Entries in Drugs (7)


Obama’s Drug Czar Stumps for ‘Third Way’ Policy

Office of National Drug Policy(WASHINGTON) -- To hear President Obama’s drug czar tell it, the leading voices on drug policy are kind of crazy.

“Over the past few years, this public debate on drug policy lurches between two extreme views,” White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske said during a speech Tuesday at the Center for American Progress.

“On one side we have a very vocal, organized, well-funded advocates who insist that drug legalization is a ‘silver bullet’ for addressing our nation’s drug problem. Then we have the other side. On the other side of the debate are those who insist that a law-enforcement-only, ‘War on Drugs’ the way to create a drug-free society,” Kerlikowske said.

“The Obama administration strongly believes that neither of these approaches is humane, realistic, or -- most importantly -- grounded in science,” Kerlikowske said.

The drug czar was speaking at the Center for American Progress, promoting the White House’s new National Drug Control Strategy, which calls for a focus on treatment and prevention rather than punishment.

“I’m a police chief who talks about education and public health,” Kerlikowske said. “For a police chief that would have talked about this a few years ago, you would have been categorized as either soft on drugs or soft on crime.”

Kerlikowske’s appointment and confirmation in 2009 elicited cautious optimism from marijuana-legalization advocates in particular. “The difference between he and [Bush drug czar John P. Walters] is night and day,” NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said of Kerlikowske at the time. Upon taking office, Kerlikowske would nominally end the “War on Drugs,” excising those words from official policy. A former Seattle police chief who had implemented the effective local decriminalization of marijuana at voters’ behest, Kerlikowske himself never advocated that degree of drug-policy softening.

And he still doesn’t. ”There’s no reason to legalize marijuana,” Kerlikowske said during a Q&A session after his speech on Tuesday, disparaging the Proposition 19 marijuana-legalization ballot measure that failed in California in 2010.

What Kerlikowske said he wants is a “third way,” as he calls the White House’s new plan -- a transformation of law enforcement’s role in U.S. drug policy, and a shift from viewing drug addiction as a moral crime to viewing it as a treatable disease.

“I don’t want to see law enforcement characterized as anti-prevention, anti-treatment,” Kerlikowske said, touting fewer incarcerations of low-level drug offenders and more treatment plans ordered by drug courts.

To illustrate his vision of law enforcement’s potential role, Kerlikowske told the story of a meth addict in St. Louis who was stopped by a police officer while on the way to see his mother, who was recovering from cancer. The young man sought rehab because of how the officer treated him, Kerlikowske said.

The drug czar said he didn’t always see things that way and that his views changed after he was asked to take on the White House role.

“If you’d asked me before I got this job about the disease of addiction, I would have said this is a moral failure, people just need to find God,” Kerlikowske said. "If I regret anything in my law-enforcement career, it wasn’t understanding and recognizing the disease of addiction and what a powerful ally law enforcement can be.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama’s Drug Plan: Fewer Arrests, More Treatment

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama’s new strategy to curb drug abuse takes the focus off of prison and puts it on treatment.

In the plan released Tuesday, the Obama administration says that the “mass incarceration” of nonviolent drug users is an “outdated” policy. Instead, the White House says it is spending resources on preventing people from using drugs in the first place and helping users recover, because “drug addiction is a disease.”

The administration also repeats, to the chagrin of advocates who have for years sought to make marijuana legal, that “legalization of drugs will not be considered.”

Obama’s drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, told ABC News that Obama is “firm” on not favoring the legalization of illicit drugs, even as the new approach eases up on arrests of people who use drugs.

“I think what it does is reflect the realities of being smart on the drug problem rather than being soft on the drug problem,” Kerlikowske said.

The strategy also seeks to bring attention to the abuse of prescription drugs, not just illegal substances that are brought across the southern border. Kerlikowske said the administration will educate people on how to “clean out their medicine cabinet” and that it will “crack down on pill mills,” clinics that have sold drugs like Oxycodone.

The strategy aims to cut down on prison costs. Kerlikowske said around $9 billion in the federal budget is spent on domestic law enforcement related to drugs, and the goal is to lower that figure. But the administration wants to continue spending around $10 billion on prevention and treatment.

“We’re seeing not only alternatives to incarceration, but recognition that treatment for people who are incarcerated and have a drug problem is really critical,” Kerlikowske said.

Since Obama took office, he and his drug advisers have sought to do away with the “war on drugs” terminology, arguing that the phrase is used by people who want to make drugs legal. Though the strategy presented Tuesday isn’t centered on legalization concerns, it is likely to be the focus in the media and among advocates.

