- The Washington Times - Monday, October 16, 2006

Buzz kill

First, it was Office of National Drug Control Policy Director John P. Walters contending last week that of the “roughly 7 million people we have as an estimate that need treatment because of dependence or abuse of illegal drugs, roughly 60 percent are dependent on marijuana.”

To which Bruce Mirken, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project on Capitol Hill, responded that Mr. Walters was being “deliberately and rather brazenly disingenuous,” because the majority of medical-treatment admissions he cited “were referred by the criminal justice system — i.e., kids were arrested and offered treatment instead of jail.”

Now it’s Thomas A. Riley, spokesman for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, telling Inside the Beltway readers not to buy into Mr. Mirken’s “goofy spin.” Mr. Riley argues that one cannot talk about the drug-dependency problem in this country today without acknowledging the “role” of marijuana.

“It’s a much more serious drug of abuse than many people of my generation realized,” he says. “People can differ about policies here, but there is no serious dispute about the facts, however inconvenient or harmful they may be for people who want to legalize marijuana.”

As for Mr. Mirken’s arguments, Mr. Riley counters that the best U.S. government estimate of the number of Americans suffering from marijuana dependency is based on applying certain criteria to the large number of people surveyed annually about their personal drug use.

“It has nothing to do with the number of ‘arrests’ — just what the people themselves said about their drug use,” says Mr. Riley, although he acknowledges of these particular polls’ error margins. “Maybe the pot smokers in the survey were too stoned or confused to answer accurately.”

Washington flavors

The Acadiana restaurant was opening in Washington at precisely the same time Hurricane Katrina was shutting down Louisiana — September 2005 — which made it extremely difficult for executive chef Jeff Tunks, who once worked in New Orleans, to obtain the coastal-Louisiana ingredients that filled the menu.

Still, Mr. Tunks went forward with the opening of the Louisiana-style seafood house on New York Avenue Northwest and even served up authentic oyster po’ boys on New Orleans-baked Leidenheimer bread.

“These will be the last of the Louisiana oysters for a while,” Mr. Tunks says. “Fortunately, we have a two- to three-month supply of the bread, which is essential for a genuine po’ boy. You can’t reproduce it.”

We recall this most untimely opening because now, one year later, Mr. Tunks and his staff are celebrating Acadiana’s just being named one of the country’s “Best New Restaurants for 2006,” according to the November issue of Esquire.

In fact, John Mariani, the magazine’s popular food and wine editor, who literally eats his way across America to compile his annual best-restaurant list, has chosen yet another new Washington restaurant for the elite honors — Rasika (Sanskrit for “flavors”), on nearby D Street Northwest.

“Like Junnoon, this place is out to show Americans that Indian cuisine is as diverse as the subcontinent it comes from,” Mr. Mariani writes.

Twenty new restaurants across the country made the coveted Esquire list.

Attention, Congress

President Bush, without a moment to spare, has issued a proclamation declaring this week National Character Counts Week.

Mr. Bush agreed there’s no better time to “renew our commitment to instilling values in our young people and to encouraging all Americans to remember the importance of good character.”

Rescuing Rover

Man’s best friends and other beloved animals — and 63 percent of American households have pets, according to American Pet Products Manufacturers Association — won’t get left behind during the next major hurricane under legislation introduced by Rep. Tom Lantos, California Democrat.

When Hurricane Katrina struck last year, many residents in harm’s way were forced to evacuate their homes and leave pets behind. Thousands either did not survive or are still separated from their owners.

The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006 would ensure states and localities include evacuation of pets within their emergency- and disaster-preparedness plans.

Whose line is it?

“Not to be cruel, but people who are morally righteous about saving the animals are laughable. People are poor, sick and dying. Give that animal you were going to help to a poor person so they can eat it or wear it or keep it as a pet.”

—Stand-up comic Greg Proops of TV’s “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” fame. And his political incorrectness didn’t stop with that one-liner, as he also headlined this past weekend’s annual “George Bush Going Away Party: An Evening of Political Humor” in San Francisco.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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