Enough is Enough

Our mayor, the one who wants to issue the proclamation welcoming Jesus for a return visit, thinks the city has a role to play in the War on Some Drugs. Except, it's not the city really, but civic minded citizens he's after. Well, civic-minded corporations.

He's figured out that all politics is storytelling, and he's taking a page from one of our best local storytellers, Vincent Kituku. (That's "local" in a global sense, since Vincent came here from Kenya.) You have to face up to the buffalo in the kitchen, he says, with spear in hand.

Our buffalo is drugs. And anti-drug hysteria.

The government has done a lot to fight drugs. But it hasn't worked. A dispassionate assessment might lead one to the conclusion that it's made things worse. A lot worse.

For those who see it differently, the problem is that government hasn't been able to do enough, hamstrung as it is by the antiquated restrictions of our Constitution. The scourge is mighty, and this collateral damage we're seeing is testimony to that fact, they tell us in so many ways.

Even with the highest incarceration rate in the world, and the creation of a private industry to imprison more than our government institutions can hold, the problem has not yielded.

With Idaho's overwhelming majority of Republicans in the statehouse, we ought to be able to get this job done, eh? So Boise's mayor visited there this week to drum up support and maybe a little thrilling publicity.

Our new governer, King Dirk, wants more money for "manpower, equipment and training," as the Idaho Statesman put it. Presumably, he wants more than the police can obtain through asset seisure and forfeiture, and is looking at the state's budget.

(He wants a half million for seven new advisors, too, to help him make the transition from Senator to state King. I liked Dan Popkey's report on Jim Risch's backing for the plan: "Kempthorne is wise to beef up his cadre of advisors because he's the first governor elected since the 1930s without experience in state government." He did use to be mayor of Boise, though. Hmmm.)

Sheila Sorenson wants "employers with drug-free workplaces to get discounts on worker's compensation insurance." The uncomfortable part, of course, is just how we're to go about obtaining and maintaining such a workplace. And how we establish we've done it.

"Sorenson's legislation would be voluntary..." but she - and we - have every reason to believe that employers will roll over for a convenient expense reduction. Maybe the state could help by covering the establishment of test laboratories, eh? Most employers - including the one I work for, Hewlett-Packard - have already rolled over to the concept of pre-employment urine testing. They've convinced themselves that it's essential, and because "everybody's doing it," if one company were to opt out of the program, why, all those druggies would just storm their gates.

Cole is a principal supporter of the 1999 Enough is Enough campaign, which has made drug-free workplaces its focus.

He's collecting anecdotes to convince us that extremism in this "war" is no vice. The one the Statesman reported from Wednesday's stunt was an 11 year old who turned in his mom, because her boyfriend was cooking up methamphetamines in his - the boy's! - bedroom. Pretty rude, I'd say. And dangerous, illegal, stupid and despicable. Great story, Brent.

Can you tell I'm a little sarcastic on that one? I hate it when the pathetic child stories get trotted out.

From the many airings of Enough is Enough speakers on KTVB, it's clear that their stock in trade is storytelling, so maybe Brent will be doing a speaking gig after he gets tired of running Boise.

But on the front page of the Local section, a bigger headline caught my eye: "Ritalin stolen at 4 Boise schools." For those of you who have been asleep for 15 years, Ritalin is the miracle cure for the disease of under-age testosterone poisoning, otherwise known as "being a boy," and diagnosed as "Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder" (ADHD) to justify the price of the drugs.

For thousands of years, humans raised their boys without Ritalin. I suppose you could argue their have been some problems along the way, and maybe ADHD was the cause of some of them. But in the last few years, this drug has become a significant component of child-rearing.

I see that Idaho is no longer first in the nation in per capita use of Ritalin, and in fact the US DEA says we're not even in the top 5. I'm guessing that isn't because Idaho's use has gone down.

I hear from local teachers that it's not uncommon to have a quarter or a third of the kids (or is it just the boys?) in their classrooms "on meds." So, while the schools aren't literally pharmacies, they are providing a storage and dispensing function.

And somebody's figured out that this is easy pickings: there have been four break-ins in as many months.

Here's the Statesman's contribution to today's drug education program:

Ritalin, a stimulant, is prescribed to children with attention disorders to help them focus.

If taken by someone without such a disorder, the drug gives the user a high.

"It speeds them up - probably gives them a sense of energy, maybe a little euphoria," said Barb Harvey, a nurse at three elementary schools in the Boise School District.

Hello? How about we put Ritalin in the same category as methamphetamine, where it belongs? The good news is that it's produced with higher quality standards, on a more industrial basis, rather than cooked up by amateur hobbyists. But when we're talking about speed, we don't hear of "a sense of energy," or "a little euphoria."

The bad news is that yes, it's a drug, and like all of them there are appropriate and inappropriate uses for it. It can be abused by overprescription, overuse, or for recreation. It's probably also bad news that we've made an profitable industry out of drugging our children. The risk of theft from the Boise School District drug stockpile is probably less serious than that.

When it comes to hysteria, it's time to say Enough is Enough! Enough lies to scare our children - let's tell them the truth. Humans use drugs. Intelligent people learn to use drugs intelligently. For almost completely arbitrary reasons, some drugs are legal, and some are illegal, and if you want to stay out of trouble, learn to limit yourself to the legal ones. If you want to stay healthy, limit yourself to legitimate medicinal uses and/or moderate use.

And let our children know that our fear has led us to go much too far in an attack on the Bill of Rights, too far in confiscating property, too far in incarcerating citizens. It's time to just say No! to the War on Some Drugs.

Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

Monday, 08-Mar-1999 20:46:00 MST