Groups trying to legalize marijuana routinely garner massive support online, pressuring Obama when he takes town-hall questions from Twitter, for example, or when the White House announced an online petition process to evaluate the public’s ideas. Kerlikowske acknowledged the pressure, but wrote it off as the result of a special interest.

“The people that are involved in hoping to legalize drugs are very well funded,” he said. “They’re very organized, they have offices, they’re well supported, and with the push of a button, they can get as many signatures as they want, and we see that with a number of other special interest groups, so it’s not surprising.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Santorum Tells Sick Kid Market Should Set Drug Prices

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WOODLAND PARK, Colo.) -- GOP contender Rick Santorum had a heated exchange with a mother and her sick young son Wednesday, arguing that drug companies are entitled to charge whatever the market demands for life-saving therapies.

Santorum, himself the father of a child with a rare genetic disorder, compared buying drugs to buying an iPad, and said demand would determine the cost of medical therapies.

“People have no problem paying $900 for an iPad,” Santorum said, “but paying $900 for a drug, they have a problem with -- it keeps you alive. Why? Because you’ve been conditioned to think health care is something you can get without having to pay for it.”

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The mother said the boy was on the drug Abilify, used to treat schizophrenia, and that, on paper, its costs would exceed $1 million each year.

Santorum said drugs take years to develop and cost millions of dollars to produce, and manufacturers need to turn a profit or they would stop developing new drugs.

“You have that drug, and maybe you’re alive today because people have a profit motive to make that drug,” Santorum said. “There are many people sick today who, 10 years from now, are going to be alive because of some drug invented in the next 10 years. If we say: ‘You drug companies are greedy and bad, you can’t make a return on your money,’ then we will freeze innovation.”

Santorum told a large Tea Party crowd here that he sympathized with the boy’s case, but he also believed in the marketplace.

“He’s alive today because drug companies provide care,” Santorum said. “And if they didn’t think they could make money providing that drug, that drug wouldn’t be here. I sympathize with these compassionate cases....I want your son to stay alive on much-needed drugs. Fact is, we need companies to have incentives to make drugs. If they don’t have incentives, they won’t make those drugs. We either believe in markets or we don’t.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Orders FDA To Curb Drug Shortages

File photo. (Kevin Lamarque-Pool/Getty Images)(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama has signed another executive order, this one directing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take action to reduce prescription drug shortages, which the White House says have endangered patients and led to price gauging.

“Recently we have seen how the potential of drug shortages for vital drugs, including some cancers, can really have an adverse impact on patients and those who are caring for patients, President Obama said at the signing Monday in the Oval Office. "Sometimes we run out of or run low on certain types of drugs and that drives up prices and it increases patient risk.” 

The new Executive Order instructs the FDA to take action in three areas: broadening reporting of potential drug shortages, expediting regulatory reviews that can help prevent shortages, and examining whether potential shortages have led to illegal price gouging.

According to the White House, these additional steps will help achieve some of the goals of bipartisan legislation currently in Congress that would strengthen the FDA’s ability to prevent prescription drug shortages in the future. The president supports the pending legislation.

What the executive action does not do, however, is give the president any new authority. White House officials Monday made clear that this action simply “enhances” and “amplifies” steps that are already being taken by the FDA to monitor and prevent drug shortages.

“The executive order does not grant us new authority beyond what the legislation on the books has already done,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters on a conference call Monday afternoon.

In addition to expediting review of drug suppliers and new manufacturing sites to prevent shortages, the administration also announced it is adding five new staffers to the FDA’s Drug Shortages Program and sending a letter to manufacturers to remind them to report the discontinuation of certain drugs.

Monday’s action is part of the president’s continuing “we can’t wait” campaign to take unilateral action to boost the economy without seeking the appoval of Congress, which has failed to support the president’s $447 billion jobs bill.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Rick Perry Flew on Cocaine-Tied Plane While Fundraising Last Quarter

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In the final days of a fruitful fundraising quarter, Texas Gov. Rick Perry jetted up and down the East Coast on a private plane with a troubled past.

The presidential hopeful traveled on a plane that was formerly used in a cocaine smuggling scheme, which was busted last November.  An examination of flight logs shows Perry flew on the scandal-plagued plane owned by a California Mexican food conglomerate for a total of 12 flights as he attended several campaign events and fundraisers last month.

A spokesman for Perry told ABC News the campaign was unaware of the chartered plane’s previous destinations.

“We were chartering a plane and not aware of any of the plane’s previous flights,” Mark Miner said in an e-mail.

The flight logs reveal that between Sept. 26 and Oct. 1, Perry flew on the plane to Baltimore; Teterboro, N.J.; Washington Dulles International Airport; Memphis, Tenn.; Nashville, Tenn.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Wheeling, W.Va. and Dekalb, Ga. -- all located near fundraisers, which helped Perry net the $17 million he raised in the third fundraising quarter.

