After 7+ years of John Walters, it’s been interesting to see what difference would come (in rhetoric, if nothing else) with a new drug czar. Kerlikowske hasn’t been on board that long, but some sense of the changes in emphasis are starting to show up.
1. Marijuana just isn’t part of the discussion. Not only is legalization not part of Kerlikowske’s vocabulary, marijuana itself appears to be something he’d rather not talk about, medical or otherwise. I’ve got to admit that it’s a nice change from the reefer madness reign of Walters. Maybe Kerlikowske is following my mother’s age-old advice… If you can’t say something nice (and he can’t by law), then don’t say anything at all.
2. Prescription drugs are the new crack. We’re seeing a lot of emphasis on the dangers of kids getting prescription drugs and statistics about how more people die from prescription drug overdoses than from gunshots. At first glance, this seems positive — educate people on not mixing the wrong drugs, and that prescription drugs can be very dangerous when used improperly. Saving some lives here would be a good thing.
But what worries me is the other ways this emphasis will be used…
a. “With so many people dying from legal drugs, the last thing we need to do now is legalize another drug.” This statement is so nonsensical that it makes my skin crawl, and yet I’ve seen versions of it numerous times.
b. The prescription drug “epidemic” will be an excuse to further crack down on diversion, which will end up continuing the focus on pain doctors who prescribe large amounts of pain medication, with DEA agents deciding they know more than doctors. The result will be even more people suffering, unable to get the pain medication that actually makes life possible for thousands of people.
3. Crime and drugs go hand in hand. This USA Today article (and the drug czar’s “blog“) give an idea of what we can expect (and the new drug czar lie).
Half of the men arrested in 10 U.S. cities test positive for some type of illegal drug, a federal study found.
Not only do the findings show “a clear link between drugs and crime,” they also highlight the need to provide drug treatment, says Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, which will make the data public Thursday.
This will be used to promote Kerlikowske’s interest in focusing on treatment, which, of itself, doesn’t necessarily bother me, but the use of the lie does. You caught the lie?
We’re used to the whole category of drug czar lies, so it gets easy to identify them. Walters would state some fact and use it to imply something completely false. Kerlikowske does it here in his own way with the “clear link between drugs and crime.” The unspoken, yet clearly implied message is that drugs cause crime, and that’s proven by the large number of criminals who test positive for drugs.
Of course, that’s nonsense. There’s a lot of reasons that people who have been arrested would tend to test positive for illicit drug use than the general population. People who commit crimes may be even less likely to be deterred by drug laws (and more likely to know criminal drug dealers). A very large percentage of arrests are for drug crimes, which naturally skews the population. Then there are socio-economic factors and a lot more.
But implying that drugs cause crime is a lie. And that’s what drug czars do.