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DEA Statement

CLAIM II: WE HAVE MADE SIGNIFICANT PROGRESS IN REDUCING DRUG USE IN THIS COUNTRY. NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO ABANDON OUR EFFORTS.

The Facts

No one has suggested that we should "abandon" our efforts to reduce the problems associated with drugs. What we have suggested is that we should make those efforts more cost-effective. Prison is not cost effective.

Even if we accepted this claim as true, there is no evidence that the progress in reducing drug use was at all due to the number of people put in prison. In fact, the evidence clearly shows that the number of people put in prison could not have had enough of an impact on the average white, middle-class drug user to make any difference at all in drug use. If there was any actual reduction in drug use (and not just in "reported" drug use) then it seems clear that it must have been due to other factors.

DEA Statement

Legalization advocates claim that the fight against drugs has not been won, and is, in fact, unwinnable. They frequently state that people still take drugs, drugs are widely available, and that the changing that fact is a lost cause. Legalization is the alternative.

The Facts

It should be clear to anyone that the war on drugs has not been won. There is no credible evidence anywhere which would suggest that the war could be won by the current methods, and the DEA has presented no such evidence here. The alternative is to look for a better approach, whatever we might choose to call it.

DEA Statement

The conference participants disagreed with the notion that we should wave the white flag of surrender because people still take drugs. The experts contended that there have been many positive developments over the past fifteen years in reducing drug use, and stated that the good news is often given short shrift. Our drug problem did not happen overnight, and it will take a number of years to eliminate the problem. Legalization is not an alternative to combating the drug problem.

The Facts

As happened with Vietnam, there comes a point when must recognize that we never should have taken this course in the first place. It is not surrender to end the war on drugs, it is a recognition of what we should have recognized years ago.

DEA Statement

The United States faces a number of problems today which, like our drug problem, are not susceptible to easy solutions, including illegal immigration, declining education quality and public health problems. Should we just post signs on our borders that we've given up and invite a tide of immigrants in? Should we declare that our education system has been a failure and give children a permanent vacation from school? Should we throw up our hands in frustration about AIDS and stop searching for a cure? Of course not. Americans are a people committed to solving problems, not running from them. Why should our commitment to stopping drugs be any different from our approach to other national interests?

The Facts

There is no doubt that there are many difficult problems. Of all the problems mentioned, the DEA does not propose to solve any of them by throwing people in prison.

The final question here asks for a commitment to "stopping drugs" which, the DEA itself admits, is clearly impossible.

DEA Statement

Furthermore, ask proponents of legalization just what they are proposing be legalized. Just marijuana? Marijuana and heroin? All drugs?

And for what age group? Will children be able to buy drugs?

Will prescriptions be necessary?

And what will they tolerate as the price of legalization? A permanent underclass of drug users?

Will a 10% increase in the number of traffic fatalities be accepted? What about 50%?

Would they be relieved to know that their child care provider had been smoking legally-purchased marijuana? How many borderbabies is too many?

The Facts

The question really is: for what drugs are we willing to throw people in prison?

Can children buy drugs now? Obviously, they can because only the outlaws control distribution of drugs. The questions try to insinuate that people in favor of reform want to distribute drugs to children. Nothing could be further from the truth. The question also conveniently ignores the fact that the number one drug killer, tobacco, is still freely available to children through vending machines.

There are any number of possible policies, besides the current one. The question of whether prescriptions would be necessary should not stop us from recognizing that prison is unnecessary.

We already have a permanent underclass of drug users.

There is no evidence that the number of traffic fatalities would change. About half of all traffic fatalities are now caused by alcohol, but the DEA does not propose that arresting all the people who drink beer or wine is a sensible solution.

The laws and social rules for things such as caring for children would not change regardless of the legal status of any drug.

DEA Statement

Some facts which help to confirm the observations of the forum participants may be used in debates:

The 1993 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, released in July, 1994, demonstrates unequivocally that drug use declined significantly between 1979 and 1993.

The Facts

The same figures show it is going back up again, particularly among children. Those figures show large increases in the last year alone -- and the laws have not changed.

It must also be recognized that the data gathering methods of this survey are open to question. The survey is conducted by calling people at random on the telephone and asking if anyone in the household has committed a felony (used drugs) in the past few weeks or months. Instead of an accurate measure of the amount of drug use, it may just be a measure of the number of people who are stupid enough to answer such a question from a stranger on the phone.

DEA Statement

In 1993, an estimated 11.7 million Americans were current illicit drug users, meaning they had used an illicit drug in the month prior to the interview. This represents no change from 1992 when the estimate was 11.4 million. The number of illicit drug users had been declining since its peak in 1979 at 24 million.

The Facts

The DEA needs to take elementary math again. The figures shown represent a rise of 300,000 drug users.

The figures show one thing above all else-- there is no way we can throw that many people in prison, and our jails are full already. How many of these millions does the DEA propose that we throw in prison?

The DEA's own figures also clearly show that all of the supposed decline in drug use has been among casual drug users. Their own figures show that this policy has had no effect on the number of hard core drug users, where the problem really lies.

DEA Statement

The number of current cocaine users remained at 1.3 million users in 1993, the same as 1992. This is down from a peak of 5.3 million in 1985.

The Facts

Does the DEA suggest that we throw all 1.3 million cocaine users in prison?

Since 1979, rates of current illicit drug use have dropped for 12 17 year olds, 1825 year olds, and 2634 year olds, but not for the age group 35 and older.

The latest figures show that drug use among these groups has risen dramatically again, and yet the laws are just as harsh as they always were.

DEA Statement

Teenage drug consumption, despite recent upturns, is down in the long term. There is an obvious concern in the United States about the consumption of drugs by teenagers--the adults of tomorrow. Recent upturns demonstrate to us the clear need to continue doing what we've done for more than the past decade: combine law enforcement, education, and international efforts to address all aspects of the drug situation. The Monitoring the Future Study, conducted annually by University of Michigan research scientists for the US Department of Health and Human Services, has been tracking the drug consumption of American high school seniors since the 1970s. In the past few years, the study has been broadened to embrace drug use by 10th grade and 8th grade students as well.

The Facts

This is obviously wrong. See the latest figures cited above.

DEA Statement

When the first Monitoring the Future Study was published, 27.1 % of the members of the Class of 1975 (eighth and 10th graders were not surveyed then) reported having used marijuana or hashish in the previous month. The figure for the Class of 1980 was 33.7%--which puts that 2.4% figure 13 years later into perspective.

The Facts

If the study is looking at the drug use of eighth to tenth graders then it would seem obvious enough that the campaign to put people in prison would not have had much real effect on this group. This is evidence that any drop in use was not due to tougher criminal enforcement.

Source 1993 National Household Survey


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