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General McCaffrey Leaves The Field Of Battle
No Replacement Named Two Months Into Bush Administration; Status Of Office In Doubt
Former Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey is back in the news. The Associated Press reported on March 29, 2001 ( "Delay In Naming Drug Policy Director Raises Concerns") that Gen. McCaffrey is "expressing concern that more than two months into the Bush presidency, no one has been nominated to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy." According to the story, McCaffrey commented "'It's bad. There's nothing happening. They're out of the game.'" The AP story also mentions the release of a study on effectiveness of drug policy, commissioned by McCaffrey's office in 1998. The study "found drug prevention efforts are hampered by a lack of information about their effectiveness." The report is also highly critical of "conventional wisdom" regarding illicit drug control, noting "In summary, existing research seems to indicate that there is little apparent relationship between severity of sanctions prescribed for drug use and prevalence or frequency of use, and that perceived legal risk explains very little in the variance of individual drug use." (p. 6-5)
The report, "Informing Policy's Policy on Illegal Drugs: What We Don't Know Keeps Hurting Us" (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2001) is available free on the web, or may be purchased through National Academy Press.
General's Own Parting Shots At Drug War He Helmed
General Barry McCaffrey (US Army-Ret.) left his position as Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy on Jan. 4, 2001. No replacement has been named by the incoming Bush administration, and questions have been raised about the Bush administration's commitment to maintaining the agency's cabinet-level status.
General McCaffrey and his predecessor under President Clinton, Lee Browne, oversaw an escalation in the drug war -- according to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, drug arrests increased from 1.1 million in 1993 to more than 1.5 million in 1999, with the proportion of marijuana arrests increasing dramatically; the number of drug offenders incarcerated in federal or state prisons grew from less than 225,000 to more than 300,000;, the amount spent on drug enforcement grew from a little over $12 Billion to nearly $19 Billion.
Gen. McCaffrey led opposition within the Administration to needle exchange programs and is held responsible for singlehandedly preventing HHS from supporting needle exchanges in the late 1990s.
The General's final report, available from the web at http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/, concedes that not enough money and other support is given to drug treatment.
Common Sense has been a frequent gadfly to Gen. McCaffrey, pointing out and correcting his misstatements, misrepresentations and errors (see our ad campaign for examples).
Though his policies have been horrid, Gen. McCaffrey does get credit for putting the drug policy issue sqarely before the American public. More than any other official, Gen. McCaffrey is responsible -- albeit certainly not intentionally -- for some in the public and the media finally finally questioning the wisdom of current US drug policy. For this, the entire reform movement will miss the General.
At this time, no nominee for the ONDCP Director position has been named by the incoming Bush administration. In the meantime, the Acting Director of ONDCP is the former General Counsel for that agency, Edward Jurith. Mr. Jurith started his career in drug policy as Legal Counsel and Staff Director to Rep. Charles Rangel's old House Select Committee on Narcotics, serving from 1981 to 1993.