My letter plays in Peoria

Deputy Drug Czar Andrea Barthwell (she’s the one in charge of health disinformation) made a recent trip to Peoria, and the Journal-Star reported her visit this week, and the article almost made me sick. Here’s how it started out:

Barthwell Promoting Program To Provide Funding For Treatment

PEORIA — The Bush administration is seeking a balance between helping and punishing drug abusers.

The president has devoted additional money to identifying and treating those addicted to drugs, said Andrea Barthwell, the deputy director of National Drug Control Policy for Demand Reduction, or the nation’s deputy drug czar.

“The president has said ‘A nation that is hard on drugs must be compassionate to drug users,”‘Barthwell said while meeting with the Journal Star editorial board Monday.

Yes, that’s certainly the description of this administration’s war on drugs… if you’re living in an alternate reality.
I decided to write them a letter and it was published today. I’ll share it with you.

Deputy Drug Czar Andrea Barthwell’s recent trip to Peoria was reported in the Journal Star as an effort to prevent drug abuse. It was nothing of the kind. It was, in fact, another opportunity for that office to promote disinformation.

The administration knows that treatment is more popular than enforcement, but despite Barthwell’s claims, it has had no intention of giving up any of its enforcement cash. Andrea’s boss, John Walters, is on record as deriding the need to embrace treatment.

In the May 11 article, Andrea Barthwell is quoted as saying, “About 45 percent of the $12 billion federal anti-drug budget is for treatment and prevention. That is up from past years.” What she neglects to mention is that the treatment percentage is up due to a dishonest shift in budget reporting. The Bush administration changed the percentages by simply removing from the drug war budget the $4 billion spent each year to prosecute, try and imprison federal drug offenders. It’s still spent, but is no longer considered part of the cost of the drug war. Change the rules and make the numbers look better.

For Andrea Barthwell to claim the administration cares about treatment and prevention is absurd, particularly when federal agents are still stepping all over state law to harass sick medical marijuana patients in California, plus jailing doctors and going after water pipes and hemp foods. The administration’s push for enforcement has actually hurt treatment opportunities by overwhelming treatment centers with criminal justice referrals for simple marijuana possession. Most of these mandatory treatment offenders do not have a dependence problem, but they end up taking beds away from those who really need treatment.

Finally, the administration pushes for drug testing in schools – demonstrated in studies to be costly and ineffective – instead of pushing for, and funding, after-school and extracurricular activities that have been shown to reduce drug use.

The Government Accounting Office, in response to a request by Rep. Ron Paul, recently noted that providing misinformation is part of the mission of the drug czar’s office. Deputy Drug Czar Barthwell does her job well.

Peter Guither

Thanks to Jeff for letting me know that it got published.
I welcome any new readers coming from the Journal-Star article. Feel free to look around, particularly if you’re uncertain or skeptical about drug policy reform or if you think drug testing in schools might be a good idea (more here and here.) More on Andrea Barthwell is available here, here, and here.

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