barthwell came to San Francisco as part of a 25-city nationwide tour to 
meet with local officials to plan drug-fighting efforts.

Even as medical marijuana advocates claimed they had won a key victory 
Tuesday when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a Bush administration appeal 
in an effort to regulate doctors who prescribe marijuana, Barthwell 
compared the drug to methamphetamine and cocaine.

Marijuana is "a wedge issue to create a change in drug policy, with the 
intent to legalize drugs" without limits, Barthwell said.

"Today, (marijuana) is strong enough to change the trajectory of a kid's 
life," she said, characterizing use of the drug as "a pediatrically 
acquired disease."

Advocates dismiss the administration's claims, contending the government is 
ignoring findings that marijuana has a potentially important medical role.

"The bottom line is, her administration is still spending 70 percent to 80 
percent of its money on interdiction instead of treatment," said Daniel 
Abrahamson, director of legal affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, who 
helped argue against the appeal that the Supreme Court rejected Tuesday and 
who wrote Prop. 36. "She can play politics and stand on the bandwagon, but 
things are passing her by."

Barthwell flatly denied that any significant studies had found a 
potentially beneficial use for marijuana and insisted it is a public health 
threat. President Bush promised to increase federal anti-drug spending by 
$1.6 billion over five years, she said. A third of anti-drug funds will be 
used for demand reduction and another third to reduce the supply. The last 
third will be used by law enforcement in an effort to cut drug use by 10 
percent in two years and by 25 percent in five years by stopping young 
people before they start, treating users, and disrupting illicit drug 
networks, she said.

A total of 16 million Americans use illegal drugs, Barthwell said. Of that 
number, 6 million are so-called recreational users who are not dependent 
and have been targeted under national drug policy, she said. Of the 
remaining 10 million, 76 percent deny they have a problem and only one of 
three completes drug treatment. The government plans to focus efforts on 
those 76 percent, change the way treatment is delivered to them, and help 
more complete that treatment.

"That's what Prop. 36 did, it got them in, and that's to be celebrated," 
Barthwell said. But the government must increase access and consumption of 
treatment and firmly re-establish "a culture of disapproval," she said.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft's call for federal prosecutors to seek 
maximum sentences for people convicted of criminal charges is "a discipline 
issue" separate from the treatment issue, she said.

Nationwide, 1,078 drug courts are in operation, 418 are being planned, and 
more than 300,000 adults and 12,500 juveniles have enrolled in the 
programs, according to the Office of Justice Programs Drug Court 
Clearinghouse at American University.

Admissions to treatment programs have increased since Prop. 36's approval, 
according to a UCLA study.

"I think in Oakland, at least, it's very successful," said Alameda County 
Superior Court Judge David Krashna. "What I hear almost every day is a 
person who is on the road to recovery."

The Advisory Committee on Collaborative Justice, a task force created by 
the Judicial Council of California to implement Prop. 36, found in two 
studies that the drug courts have saved the state millions of dollars 
because fewer people were sent to jail and fewer committed new offenses. To 
be eligible, participants must be first-time arrestees for drug use or 
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MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens