Speaking at the ninth annual U.S./Mexico Drug Demand Reduction Conference in Washington D.C. this week, White House Drug Czar and former Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske made it clear that he thinks the failed War on Drugs is not only successful, but should be escalated.
In arguing for more law enforcement and international anti-drug efforts, Kerlikowske made quite the pronouncement. He said "the rate of Americans using illicit drugs today is roughly half what it was in the late 1970?s."
Actually not.Try roughly 12 percent lower.
And that drop--which is compared to a survey in 1979, which recorded the highest number of Americans using drugs ever--shows zero evidence of being a result of increased prohibition and law enforcement efforts.
According to the most recent National Survey of Drug Use and Health (2009), an estimated 21.8 million Americans 12 years old and older reported doing drugs in the past month.
That same survey in 1979 showed that 25 million Americans 12-and-older reported using drugs in the last month.
From 25 million to about 22 million is nowhere near "roughly half."
And if Kerlikowske is going on percentage of population, he's still off the mark. The percentage of Americans using drugs in the 1979 survey was 14.1 percent. The rate now is 8.7 percent. That's a 38 percent drop. Not half, or even "roughly half."
We sent multiple requests to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy seeking clarification on what the hell Kerlikowske was talking about. But no one has responded thus far.
Here's another gem from Kerlikowske's talk on Wednesday:
"Data show(s) that the most prevalent illegal drug, marijuana, has rates of current use in the U.S. population barely one-sixth the rate of alcohol, another substance of abuse, but one that is legal. It is clear that the risks and disincentives against using an illegal substance, such as marijuana, are factors in maintaining that lower prevalence.It is clear that the risks and disincentives against using an illegal substance, such as marijuana, are factors in maintaining that lower prevalence."
Is it clear, Mr. Kerlikowske?
What is clear, and what the Drug Czar fails to mention, is that marijuana use has either steadily increased or essentially stayed the same (depending on how you slice the numbers) among Americans since 1979.
If only there were a chart that showed as much.
Oh, wait. There is.
One man who's deeply familiar with Kerlikowske's never-say-die attitude toward the drug war is also a man who used to have Kerlikowske's old job of Seattle Police Chief.
Former SPD Chief Norm Stamper is now one of the fiercest critics of the War on Drugs.
Norm Stamper served as SPD Chief from 1994 to 2000, when he resigned in the wake his handling of the WTO riots of 1999.
Since then he's been an outspoken member of the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition as a ceaseless critic of the drug war.
He tells Seattle Weekly that Kerlikowske's statements are "absolutely deceitful" and that if he had Kerlikowske's job, he'd be fired after one day for speaking the truth.
"If I was drug czar I would violate the law and I wouldn't last a day," he says, referring to a law that bars the National Drug Control Policy Director from speaking out publicly in favor of drug legalization. "I would in fact commit an act of civil disobedience and openly advocate an end to prohibition. The drug war is killing us. Quite literally. But we still have guys like Kerlikowske who think we can just arrest our way out of this problem. "
The backdrop to all this is a recent bombshell report commissioned by folks like President Jimmy Carter, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, former U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz, and former Mexican President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
This report blasted the U.S. War on Drugs as costly, ineffective, and dangerous, saying that the war has essentially only led to more people in prison and more violent thugs getting rich selling drugs.
The problem with that report, however, is that it uses a lot of real facts. Facts that don't support the narrative that keeping people off drugs depends on enforcing harsh drug laws.
And Kerlikowske, as shown by his recent patently false statements, does not seem to hold facts in high regard.