- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2001

President Bush nominated John P. Walters last week to be Americas drug czar. That job has never been harder. But Mr. Walters opportunity to shine as a consensus-builder and font of ideas has never been greater. Key to the new drug czars success will be presidential support, handling seven pressures deftly, and embracing 10 promising ideas.
First, the drug war is entirely winnable, if we mean reducing dramatically the number of teens using drugs and markedly reducing drug imports from abroad. In nominating Mr. Walters last Thursday, the president delivered a passionate argument for prevention, treatment and law enforcement that was at once deep and unexpectedly encouraging. That said, there are seven specific pressures that loom large for the new drug czar, and did not a decade ago.
The well-funded drug legalization movement is one. Today, millions of dollars are spent trying to deceive voters about the impact of pouring drugs into society through medicalization, decriminalization and so-called harm reduction all code words for legalization. False representations about the alleged harmlessness of illegal drugs hope to seduce teens into use and lull overworked parents into indifference. This clever marketing campaign aims to induce hopelessness, follow it up sharply with referenda around the nation legalizing drugs, and hope for policy paralysis. Mr. Walters must call a spade a spade; legalization by any name means increased availability. As President Bush and Mr. Walters acknowledged last week, more drugs means more use. More use means more overdoses, accidents, brain damage, addiction, and suffering across families, society and for unexpectedly addicted teens. Case closed.
Pressure two is Congress. The 1998 Drug Czar Reauthorization Act is unforgiving. It quietly revolutionized the Drug Czar office, imposing weighty obligations upon the holder of the post. Like the tide rolling in under an unsuspecting dory, the drug czar suddenly got major new authority to coordinate federal anti-drug programs. But in exchange for these new powers, he was left unprotected from the stormy scrutiny of Congress. President Bush prudently maintained Cabinet status for the drug czar, but he must continue to demonstrate the kind of vocal support he did last week, or the post will fast become irrelevant, except as a habitual object of congressional scorn.
Third, interagency pressure will be enormous. Mr. Walters has arrived in the middle of the budget cycle, just in time to collect arrows fired from every agency and direction. Only as an exceptional listener, master-synthesizer of common concerns, educator and balanced advocate of demand, supply and out-of-the-box ideas can he succeed in building an interagency consensus.
Fourth, fifth and sixth, the drug czar must tackle an unprecedented lack of information among teens and parents; unparalleled purity levels and new drug types; and trafficking cartels more ruthless and closer to dominating hometown U.S.A. than ever.
Seventh, Mr. Walters must confront boldly the false impression that a drug war has been waged and failed. The officeholder must say clearly that coordinated, fully-funded, nonpartisan drug policy works. History tells us this in flashing neon.
Effective and properly funded efforts triumphed between 1979 and 1991. Only since then have we experienced slippage. From 1986 to 1991, America witnessed a 72 percent drop in cocaine use and a two-thirds decline in marijuana use. So, be clear it can be done.
We must learn from those days, but not expect old solutions to work in a more endangered culture. To win now, we need new ideas. Here are 10. Be honest about so-called "drug budget scoring." We claim far too much of the federal budget as "anti-drug money," including programs like Americorps and others that should rightly to be called what they are, not dubbed "anti-drug" to avoid an appropriators knife.
Second, use the Internet proactively in schools to create interactive educational media that grabs kids. Take a page from increasingly successful efforts by pioneers as The Partnership for a Drug Free America, StepOnLine.com, and WILL Interactive, people reaching out to teens and parents in a whole new way.
Third, rediscover successful drug treatment. John Walters has demonstrated support for nonviolent offender drug treatment paired with accountable drug testing, so-called "drug courts." They work, and so does accountable, faith-based treatment.
Fourth, shout loudly a core fact prevention works. Properly funded prevention, such as that offered by the Partnerships head-turning ads or D.A.R.E Americas new curriculum under tutelage of the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, leaves a lasting impression; when deepened by successive contacts, prevention is a slam dunk. We dont stop teaching first grade once five classes are through, so dont sunset effective prevention efforts. Kids who know the facts about drugs dont use them.
Fifth, stop methamphetamines by treating California as a virtual source country. Californias "super-labs" create 300 times the amount of meth per lab as those found anywhere else in America and account for 80 percent of the meth consumed in the U.S. We need to dedicate sufficient federal resources to stop this bilge.
Sixth, think "out of the box" by spurring community and state anti-drug coordination. A model that works well is the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws, a nonprofit funded by Congress and the Office of National Drug Control Policy that seeds literally hundreds of community efforts through statewide conferences in dozens of states. The equally dynamic Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America is a reinforcing incubator for effective drug prevention. Communities and parents are the ultimate solution, because they are where the heart is. Empower them.
Seventh, more law enforcement information sharing among State and local law enforcement will reap huge returns. That is why the Regional Information Sharing System, for example, is expanding faster than traffickers. It is a federally sponsored intelligence backbone to beat mobile criminals. As the traffickers go high-tech, the federal government must help state and local law enforcement to do so also. Other valid ideas include a national training center for law enforcers who operate in High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTAs), to give greater continuity to HIDTA training nationwide.
Eighth, ninth and 10th, use several key performance measures in every aspect of the drug war; create bonds where none existed before, such as between treatment providers and prosecutors; and work ceaselessly to foster international cooperation, more carrot and less stick, to replicate in Colombia and in Mexico the drug-eradication successes of Bolivia and Peru.
Last Thursday, we learned of the presidents heartening commitment to the drug war. What he should now keep in mind is that most parents and teens consider the drug issue the most difficult they face. He should also know that if Mr. Walters is empowered to win he can.

Robert Charles was chief counsel to the U.S. House National Security Subcommittee (1995-1999), chief staffer to Speaker Hasterts Task Force on a Drug Free America (1997-1999), teaches at Harvard University and is president of Direct Impact, L.L.C.


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