Ironically, it’s a policy at direct odds with the Justice Department’s own advice, in a recently published advisory bulletin for community policing. In calm, measured tones, the Justice bulletin advises officers that raves represent little threat:
“As a whole, those ravers who use drugs seem to manage their drug use, not letting it disrupt other facets of their lives . . . Few rave-related users get seriously addicted to drugs and few turn to crime to finance their drug use . . . In some respects raves are safer places for young people, especially women, than conventional bars and clubs.”
The law of unintended consequences is plaguing another Bush administration project — the attempt to link the war on drugs with the war on terrorism. Walters and Ashcroft have repeatedly described Colombia’s drug-dealing Revolutionary Armed Forces as part of a global terrorist network — an assertion that has been derided publicly by Representative William Delahunt, ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee. At the same time, Walters’ office has produced a series of public-service ads linking casual marijuana use to terrorism, an even broader stretch.
The real consequences for drug policy of the war on terrorism were unexpectedly suggested to Walters in June 2002 during a visit to San Antonio. Walters was the celebrity guest at a luncheon intended to honor a local anti-drug coalition. Instead of another photo op, he found himself cornered by local activists alarmed at what the administration’s border- and drug-enforcement strictures were doing to their community. “With way more security along the borders because of the terrorist threat, the supply of drugs is also affected,” coalition director Beverly Watts Davis told Walters, as reported by the San Antonio Express News. “Gang violence is going up as drug dealers fight over the limited supply. And when we decrease the supply of drugs the price rises, and the people out there trying to get crack cocaine and heroin are stealing more . . . And the response from Washington is ‘Gosh, we never realized that.’”
Whatever the future of specific reform efforts, it’s clear that November’s referendum defeats did not “turn the tide” in the drug war. To the contrary. With states strapped for cash, with post–Trent Lott political awareness that racial inequity is still an issue with legs, with the contradictions and sheer unreality of the Bush administration’s drug policies ever more evident to law enforcement and the courts, John Walters will not lead his troops out of the quagmire anytime soon.