After spending 200 billion federal dollars and arresting 12 million to fight drugs over the last decade, America is now suffering its worst drug disaster ever. Even the meaningless measure McCaffrey obsesses over, teenage drug use, was declining before the drug war escalated (39 percent of high school seniors reported monthly use in 1979; down to 21 percent in 1988) but rose markedly after (26 percent in the newest, 1998 survey).
Abject failure has spawned abject prevarication. Europeans made McCaffrey a laughingstock when he allowed on last summer's junket that The Netherlands' liberal marijuana policies caused rising drug deaths (Dutch drug fatalities are plummeting as America's skyrocket) and a murder rate double that of the U.S. (the U.S. rate is eight times higher). Safely back home where the press sanctifies his fibs, McCaffrey declared that American adults' drug abuse had been cut in half since 1979 (federal reports show it has exploded). Vice president Al Gore, positioning for Campaign 2000, claimed success in cutting teenage drug use (only weeks earlier, the White House deplored new surveys showing the "youth drug increase persists").
The latest policy Gore unveiled squanders two-thirds of its budget on failed policing strategies. It perpetuates a $200 million advertising crusade designed to aggrandize McCaffrey's office and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America while terrorizing suburban parents that their cherubs lead secret lives of doped debauchery. Dumb, trusting mom may think her eighth- grade towhead is at school, a friend's house, piano lessons, or soccer practice, but actually the smirking little wastoid is getting stoned at all the above. Two truthful ads we'll never see: (a) three times more teens go to hospital ER due to effects of over-the-counter drugs the Partnership s big-pharmaceutical funders dispense than from all illicit drugs put together, and (b) Mom is a dozen times more likely to have drug habit than Junior.
The crucial reality that anti-drug warriors have suppressed shows up clearly in DAWN studies, arrest records, treatment rosters, drug use surveys, and the barrage of silly high-school drug-dog sniffings and random tests (which never seem to find anything): there is no teenage or young-adult drug problem of any significant magnitude. California's most recent, 1997 drug- death figures are typical: teens ages 19 and younger, 37; adults ages 20 and older, 2,297.
The unpalatable truth is that today's drug crisis is aging baby boomers. Six of seven drug deaths and ER cases are over age 30. The eruptions in hard-drug and alcohol addictions, violent and property crime, domestic violence, child abuse, and murder of children by parents and other adults over the last two decades represent far greater dangers to our kids than teenage pot smoking.
Menaced by a generation of adults suffering record drug malaise and a Drug War indulging politically-corrupted denial thereof, kids have designed their own survival strategies. They are avoiding the hard stuff, which is why adolescents are safer from overdose or drunken driving casualty than their 30- and 40- age parents.
Even though teens' use of milder drugs such as marijuana and beer do not predict problems now or in the future, young people are drawing ridiculous punishments from "zero tolerance" crusaders. Youths deserve not more hypocrisy, but a policy of "zero tolerance" for the adult abuses, scapegoatings, lies, and denials of the War on Drugs.