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Future Of Drug Reform Under Bush

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February 7, 2001

Summary: President George W. Bush has made no official statement about his policy on drug control.  Under his leadership as Governor, Texas shifted from a heavy focus on treatment to a strong focus on enforcement.  John Ashcroft, Bush's new attorney general who will shape national drug law enforcement, is a strong believer in enforcement over treatment.  In the area of drug policy. The American people seem to disagree with it's leaders.  According to a 1998 Harvard School of Public Health report, 78 percent of Americans believe anti-drug efforts have failed, with 58 percent stating that after five years of increased anti-drug spending, the nation's drug problems have not improved.

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This article is from Join Together Online
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Supporters of drug-policy reform are concerned that they will be ignored by President Bush as he focuses his agenda on education and tax cuts, AlterNet reported Jan. 29.

Those in the movement believe that public opinion is swinging towards drug reform. According to a 1998 Harvard School of Public Health report, 78 percent of Americans believe anti-drug efforts have failed, with 58 percent stating that after five years of increased anti-drug spending, the nation's drug problems have not improved.

Calls for change also are being made by bipartisan public-policy organizations, including the Cato Institute and the Lindesmith Center/Drug Policy Foundation. Just before leaving office, President Clinton called for a "re-examination of entire policy of imprisonment."

"A lot of people are in prison today because they have drug problems or alcohol problems," Clinton said. "And too many of them are getting out -- particularly out of state systems without treatment, without education, without skills, without serious efforts at job placement. There are tons
of people in prison who are nonviolent offenders -- who have drug-related charges that are directly related to their own drug problems. Our prison policies are counterproductive."

But Bush is not expected to spend much time on the war on drugs.

To date, President Bush has made no official statements about his views on drug policy. During a Jan. 19 CNN interview, however, he said he was "willing to look at" reducing minimum sentences for first-time users.

John Ashcroft, Bush's selection as U.S. Attorney General, has been a firm believer in enforcement over treatment. In a statement regarding his views on drug policy, Ashcroft stated, "A government which takes the resources that we would devote toward the interdiction of drugs and converts them to treatment resources is a government that accommodates us at our lowest and least."
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