DRUG WAR BRIEFS: Drug Czar Admits Failure

Drug War Briefs

Drug Czar Admits Failure

This week, New York's Governor Pataki pushes for a rewrite of the Rockefeller Drug Laws; the head of Colombia's anti-narcotics police is removed after alleged embezzling charges; the Correctional Service of Canada proposes turning a blind eye to marijuana use in prison; singer Dionne Warwick is arrested for marijuana possession; and Drug Czar John Walters calls the federal government's anti-drug advertising campaign a failure.

May 10- New York's Star-Gazette reports: The Pataki administration has revved up its efforts to negotiate a rewrite of New York's drug laws, floating a new proposal and putting on a full-court press by its criminal justice chief.

Chauncey Parker, who became Pataki's criminal justice chief earlier this year, said he's been working full time on the issue. "This is the No. 1 priority the governor has set for me," Parker said.

Enacted under Gov. Nelson Rockefeller in 1973, New York's drug laws are considered among the nation's harshest. Offenders can receive life terms for possessing or selling even small amounts of narcotics. The laws grant judges little discretion on sentencing people convicted of certain felonies.

Since their enactment, the laws have contributed to the growth in the number of state prisoners. The prison population mushroomed from 12,500 in 1973 to 71,472 in 1999, but has now dropped off slightly. About 21,000 inmates are serving time for drug convictions. There were 20 state prisons in 1973 compared to 71 today.

May 11- The Fort-Worth Star-Telegram reports: The head of Colombia's anti-narcotics police was removed on Friday after about $2 million in U.S. drug war aid allegedly vanished into the pockets of some of his officers.

The widening corruption scandal had already led to the suspension of some U.S. aid to Washington's key drug-war ally and the dismissals of at least 12 police officers.

Gen. Gustavo Socha was reassigned to a police unit that provides security to dignitaries, said Gen. Ernesto Gilibert, chief of the Colombian National Police.

May 12- The Winnipeg Free Press reports: The Correctional Service of Canada has put together a proposal to turn a blind eye to some positive tests for marijuana and hashish use among prisoners and offenders released in the community, the Globe and Mail reported yesterday.

The correctional service, which has a zero-tolerance policy on drugs and alcohol, would continue to test for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana. But it would act on positive tests only when the drug use is considered to be a problem for an offender and there is concern about increased criminal risk.

The paper describes THC as a soft drug that sedates prisoners, reduces their propensity for violence and does not impair cognitive functions and perception as other drugs and alcohol do.

May 13- The Miami Herald reports: Dionne Warwick, the five-time Grammy award winner and former pitchwoman for the Psychic Friends Network, was arrested Sunday after screeners at Miami International Airport found 11 marijuana joints in a silver lipstick vial in her carry on.

Warwick, 61, was charged with possession of fewer than five grams of marijuana.

Warwick was in South Florida to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the American Red Ribbon Awards ceremony, which benefits Broward County's largest HIV/AIDS service organization, Community Healthcare CenterOne. The Saturday evening event at the Westin Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood recognized leaders in the fight against AIDS.

Warwick has a long history of charitable work. Her Grammy-winning single That's What Friends are For -- a collaboration with Stevie Wonder, Elton John and Gladys Knight -- raised millions of dollars for AIDS research.

Warwick, charged with a first-degree misdemeanor, could face up to 364 days in jail if convicted.

May 14- The Wall Street Journal reports: So much for those flashy TV ads intended to inspire American kids to stay off drugs. The new U.S. drug czar, John P. Walters, says the government's antidrug advertising of recent years has failed. Worse, he fears it even may have inspired some youngsters to experiment with marijuana.

"This campaign isn't reducing drug use," said Mr. Walters, who became head of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy earlier this year.

The five-year-old antidrug program is unusual among public-health advertising because it is funded largely by taxpayers -- $929 million so far.

Send tips and comments to Kevin Nelson at kcnelson@premier1.net.

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