Pubdate: Fri, 17 Feb 2006
Source: Journal Gazette, The (IN)
Copyright: 2006 The Journal Gazette
Author: Sylvia A. Smith, Washington Editor
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Drug Test)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Bookmark: (Walters, John)


WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration still does not understand that 
meth is not just a problem in isolated pockets of the country, Rep. 
Mark Souder, R-3rd, said Thursday, as his irritation with the White 
House's anti-drug policies erupted several times as he quizzed the drug czar.

The drug czar's office "seems intent on disproving what everyone else 
in the country is seeing -- that methamphetamine is an epidemic," 
Souder said at a three-hour hearing to review President Bush's 
proposed 2007 budget for anti-narcotics programs. "I don't understand 
the lack of understanding."

John Walters, who heads the Office of National Drug Control Policy, 
displayed a color-coded chart that showed wide variations in the 
amount of methamphetamine that was detected in workforce drug tests 
around the country.

Souder said what the chart told him is that meth use -- which has the 
reputation of being widespread in rural areas and almost non-existent 
in large cities and the East Coast -- has spread to Florida and the Northeast.

Souder has been a loud critic of Bush's anti-drug approach, objecting 
to the White House's yearly attempt to kill programs such as the Safe 
and Drug Free Schools program, which provides money to reduce drug 
use and violence among kids. Indiana gets about $6 million a year 
from the $672 million program. He also objects to the 
administration's plan to eliminate a grant program that helps police 
departments with their drug-fighting efforts.

Congress rejected the Bush administration's effort to eliminate both 
programs last year, and Souder said they will be kept alive again this year.

Souder especially skewered Walters over the Bush administration's 
approach to meth, however.

He complained that the administration opposed his legislation to 
restrict the importation of meth ingredients and put limits on how 
much cold medicine a person can buy.

When Walters said Bush would sign the legislation if Congress passes 
it, "the sooner the better," Souder did not hide his scorn.

The president, for the record, has not vetoed any bill, Souder said.

Souder and others have objected to the drug czar's activities that 
seem to revolve around marijuana at the expense of a focus on meth.

But Walters said that's wrong.

"We have not been avoiding the problems of meth," he said. "I did not 
say this was not a serious problem. I believe I said it's as serious 
and harmful a drug as there is."

In addition to eliminating grants to police departments and the Safe 
and Drug-Free Schools program, Bush has asked Congress to:

- -- Cut the methamphetamine 'hot spots' grant program by a third.

- -- Transfer the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program to the 
Justice Department, which Souder said would dilute the program.

- -- Eliminate a technology center that helps state and local drug 
enforcement agencies.

- -- Increase budget for drug courts from $59.3 million to $69.2million.

- -- Spend $297.4 million to try to reduce poppy production in 
Afghanistan, an increase of $115.7 million.

- -- Increase money for drug testing in schools from $4.6 million to 
$15million, $10 million less than Bush requested last year. Congress 
allocated $10.4 million last year.

- -- Allocate $120 million for anti-drug TV ads.

- -- Spend $98.2 million on alcohol and drug treatment. Last year Bush 
asked for $150 million.

- -- Create a $52 million program to make grants to schools.

- -- "Allocate $41 million for research on how to treat meth addiction.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman