Since the 1980s, Freedom has investigated and reported on the problem of legal and illegal drugs in America in the continuing series, The Drugging of America, and numerous other features. New information from our intensive and ongoing probe into this subject will be presented in our next edition.
Tens of billions of dollars have been consumed in the War on Drugs and since that is a war America is losing, some say that money is wasted. The bitter reality of lives destroyed by drug abuse, however, requires us to look for effective solutions to the problem.
In the interest of fostering discussion on this vital subject, of concern to all Americans, we invited each of the presidential candidates to submit their views on what can be done about the drug problem.
Their thoughts are presented here, without alteration.
Freedom welcomes readers responses.
The following are the views of the Democratic Party candidate, Bill Clinton, president of the United States:
As I said in the State of the Union, if we ever expect to reduce crime and violence in our country to the low level that would make it the exception rather than the rule, we have to reduce the drug problem. We know it is a difficult battle. We know that overall drug use and crime are down in every segment of our society except one our young people. And that makes the battle more difficult and more important.
The glamorization of drugs and violence is a big reason for this. Thats why I worked so hard for the V-chip and the television rating system. Thats why we need to stop the glorification of drugs in our popular culture. And for those who say we should throw in the towel and just make drugs legal I say, not on my watch. That would be a mistake.
Over the last two decades we have made significant progress in this effort. Just in 1979, more than 22 million Americans used illegal drugs. Five million used cocaine. Today less than 12 million Americans are regular drug users, and the number of cocaine users has dropped 30 percent in the past three years. But theproblem is still too great, and again, it is perplexing and troubling as it affects our juvenile population.
rugs are as much a threat to our security as any outside enemy is today. They are a leading cause of crime and violence. They add literally billions of dollars to health care costs every year. There is a new CDC report that says that drugs are the cause of at least half of all the new HIV infections in the United States. And drugs are imperiling our nations most precious resource, our children.
In the last three years we have tried to take many concrete steps to protect our children and their future. Were working to get hard-core drug users off the street, to make sure they cant commit crimes, and to get them into treatment. Were bringing prevention to our schools by teaching our children that drugs are wrong, illegal, and dangerous. Weve put more police on the street, and that is a major cause of the decline in the crime rate.
Earlier this year I signed a directive requiring drug testing of federal arrestees. We are doing all we can to stop drugs at their source, before they get to our borders.
But I know that we have to do more as does Barry McCaffrey, the Director of National Drug Control Policy. Theres no one more capable to lead this effort than General McCaffrey. He has always taken a comprehensive view towards problem solving, and he knows that our efforts in the struggle against drugs will require a combination of treatment, prevention, education, enforcement and interdiction.
But he cannot do it alone.
Hes going to need a larger force than he has ever commanded before indeed, a larger force than he and his colleagues who have come from the Pentagon to join him today have ever commanded before. Hes going to need every American doing his or her part if we are going to succeed.
It means with our families, with parents talking firmly and clearly with their children; with our communities, our houses of worship, our schools, our employers, our national and community groups. We must ensure that our parents, our teachers and all Americans send a strong message to our children that drugs are wrong, drugs are illegal and drugs can kill you. The fight against drugs must, in the end, be a citizens campaign because every citizen has a direct stake in the outcome.
As I have said many times in different contexts, when we are divided as a country we defeat ourselves, but when America is united we never lose. I believe we can be united in this cause, and I believe we can win this great enduring struggle for our character, our soul, and the future of our children.
When America is united we never lose.
The following are the views of Republican Party candidate Bob Dole:
Between 1979 and 1992, overall illegal drug use fell by half. The War on Drugs in the 1980s was one of the greatest social policy victories of our times. This triumph was abandoned at the moment of our success. And this is why the dangerous resurgence of drugs is the greatest social policy failure of our times.
Both victory and defeat are temporary against drugs, because our effort must be repeated each year, as new children cross the threshold into a world of hard choices. Every child is another chance to make things go right, to recover our nerve.
As president, I will ensure that the Office of National Drug Control Policy is adequately staffed and given the tools to do the job. Never again will this office be abandoned by the president.
As president, I will not preside over a conspiracy of neglect. I will speak out on drugs every month that I am in office. I will not let one month go by without adding my voice to the chorus of the concerned who will say to our young people: Just Dont Do It.
t one time, not long ago, the adult world worked together in the interests of children. Movies and music condemned drug dealers as villains and drug users as losers. Nancy Reagan set a simple standard of Just Say No, and politicians, of both parties, pounded that message home. Parents became more educated and involved.
As president, I will encourage the movie, television and music industries to embrace a no-use, zero tolerance message in the products they market to Americas youth. I will invite parents groups, educators and members of the entertainment industry to a White House conference to establish a voluntary strategy to end the glamorization of drugs.
As president, I will ensure that the Justice Department and federal prosecutors throughout the United States take a hard line against drug dealers. When it comes to fighting drug crime, our nation will keep its word.
As president, I will spearhead the creation of 1,000 new community-based anti-drug coalitions, involving parents, religious leaders, businessmen, educators, policemen and health care professionals in spreading the word against drug abuse.
I will establish a concrete, measurable goal as the test of our success: a 50 percent reduction in teen drug use by the end of the year 2000. We have done it before. We must do it again.
We have an obligation to teach our children to value reason, and to show them what is right and what is wrong. Drug use is wrong. It destroys individual character and responsibility, it leaves us useless to God and our neighbor, it drains humans of their humanity and robs children of their childhoods, and it is wrong because it numbs our capacity for loyalty and love.
