Current and former U.S. Drug Czars provide their perspective on drug policy in America

Yesterday, February 3, 2015, the current and four former U.S. “Drug Czars” kicked off the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America’s (CADCA) 25th Annual National Leadership Forum, the nation’s largest and premier training event for substance abuse prevention and treatment professionals and researchers.  Michael Botticelli, Acting Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), provided keynote remarks, followed by a dynamic panel discussion about the evolution of our nation’s drug policies featuring four former ONDCP Directors.

“Substance abuse prevention must remain an integral part of education, policies and programs if we are to achieve our goals,” Botticelli told the 2,500 community and state leaders present.

A champion for substance abuse prevention for more than two decades, Botticelli has forged strong partnerships with local, state and Federal law enforcement agencies; state and local health and human service agencies; and stakeholder groups to guide and implement evidence-based programs.

“As coalition leaders….you have a powerful voice and are ideally positioned to bring good science, valid data and effective prevention strategies to implement local responses to local drug use issues,” Botticelli noted.

The morning session also featured a historic panel discussion with four former U.S. “drug czars”, entitled “Our Nation’s Drug Policy: Past, Present and Future.” Leaders who served under various presidential administrations reflected on how drug issues have changed over the past 20 years and offered recommendations for addressing some of today’s most pressing drug problems – from marijuana and tobacco to prescription drug abuse. Panelists included Dr. William Bennett, 1st Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) under President George H.W. Bush; Dr. Lee P. Brown, 3rd ONDCP Director under President Bill Clinton; General Barry McCaffrey, 4th ONDCP Director under President Bill Clinton; and John P. Walters, 5th ONDCP Director under President George W. Bush. The panel was moderated by award-winning journalist Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today.

When speaking about the state of marijuana legalization in this country, William Bennett affirmed, “The science is overwhelming. We’re talking about high THC levels – 15-20 percent, sometimes 25-30 percent. We’ve got to be crazy to throw this stuff into circulation!”

John Walter said, “It starts with marijuana in almost all cases, and if we don’t cut off that entry point, we are not going to make progress against…other forms of substance abuse.”

General McCaffrey added, “Marijuana, ecstasy and beer in adolescents – if you can stop or delay that kind of behavior, you end up with a healthier population.”

Dr. Brown offered what he believes is the solution to today’s teen drug use problem. “There is an answer [to the drug abuse problem] and the answer is communities working together at the local level…and that is what this organization [CADCA] has been doing for 25 years. I am a strong believer that if we mobilize our local resources, we can make a difference.”

Held, Feb. 2-5, 2015 at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., CADCA’s National Leadership Forum brings together community and state leaders from across the country and around the world, featuring more than 70 courses to help participants learn strategies to address drug-related problems in their communities.

CADCA (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America), is the national membership organization representing over 5,000 coalitions and affiliates working to make America’s communities safe, healthy and drug-free. CADCA’s mission is to strengthen the capacity of community coalitions to create and maintain safe, healthy and drug-free communities globally.

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