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February 9, 2006 - Denver Post (CO)

Column: Czars And Tripe Forever

By David Harsanyi, Denver Post Staff Columnist

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Did you know Denver has a czar?

Yep. His name is Robert "Bob" Dorshimer. He's director of the Office of Drug Strategies. And he seems like a nice guy.

Incidentally, czar translated from Russian means king. And I ask you: Have we learned nothing from "Schoolhouse Rock"? Remember? "No More Kings."

In any event, Denver's drug czar will soon be caught up in an important political battle that may have national ramifications.

Last year, a Denver ballot measure ostensibly legalized possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by residents 21 and older. The measure passed by an impressive margin of 54 percent to 46 percent.

Still, Denver has only barely legalized pot, because those who possess pot are rarely charged under city ordinances, but rather state law.

Well, to repair that glitch, SAFER (Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation) Colorado is putting together a statewide initiative that would, by changing one sentence in the Colorado statutes, give cities the right to legalize.

This is the context in which national drug czar John P. Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, found himself Wednesday in Denver. He showed up to unveil the country's drug-control strategy.

But before the specifics were divulged, the media were led to a drug-rehab center, where we were buttered up by cute babies and their formerly addicted moms.

One young mother went -- impulsively, no doubt -- out of her way to let everyone know that she was a victim of the gateway drug, marijuana. As if crack babies and meth moms aren't scary enough.

But fear not, Walters says things are looking up for the nation.

President Bush claimed in his State of the Union that "drug use among youth is down 19 percent since 2001."

Walters has been so successful, in fact, that while Bush made much-needed "across-the-board cuts," the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy's budget was somehow increased.

And Walters says his office will "expand what we see has worked."

You know, like increasing random drug testing for children.

And jail time. Police arrested an estimated 771,608 people for pot last year, the highest ever recorded by the FBI.

And trampling on freedom. The Drug Enforcement Administration has undertaken actions that make National Security Agency wiretapping look like an Amnesty International operation.

When I asked Walters if his office would actively campaign against the Colorado ballot initiative, he demonstrated something called Washingtonese: Which is to say, he spoke for a couple of minutes - passionately and convincingly - without coming close to answering my question.

I was duly impressed.

The governor, however, did answer the question. Bill Owens told us that he would be part of a coalition of government and civic leaders opposing the pot initiative. He also also said he was looking forward to the debate.

In fact, most of the government officials I met claimed they looked forward to debating the initiative as a way of educating the public about drug use.

Who will they be debating?

Unfortunately, they'll be up against SAFER's mastermind, Mason Tvert -- who held his own news conference. His message: Marijuana is safer than beer.

Frankly, the drug czar should just hire Tvert. Though they may disagree about marijuana, Tvert's bone-chilling nonsense in regards to alcohol's evils closely resembles Carrie Nation. It would be a perfect fit.

But just because Tvert's arguments are flawed doesn't mean czars are any less dangerous.

However well-meaning kings may be, I get a bit nervous when they want to "educate" me.

Not to mention that they often seem out of touch with the ones they're trying to reach.

For instance, when the national drug czar tells the room that today's potent pot is "not your father's marijuana," I just assume he's trying to make us jealous.

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