Clinton Shifts Course on Drugs, but GOP Has Its Own Compass President Stresses Treatment, While Others Want to Get Tough
Robert Marquand, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor
THE Clinton administration wants to shift tactics in the nation's war on drugs, putting more emphasis on treatment while asking for more money.
This week, the White House sought a record $14.3 billion for drug control and prevention. Its approach will surely be challenged, though, when the administration's drug-fighting official, Lee Brown, goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee Friday.
Mr. Brown will argue for new treatment programs, part of $1.3 billion in new funds sought, and defend what majority Republicans have called an ineffective drug policy. GOP leaders feel the White House is vulnerable on the issue. They cite studies showing an increase in casual drug use among teens. Overall drug statistics, however, show a steady decrease in use between 1979 and 1992 that experts say is unrelated to federal efforts.
"Last year the administration made the mistake of trying to declare victory on drugs," says one Justice Department source. "This year they acknowledge it as a difficult and intractable problem."
The new plan continues to spend 2 out of every 3 dollars to stop drugs from entering the United States. But there is a new emphasis on the link between crime and drugs: treatment for those in the criminal-justice system where drug use is rampant and more police on the street. Some 60 percent of cocaine users, for example, are on parole or probation.
The strategy is already in jeopardy. Senate Republicans are skeptical of treatment efforts. Moreover, new GOP crime legislation pending before the House would eliminate central aspects of the program - "drug courts" that treat individuals who are awaiting trial and money earmarked for 100,000 new police - in favor of block grants. (Block grants can be used to fund new police or treatment if local authorities so choose.)
Senate Judiciary Committee chair Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah says he is "troubled" that the administration has not had a "full" drug strategy. Senator Hatch questions the emphasis on hard-core use. Sen. Connie Mack (R) of Florida has called for more spending on drug interdiction at the border.
Recent studies show casual use of drugs is inching back up. Brown said this week that marijuana use was up among adolescents. …