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Black Leaders and Public Health Advocates Criticize Misinformation by Drug Czar
General Barry McCaffrey to Testify Before House Committee on Government Oversight, February 25, 1999

Washington D.C. - Leading black intellectuals and public health advocates have joined drug policy reform advocates to criticize Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey for "a series of inaccurate and misleading statements" he has made over the last year. The individuals are sending a letter listing the General's misstatements on February 25, 1999, the same day McCaffrey will testify before the House Committee on Government Oversight.

The letter signers include Harvard professors Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., Dr. Alvin Poussaint, Dr. Orlando Patterson, and Dr. William Julius Wilson, as well as the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, the National Black Police Association, the National Women's Health Network, and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.

Kevin Zeese, President of Common Sense for Drug Policy, who circulated the letter, said, "As the father of two boys, I find it deeply disturbing that the Drug Czar is making these misstatements while spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars urging parents to tell the truth about drugs. General McCaffrey should set a better example."

This is not the first time McCaffrey has been criticized for supporting a criminal justice rather than a public health approach to the drug problem. After McCaffrey successfully lobbied President Clinton to block federal funding for needle exchange, several members of the Congressional Black Caucus called for the Drug Czar's resignation. And Common Sense for Drug Policy, an advocacy organization based in Falls Church Virginia, has been running advertisements for the last six months in The New Republic criticizing the Drug Czar for making false statements.

One irony is that McCaffrey said on NPR's Talk of the Nation, "I don't think we're going to arrest our way out of this. We've got 1.7 million people behind bars right now" (Feb. 25, 1998). Yet the Drug Czar's funding request for 2000 increases the law enforcement budget by 4.7 percent ($524 million increase for a total of $11.7 billion) while increasing the prevention and treatment budget by 3.6 percent ($210 million for a total of $6 billion).

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