Perry also used the chartered plane to fly to New Hampshire, where he participated in two town halls, a meet-and-greet, a chili cook-off and a house party hosted by New Hampshire kingmaker Ovide Lamontagne.  Perry then flew on the plane back to Austin, Texas before using it again to fly to California for more fundraisers.

News of Perry’s use of the plane linked to a drug smuggling ring was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, and it's just one in a series of controversial plane stories emerging this week for the Perry campaign.

Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that Perry underpaid a Texas businessman who provided his jet to the Perry campaign in the last fundraising quarter; the campaign paid only for the seats used by the campaign, not the equivalent of the full cost of a chartered flight.

On Wednesday, the campaign told The New York Times they will reimburse owners of the private planes for the proper amount -- a total that could equal “five figures.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sarah Palin's Husband Slams Author's Claims about His Wife

Allison Shelley/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Todd Palin released a statement late Wednesday condemning claims author Joe McGinniss makes about former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in his upcoming book, The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin.

“This is a man who has been relentlessly stalking my family to the point of moving in right next door to us to harass us and spy on us to satisfy his creepy obsession with my wife,” Todd Palin said via SarahPAC’s Rebecca Mansour.  “His book is full of disgusting lies, innuendo, and smears.  Even The New York Times called this book ‘dated, petty,’ and that it ‘chases caustic, unsubstantiated gossip.”

In his book, McGinniss claims that Palin used cocaine, had a one night stand with retired NBA player Glen Rice, and engaged in an extramarital affair.

Meanwhile, on Facebook Wednesday night, Sarah Palin condemned President Obama’s “crony capitalism” following his jobs speech.  She made no mention of McGinniss’ book.

“President Obama has his sights set on raising $1 billion for his reelection campaign,” she wrote.  “Raising that money won’t be easy.  But if you can hand out other people’s money to friends, it must get a whole lot easier.  This crony capitalism and government waste is at the heart of our economic problems.  It will destroy us if we don’t root it out.  It’s not just a Democrat problem or a Republican problem.  It’s a problem of our permanent political class.  This won’t stop until ‘we the people’ say enough is enough, and we retire the permanent political class that votes for this.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Martin Sheen Advocates for Drug Courts on Capitol Hill

Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Actor Martin Sheen advocated Tuesday on behalf of drug courts on Capitol Hill, urging Congress to maintain funding for the rehabilitation program.

Drug courts combine substance abuse treatment with close judicial supervision in lieu of serving jail time.  There are more than 2500 drug courts nationwide, and nearly 120,000 Americans a year receive help from the programs.  Sheen and others are asking Congress to fund drug courts at a minimum of $88.7 million for FY2012. 

"My first exposure to drug court began nearly 20 years ago. It opened my eyes to the incredible capacity of human beings to change,” Sheen said at a hearing before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee.  “I’ve seen individuals mired in the depth of addiction, transformed by drug courts.  I’ve seen families reunited after the years of estrangement due to a loved one’s substance abuse.”

“These miracles happen every day in drug court and I believe that this country’s greatest untapped resource is our addicted population,” Sheen said.  “Imagine for a moment the impact we could have if drug courts were available to all 1.2 million addicted individuals who would be best served by drug courts if one were available.  Imagine the impact of 1.2 million people making up for lost time in their community and serving their families and their country.”

In 1996, Sheen helped create a drug court system, called “Options,”  in Berkeley, Calif., which focused on the homeless and addicted.  “Options” opened a treatment center and one sober living house, which has now expanded to six sober living houses, all run by drug court graduates.   

Sheen also stressed the importance of opening drug court and treatment centers for the nation’s veterans.  Today, there are 80 veteran treatment courts and more than 100 planned.  

“We ask so much of our men and women in uniform, and they ask so little in return.  In fact, they are often the last to ask for counseling or treatment.  It is our duty to care for our veterans when they suffer as a direct result of their service to our country,” Sheen said.

“Frankly, there’s no better investment this Congress can make than drug courts and veterans courts.  The time has come to reap the staggering social and economic benefits of expanding this proven budget solution.”

Sheen, who has suffered substance addiction issues in the past, has also witnessed the trauma of alcohol and drug addiction over the years through his son Charlie's public struggles. Charlie Sheen insists he is clean and sober, after reportedly deciding to kick a drug-abusing lifestyle that led to his being fired from Two and a Half Men.

Though silent on the topic Tuesday, Sheen addressed Charlie’s battle with drugs and alcohol earlier this year, calling his son “emotionally crippled.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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