Pubdate: Tue, 20 May 2003
Source: United Press International (Wire)
Section: Washington Politics & Policy Desk
Copyright: 2003 United Press International
Author: Paul Armentano
Note: Paul Armentano is a senior policy analyst for the NORML Foundation, a 
group that supports the liberalization of America's marijuana laws, in 
Note: Outside view commentaries are written for UPI by outside writers who 
specialize in a variety of important global issues.

Outside View


WASHINGTON -- Allegations in Rolling Stone magazine that Jenna and Barbara 
Bush enjoy an occasional toke should come as no surprise to anyone familiar 
with the proclivities of 21-year-olds, especially those as notoriously 
predisposed to partying as the "first twins."

But while allegations of the first twins' pot smoking is hardly surprising, 
its implication with regard to political policy should not go unnoticed.

Whether the allegations are confirmed, the extraordinary fact remains that 
their father's administration has now overseen the arrest of more than 
640,000 Americans for engaging in such "youthful indiscretions" -- even 
going so far as to prosecute medicinal marijuana patients and their 
providers in states where the use of physician-approved pot is legal.

Unfortunately, drug-warring politicians have a long history of adhering to 
the "do as I say, not as I do" philosophy, particularly when it comes to 
their children.

Take California Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham. He co-sponsored legislation 
mandating the death penalty for "drug kingpins," but pleaded for mercy when 
his son Todd was convicted for smuggling 400 pounds of pot. The seven-term 
Republican, known for his career-long vitriol against "soft on crime" 
judges, found himself begging a federal judge to waive his son's five-year 
mandatory sentence. Fortunately for the San Diego Republican, the judge was 
"soft" enough to give Todd 30 months in prison -- half the federal 
"mandatory" minimum.

Similar treatment was given to Dan Burton II, son of the 11-time Indiana 
congressman. He was arrested several times for marijuana and firearms 
felonies in the mid-1990s but never received more than community service 
and probation. Prosecutors jumped through hoops to keep Burton's kid out of 
jail, including underestimating the total weight of the 30 plants he was 
caught with as only 25 grams, thus reducing his charge to a misdemeanor.

His son's brushes with the law apparently meant little to the elder Burton, 
who following his son's arrest voted against legislation to expand drug 
treatment as an alternative to prison for qualified drug offenders.

And of course there are the escapades of Noelle Bush -- niece of President 
George W. Bush and daughter of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush -- whose run-ins with 
the law made national headlines last year. First, the 25-year-old got 
popped attempting to purchase tranquilizers with a forged prescription. 
That charge alone could have netted her five years in prison, but 
authorities sentenced her to drug rehab instead -- a move her father 
lauded, despite previously opposing a ballot initiative mandating treatment 
instead of jail for other people's daughters facing similar non-violent 
drug charges.

But Noelle's special treatment didn't end there. While in rehab, she was 
caught again with unauthorized prescription drugs -- another felony, or in 
her case, a minor transgression punishable by three days in jail.

After returning to rehab, she was busted a third time; this time allegedly 
with crack cocaine. However, her father's lawyers filed a successful motion 
with the courts forbidding the police from gathering evidence or statements 
from the rehab facility's staff about the incident. Noelle ultimately 
served a total of 13 days in jail for her bevy of drug charges, while her 
father denounced allegations that she received preferential treatment.

It is possible that Jeb Bush believed he was telling the truth. After all, 
if the sons and daughters of the political elite never face the brunt of 
their parents' Drug War, maybe the president, the Florida governor and 
their politico brethren assume nobody else's children do either.

Which brings us back to Jenna and Barbara Bush and their alleged pot smoking.

Chances are the White House will refer to the alleged incident as a private 
matter. But with an astonishing 250,000 Americans now behind bars for drug 
offenses, it is painfully obvious that the matter has become quite public 
- -- that is, for other people's children. Until this reality changes, expect 
the children of the political elite to keep on smoking, and expect the 
Washington to keep dropping the hammer -- on someone else's kids, of course.
- ---
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