The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Bruce Mirken, MPP director of communications
202-215-4205 or 415-668-6403

Dressing Up Failure: Will Drug Czar Finally Face Reality With Release of New Drug Survey Thursday?


With release of the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health slated for Thursday morning, drug policy analysts are asking: Will ONDCP director John Walters acknowledge reality this time, or continue the deceptive spin that has marked his tenure as drug czar?

"As drug czar, John Walters has been a veritable disinformation machine," said Aaron Houston, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. "Despite reams of scientific data showing that his claims are flat wrong, Walters touts get-tough policies and a rigid reliance on marijuana prohibition as essential to protecting young people from drug abuse."

A World Health Organization study published this July found that despite having some of the world's strictest marijuana laws -- resulting in some 830,000 marijuana arrests in 2006 -- the United States had the highest marijuana use rate of 17 countries surveyed. Compared to the Netherlands, which allows purchase and possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults, the United States had double the rate of marijuana use overall, with nearly three times as many youths trying marijuana by age 15. The study, conducted by an internationally renowned group of researchers, concluded that drug use rates have no simple relationship to policy, directly contradicting Walters' central message for the last seven years.

Even more worrisome, Houston noted, were signs that Walters' obsessive emphasis on marijuana -- the subject of over 100 government TV, radio and print advertisements as well as dozens of federal reports and news releases during Walters' tenure -- may be misleading teens about the dangers of drugs that are far more lethal. According to the federally funded Monitoring the Future survey, teen use of deadly inhalants has remained virtually unchanged during Walters' tenure, and actually rose among 10th-graders in 2007. Eighth-graders' use of heroin and hallucinogens also rose last year.

"John Walters is an ideologue from the George W. Bush White House whose only interest in data is whether he can spin it to justify a completely failed approach," Houston said. "He can lie all he wants, but that doesn't make it true."

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is the number one organization in the U.S. legalizing cannabis. We passed 13 medical cannabis laws in the past 15 years, and we ran winning campaigns in eight of the 11 legalization states. No organization in the movement has changed as many cannabis laws, impacted as many patients and consumers, created as many new markets, or done more to end cannabis prohibition in the U.S. than MPP.