Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer (WA)
Author: Hector Castro
Published: Thursday, September 11, 2003
Copyright: 2003 Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Contact: [email protected]
Though in Seattle to promote a federal program to fight drug abuse, the nation's drug czar yesterday took time to criticize Initiative 75, which would have the city's police turn a blind eye to marijuana use.
"It is a symptom of living in the past and in ignorance," said John Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. "If you understand substance abuse is a disease, why would you want to foster that disease?"
State Sen. Jeanne Kohl Welles, a Seattle Democrat who supports I-75, said the initiative is about adjusting resources, not fostering drug use.
"This initiative does not change any state statutes or city ordinances," she said. "We're not debating about whether marijuana is harmful or not."
Speaking yesterday at the Recovery Center of King County on Beacon Hill, Walters said the initiative was a veiled attempt to move towards legalization of marijuana.
"I think it matters, because it's designed to send a message that marijuana is a trivial matter," he said.
Walters was here to tout the 25-Cities Initiative, a program aimed at highlighting effective drug treatment and strengthening relationships between the federal government and local agencies. The program doesn't provide any additional federal funding.
Jim Vollendroff, drug-treatment coordinator for King County, said he met with National Drug Control Policy officials two weeks ago.
His impression is that the agency is willing to listen to cities about their needs.
"We certainly have our differences in terms of priorities," Vollendroff said, "but they've been open to listening to the fact that each of these cities has a different problem."
Walters said drug abuse continues to be a problem in Seattle, which has 42 substance-abuse treatment providers.
Statistics provided by his agency assert that a survey taken in 2000 shows almost a quarter of high school seniors in King County reported having smoked marijuana.
"We can't let our guard down on any drug -- whether it be marijuana or methamphetamine, it doesn't matter," said Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, who also spoke at yesterday's news conference.
Walters plans to visit all of the cities that make up the initiative: Atlanta; Baltimore; Boston; Chicago; Cincinnati; Cleveland; Dallas; Denver; Detroit; Houston; Los Angeles; Miami; Minneapolis; New York; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; Sacramento, Calif.; San Diego; San Francisco; St. Louis; Tampa, Fla.; and Washington, D.C.
Yes To Initiative 75: Free Up Police, Courts
No To Initiative 75: Proponents Use Scare Tactics
I-75: a Dopey Idea
Hazy Future for Marijuana Initiative