Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Drug Czar's coming to a town near you

Next week marks the official kick-off of the federal government's 2006 regional student drug testing summits. If the past two years' summits are any indication, this four city tour will be nothing more than a propaganda circus.

The whole thing is meant to coerce local schools into taking advantage of millions of dollars of federal grant money made available for the express purpose of testing teens' urine. While student drug testing might sound like a good idea at first glance to any teacher or parent concerned with youth drug abuse, the practice actually fails to deter young people from using drugs - as the largest study ever conducted on the topic shows.

Parents everywhere should be "pissed off" that their hard-earned tax dollars are being flushed down the toilet - literally - on programs that usurp family decision making and do nothing to stop young people from using drugs.

The first stop on the tour is next Thursday in Orlando, FL. Here's the full schedule:
Orlando, FL, January 19, 2006
(Rosen Centre Hotel, 9840 International Drive)

San Diego, CA, February 22, 2006
(Hilton San Diego Mission Valley, 901 Camino del Rio South)

Falls Church, VA, March 15, 2006
(Fairview Park Marriott, 3111 Fairview Park Drive)

Milwaukee, WI, April 25, 2006
(Hyatt Regency Milwaukee, 333 West Kilbourn Avenue)
If you live in or around any of these cities, please get in touch with SSDP as soon as possible by calling our world headquarters at (202) 293-4414 to find out how you can counteract the Drug Czar's propaganda machine when it comes to town. Students, parents, and activists had a great time raining on the Drug Czar's parade last year. Let's make sure he and his cronies know that we'll continue to be there providing the truth wherever and whenever they proliferate lies.

If you're planning on going, be sure to take a look at the student drug testing section of SSDP's website, where you'll find talking points and other materials.

UPDATE: Make sure to sign up if you're planning on attending one of the summits.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Who'd have thought: Some parents want to do their jobs

Alaska will be left out of a large annual study on youth drug use because researchers weren't able to obtain high enough response rates. This year's results were statistically insignificant because not enough parents provided written consent for their children to be given surveys about drug use, as required by state law.
The Alaska Department of Education did not bother publishing results from the Alaska Youth Risk Behavior Survey, administered last spring, because the state response to the survey was less than 60 percent.
Voters in Alaska are known for their especially strong support for citizens' privacy rights, which is embodied by the Republican state legislator who wrote the 1999 law requiring parents to sign off on survey participation.

"We don't want schools, or anyone else, intruding into the privacy of homes without their parents' permission," said state Sen. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River.

It's simply not the government's right to know some things about children without their parents agreeing, Dyson said.

"I hold the old-fashioned view that the responsibility of raising kids lies with parents," Dyson said.

The state even spent extra money on trying to get more parents to send in the consent forms.
Pizza parties for 57 classrooms cost $5,000 to $7,000, an expense borne by the state interested in obtaining results from the state's largest school district, Kerosky said.


Calling parents and asking them to sign forms had little effect.

"It didn't seem to make a big difference in our response rate," Stayrook said.

In light of the lackluster parental enthusiasm for the survey, you'd think Alaskans would also be reluctant to allow school officials to force their children into bathroom stalls and collect samples of their urine for the purposes of discerning drug use. That's why it's especially disappointing to see the Association of Alaska School Boards touting the ONDCP's federal grant money for drug testing in this July 2005 newsletter.

Drug testing is a huge impediment to family decision making, not to mention that it fails to reduce youth drug use. It's shameful that the federal government flushes Americans' hard-earned tax dollars down the toilet - literally - on testing teens' piss while doing nothing to actually prevent drug abuse. We know that strong open and honest relationships - particularly between teens and their families - are a crucial part of the effort to prevent drug abuse by young people. And schools stepping in and playing gotcha games with drug testing is wholly antithetical to that important aim.

Let's hope the Association of Alaska School Boards gets their act together and recognizes student drug testing for what it really is: bad for Alaskan families and contrary to the state's proud principles.

Monday, January 09, 2006

True conservatives vs. the Drug Czar

The American Prospect has a great report on the Drug Czar's declining ad campaign budget.
With the Iraq war and Katrina cleanup straining the federal budget, the Republican Study Committee--a klatch of over 100 Republican members of the House of Representatives--called in September for the ads warning young people about the dangers of weed, speed, and other substances to be scrapped to save money. The campaign has a budget of $100 million for this year, and has cost taxpayers well over $1 billion since its inception in 1998. But as the Republican group, headed by Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, pointed out in a statement, "there is no solid evidence that media campaigns are effective in either preventing or reducing the use of illegal drugs."
Indeed, a federally-funded study on the ads found that "there is little evidence of direct favorable Campaign effects on youth, either for the Marijuana Initiative period or for the Campaign as whole. The trend data in marijuana use is not favorable, and for the primary target audience, 14- to 16-year-olds, past year use increased from 2000 through 2003..."
Its questionable results aren’t the only controversy the campaign has kicked up. Two executives of a media company formerly hired to create the ads were jailed this last summer for over billing the ONDCP. Earlier this last year, a General Accounting Office report declared that prepackaged “news stories” created by the drug czar’s office and distributed to local TV stations, where many aired without acknowledgment of their origin, constituted illegal “covert propaganda.” That finding echoed a scandal from 2000, when Salon magazine revealed that the ONDCP was allowing networks to fill public-service announcement requirements by inserting anti-drug storylines into popular shows like ER.
Oh, those drug warriors and their scandals. They just don't stop, do they?

The article wraps up with a great quote from the Marijuana Policy Project's Aaron Houston.
Houston says he’s not surprised to now find himself shoulder-to-shoulder with a bevy of Republicans. “It’s a waste of taxpayer money. Every independent analysis has shown it to be an utter failure,” he says. “Cutting this program is entirely consistent with conservative ideals.”
But the Media Campaign is just one example of Drug War excess that runs counter to true conservative principles. As we run up more and more national debt, look for more and more Drug War opposition from the right side of the aisle. And we're going to need it, considering the lackluster support many Democrats have thus far displayed for drug policy reform.

[Thanks to Adshock for the heads up on this one.]

Sunday, January 08, 2006

An unforgettable punishment

From CNN:
Three [Baltimore] city police officers have been indicted on rape charges alleging that one officer had sex with a woman at a police station in exchange for her release and that the other two conspired to let it happen, the state's attorney's office said.


Attorney Warren Brown, representing Jones [the accused], said the rape accusation was made up by a 22-year-old woman who was arrested with another woman on December 27, allegedly with marijuana in their possession.
While I am in no position to judge whether the officers are guilty or not, my heart goes out to this woman, especially if the allegations are true.

Even if the allegations are false, we must wonder how often this kind of thing goes on unreported. The Drug War is a playground for corrupt cops (not to mention other public officials)... leniency can easily be granted for favors: whether it be cash, information, or sex. Non-violent drug offenders are the easiest of targets, since they are often law-abiding citizens (albeit their illegal drug-usage), and are put in a complicated position when facing the derailing penalties of arrest and prosecution.

I'll be following this story and will post any updates as soon as they become available.

Update 1/9: From WBAL...
Investigators said they recovered condoms from a desk at the station and substances suspected to be drugs from within police lockers.
OK, so the police had condoms in a desk. Unprofessional perhaps, but not exactly evidence of rape (unless they were used condoms). But drugs in their personal lockers??... The plot thickens.