Bush Officials Defend Drug Policy
A trio of Bush Administration cabinet officials held a meeting in Nashville, Tenn., this week to defend a national drug-control policy that has been blasted for paying too much attention to marijuana and not enough to methamphetamine, the New York Times reported Aug. 19.
Appearing together at the Davidson County Drug Court, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, drug czar John Walters, and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt announced $16.2 million in grants to treat meth abuse and responded to critics in Congress and elsewhere.
"We believe you can walk and chew gum at the same time," said Walters. "The issue here is not meth or marijuana. We're concerned about substance abuse generally. We are not ignoring problems."
The recent remarks contrasted to earlier assertions from Walters' office, which tended to downplay the threat posed by meth -- which has about 1 million users -- compared to marijuana, used by at least 15 million Americans. The Office of National Drug Control Policy sparked outrage in Congress when it responded coolly to a report from the National Association of Counties, which cited meth use as the nation's top drug problem.
Some members of Congress appeared unimpressed with the announcements made in Nashville.
"While this is an improvement, we still need a better national and international strategy to stop meth production, smuggling, and reduce usage," said Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), founder of Congress' meth caucus. Added Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.): "While the administration should be applauded for recognizing the need for additional resources to fight meth and to provide additional funding for treatment, their plan is inadequate because it doesn't go far enough to restrict products containing pseudoephedrine."
Some outside experts said the administration was correct in focusing on marijuana as the top illicit drug of abuse. But drug-policy expert Mark A. R. Kleiman, professor of public policy at UCLA, noted: "It seems to be very unlikely that increasing attention to marijuana is going to greatly affect marijuana use, but getting out in front of meth while the epidemic is still in the nascent stages might."