We must restore the certainty of our standards, and the commitment of our government. We know that resolve and moral clarity have the power to change our world, and the world of our children. We know it because we have done it before. Together, a president and a nation can take a stand and make a difference.
The goal of a drug-free America is a goal that must be shared by every institution of the adult world. To this effort I can pledge one thing. I will bring all the power and prestige of the office of President of the United States to a renewed war on drugs.
I will not preside over a conspiracy of neglect.
The following are the views of Reform Party candidate Ross Perot:
After a few years of decline, drug use is once again on the rise. These are just a few examples:
mericas War on Drugs is not over. Drug use is on the rise in our nation, and our leaders, starting with the President, must do everything in their power to stop the chemical warfare that is being waged against our children.
Our leaders should not be debating whether we need to focus on drug interdiction, drug education or drug prosecution. We need to focus on each and every aspect because this must be treated like any other war an all-out offensive is needed.
- Since 1992, the number of high-school seniors who use drugs at least once a month has increased 52 percent.
- In 1992, 2.4 million children between the ages of 12 and 17 used drugs. In 1994, that number skyrocketed to 3.8 million children.
- Hard-core use of cocaine is rising. Hard-core users are more likely to resort to crime to pay for their addiction.
- In 1980, less than 20,000 people ended up in emergency rooms because of cocaine use. In 1994, cocaine put more than 140,000 people in emergency rooms.
- In 1982, a gram of cocaine cost $286. In 1995, the same amount cost less than $100. Drugs are like any other business, when supply is up, prices are down.
The reason drug use is up is because we have become lax in fighting each battle of the drug war. For example, Coast Guard planes flew more than 23,000 hours of drug interdiction flights in 1991. By 1994, this number dropped to 6,300 hours. As a result, cocaine seizures, which had been as much as 35.4 tons in 1993, declined to only 10.8 tons in 1995.
What should we do? The first step is to increase spending on addiction and education programs. We must help the people who are using drugs, and we need to make sure our children and every other American know that drugs kill.
The next step is to punish those who try to sell drugs. Strict sentences without parole should be mandatory for drug dealers. Particularly, anyone caught selling drugs to a child should serve a long, mandatory jail term.
Then we must empower the drug czar with broad powers. We need to get the Coast Guard, military, border patrol, Drug Enforcement Agency, Customs, FBI, local and state law enforcement agencies, and foreign governments all coordinated to fight the drug war together to make the war as efficient and successful as possible. The war on drugs cant be limited to our shores, because production occurs around the world. We need the equivalent of the Monroe Doctrine for drugs, that says we will fight drug production and smuggling anywhere in the western hemisphere.
We must fight and win the war on drugs, but we need determined leadership to get it done.
An all-out offensive: Increase spending on addiction and education programs.
The following are the views of Libertarian Party candidate Harry Browne:
If we really want to start to solve the problem of drugs in America, the quickest and most effective step would be to end the insane War on Drugs.
First, we need to admit that the government has failed completely to stop people from taking drugs. It cant stop drugs from coming into the country it cant even stop drugs from getting into prisons.
Thats why it has become obvious to more and more Americans that this War will never be won. The past 30 years have seen a steady flow of tougher laws, formation of new task forces, expansion of powers for agencies like the CIA or FBI, news of drug busts that presumably broke the back of the drug trade, confiscation of enormous amounts of cocaine and heroin, and gleeful news showing increases in arrests and convictions.
overnment doesnt work. And the governments War on Drugs doesnt work. In fact, it is the quintessential example that government doesnt work.
Still, the War is no closer to victory than ever. The War has served only to reduce our liberties. Warrantless searches, uncharged detentions, property seizures, and mistaken arrests have become the rule all in violation of the Bill of Rights. The War also cost us hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes, the corruption of police forces, soaring crime rates and gang warfare.
Second, we need to admit that there has always been a demand for mind-altering drugs, and there always will be. This demand will be met by someone. If drugs are legal as are alcohol and tobacco the demand will be met by legitimate companies who conduct their business in a calm, non-violent manner. If drugs are illegal, the demand will be met mostly by criminals who are willing to risk capture and imprisonment to make enormous profits.
Third, we need to admit that much of the misery that seems to come from illegal drugs results from the very fact that the drugs are illegal. People die from toxic drugs because it is illegal for reputable companies to provide a safe product. And the illegality of drugs means there is little literature available to help addicts handle their addiction safely.
If drugs were completely legal, probably a few well-known companies would produce them. Prices would be a fraction of what they are today, so addicts wouldnt need to steal to support their habits.
Legalization would also reduce the problem of gangs many of which finance their activities with drug sales, and battle each other to gain monopolies over geographic areas. Innocent people get shot in the crossfire and in drive-by shootings. Its the Prohibition era all over again.
Would legalization and lower prices lead to more drug users? Possibly. But those who did use drugs would probably have fewer problems than drug users do today, because the drug companies would have to compete on the basis of safety just as the makers of cars and airplanes do now.
Drug warriors point to crack babies, or celebrity drug victims, or to some other tragedy caused by drugs. These events are very real. But they werent caused by drug legalization; they occurred with drugs outlawed. So they shouldnt be considered warnings against legalization unless theres evidence that these events would increase if drugs were legalized. And Ive seen no such evidence.
If you want to stop drug use and reduce the problems that come with drugs there has to be a better way than asking the government to do it. This country may not be able to survive another 35 years of the War on Drugs.
The views expressed above are those of the candidates, and not necessarily those of Freedom Magazine.
The editors hope that by publishing these, we will stimulate discussion and understanding.
We invite you to share your own views on this subject.
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This country may not be able to survive another 35 years of the war on drugs.