- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 9, 2006

DENVER — The Bush administration yesterday announced its 2006 National Drug Control Strategy in the first city to legalize marijuana, a decision that wasn’t entirely coincidental.

John P. Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, who selected a youth drug treatment center here as the site for the announcement, said Denver represented “a model of what we see and what we’re trying to face.”

“We really came here because they had many of the elements we were looking for: the federal-local partnership, they’ve faced problem with methamphetamine labs, they’ve faced the problem with drug trafficking from the southwest border,” Mr. Walters said.

“At the same time, I certainly don’t shy away from going to places where [millionaire campaign financier] George Soros tells people that using drugs [is] safe and that drug use should be legal,” he said.

The 2006 strategy calls for a continuation of the Bush administration’s balance of reducing demand through, among other things, drug-prevention campaigns, and reducing supply by securing the Mexican border.

Mr. Walters described the strategy, implemented in 2001, as a success, pointing to studies showing that overall teenage drug use has dropped since then by 19 percent. Use of methamphetamine, LSD and steroids also have declined, he said.

“What we’ve learned is that treatment and education can work,” said Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican who appeared with Mr. Walters at the press conference. “A lot of times we’re told it’s an unwinnable battle, yet the numbers are clear — we are winning.”

Denver stunned the nation in November when voters approved an initiative decriminalizing adult possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana, the most liberal such law in the nation. Legalization activists now are working to put a similar measure on the statewide ballot, a proposal Mr. Owens and state Attorney General John Suthers have vowed to defeat.

Mr. Walters said his office would support the effort to defeat the initiative if it wins a slot on the November ballot. “We’ve decided to stand with the people who provide treatment,” said Mr. Walters. “Marijuana is the single biggest cause of treatment in this country by far.”

Mason Tvert, executive director of Safer Alternatives for Enjoyable Recreation, accused Mr. Walters of using federal funds to campaign against the initiative by bringing his anti-drug message to Colorado.

“I obviously think it’s pretty ridiculous that they’ve called in the federal government to do their dirty work for them,” said Mr. Tvert. “It’s unfortunate the drug czar is willing to spend federal money to fly to Denver and strategize against future ballot measures.”

Mr. Tvert, the mover behind the successful Denver measure and now the statewide proposal, said that Mr. Soros, a critic of the federal war on drugs, has given no money to either marijuana-legalization campaign.

Legalization advocates say marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol and deny that pot is a “gateway drug” for more dangerous narcotics.

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