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Coles Participates in National Meeting on Drug Policy

By Crystal Swann
March 20, 2000

Conference Vice President Boise Mayor H. Brent Coles joined over 52 business, entertainment, religious, and other media leaders at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library for a multi-day meeting to examine the future of national drug policy.

The meeting, Substance Abuse in the 21st Century: Positioning the Nation for Progress, was jointly presented by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) and The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Center for Public Affairs, and was held in Simi Valley, California, February 29 - March 3, 2000. The meeting consisting on nine moderated panel discussions examined the impact of substance abuse on all aspects of society. [See panel listing] Mayor Coles, a panelist on the "Religion, Spirituality and Substance Abuse: Is God Relevant, discussed the relevance and necessity of the faith community in his city of Boise, Idaho. While discussing an incident that occurred in Boise Mayor Coles stated, " you need to involve the clergy if you want to heal your community." He stated that in developing the plan to address the methamphetamine crisis, "we gathered the churches, businesses, school districts, government, and our community leaders to address this issue. The church's involvement in the methamphetamine prevention initiative was crucial to its effectiveness."

The other panelists included Rev. Carl W. Daniels-Kenney, Orange Grove Missionary Baptist Church, Sister Mary Rose McGeady, D.C., President and CEO, Covenant House, and Rabbi David Wolpe, Sinai Temple. The panel was moderated by Rev. Edward A. Malloy, C.S.C., President, University of Notre Dame.

Panelists also discussed the relative similarities in their common battle with substance abuse within their communities. The resounding theme was that the self images young people create for themselves is often shaped by peers and parents rather than a sense of spiritual connection with a higher power. Several panelists indicated that those teens who expressed a stronger sense of connection with a high being were more secure in the decisions they made about substance abuse and the direction of their lives.

List of Discussion Panels

  • "Drug-Free Schools: An American Oxymoron?"
  • "The Substance Abuse Research Agenda: Is It All In the Brain?"
  • "Religion, Spirituality and Substance Abuse: Is God Relevant?"
  • "Law, Order, and Substance Abuse"
  • "The Future of American Drug Policy" Debate
  • "The Future of American Policy on Legal Drugs: Alcohol and Tobacco"
  • "What Treatment Works for Whom?"
  • "Combating Substance Abuse: Whose Business Is It?"
  • "The Hollywood Connection: Substance Abuse in Movies, Music and Television"
  • "Substance Abuse and the American Physician"
During the next panel discussion, "Law, Order and Substance Abuse, Mayor Coles questioned the panelists on their response to new legistlation (S. 2008), introduced by Sen. John Ashcroft (MO). The bill would require pre-lease drug testing of Federal prisoners. The majority of panelists, though not completely familiar with the legislation, responded favorably. The panelists included William J. Bratton, Former Police Commissioner, New York Police Department, The Honorable Rudolph Diaz, Drug Court Judge, Superior Court of LA, Donnie Marshall, Action Administrator, Drug Enforcement Administration, Edwin Meese, III, Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow in Public Policy, Heritage Foundation, and James Q. Wilson, Ph.D. Ronald Reagan Professor of Public Policy, Pepperdine University. The panel moderator was Joseph A. Califano, Jr, Chairman and President, CASA.


Panel: Drug-Free Schools: An American Oxymoron
Chris Matthew, Washington Bureau Chief, San Francisco Examiner, Host of MSNBC's and CNBC's "Hardball" moderated the panel discussion on "Drug-free Schools: an American Oxymoron." The panelists included Sharon Draper, Author and Educator, University of Cincinnati; 1997-1998 National Teacher of the Year, Theodore J. Forstmann, Chairman and CEO, Children's Scholarship Fund; Senior Founding Partner, Forstmann Little & Co., Yvonne Gelpi, President/Principal, De La Salle High School, New Orleans, and Paul G. Vallas, CEO, Chicago Public Schools.

The panel discussed and sometimes debated the merits of random drug testing in schools versus mandatory testing versus the legality of drug testing in public schools. Ms. Gelpi pointed out that every student in her school is tested for drug use upon entering the school, De La Salle High School in New Orleans. Parents must sign a waiver with the school in order for their child to be admitted into the school and often embraced the opportunity to learn if their children are taking drugs. Mr. Vallas discussed how drug use and the seizure of illegal contraband has decreased in the Chicago Public Schools over the years since the City of Chicago gained control of the school system. The discussion concluded by stating that there is no easy solution to drugs in the schools without the active participation of parents, teachers, and school administration.

Debate: "The Future of American Drug Policy"
Former First Lady, Nancy Reagan, joined the audience at Wednesday night's dinner, to hear the featured debate on the future of American drug policy. The audience was treated to a lively debate on the future of America's Drug Policy between The Honorable William J. Bennett, Co-Director, Empower America and former Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. Former Mayor Schmoke has advocated for the legalization of drugs and instituted syringe exchange program to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS within the City of Baltimore. Mayor Schmoke's premise is that war on drugs must be viewed primarily as a public health war not a criminal justice war.

He stated, "the war on drugs should not be viewed as an "either/or position, either a public health issue or a criminal justice issue, both have a role to play. Our goal must be to find the right balance of law enforcement and public health strategy to achieve the goal that we hold in common, safer communities, healthier individuals, reduced substance abuse and elimination of AIDS." His argument focused on the need for a national drug strategy based on a public health approach which include increased substance abuse prevention efforts, continuum of substance abuse treatment on demand and provide maintenance for hard-core drug users who repeatedly refuse or fail treatment.

Mr. Bennett, formerly President Bush's drug czar, countered Mayor Schmoke's argument by stating that the war on drugs was not lost and "indeed between 1980 and 1992, I would argument that it was the most successful assault on the social pathology in the second half of the twentieth century. Since then the problem has indeed gotten worse but it is still better than it was." He focused on the statistics that between 1979 and 1992 drug use has decreased 60%, marijuana use was reduced by 60%, and between 1985 and 1997 cocaine use has been decreased by 77%. He went on to state "that if teen pregnancy had been reduced by those statistics it would be considered a success but because the issue is substance abuse, the numbers are viewed as a failure."

Mr. Bennett stated that the national drug policy should build on the success of cities, faith-based institutions as well as refocus the interdiction efforts, provide research at the federal level and increased availability of drug treatment in prisons. The major areas of agreement for both participants was the need for increased availability of drug treatment and essential need for a multi-faceted approach to the national drug strategy.

Panel: The Future of American Policy on Legal Substances: Alcohol and Tobacco
Thursday's panel discussion, "The Future of American Policy on Legal Substances: Alcohol and Tobacco," yielded perhaps the most noteworthy statement on the issue of tobacco addictiveness. Steven C. Parrish, Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Phillip Morris Companies Inc., stated during the panel session that "I believe that nicotine is a drug." He went on to state, however, that he did not believe nicotine should be considered a drug as defined by the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Mr. Parrish also stated that his company could accept some regulation of tobacco by the Food and Drug Administration and also adapt its business if a crackdown on youth smoking led to fewer adult smokers.

The panelists that included Peter Coors, CEO, Coors Brewing Company, David A. Kessler, M.D., Dean, Yale University School of Medicine, and Robert Pitofsky, Chairman, Federal Trade Commission went on the discuss and debate the use of tobacco settlement funds and the need to increase the funding for substance abuse prevention messages that focus on young people.

The three-day meeting brought together a number noted experts in their fields including General Barry McCaffrey, Director of the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy, Hillary B. Rosen, President and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, William Safire, report, novelist, political columnist, and Vice Chairman of the Charles A. Dana Foundation, Jack J. Valenti, Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, Lesley Stahl, co-editor of CBS's "60 Minutes" and many others.

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