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Rev. Jesse Jackson Defends Bush-Era Interdiction Program at Drug Policy Summit


June 1993

Speaking at the National Summit on U.S. Drug Policy in Washington, D.C. May 7, Rev. Jesse Jackson defended Bush-era interdiction efforts, disagreeing sharply with Attorney General Janet Reno's view that interdiction has failed to significantly influence drug use (Gary Lee, "Reno Criticizes Bush's Approach To War On Drugs," Washington Post, 5/8/93, A4).

Reno told the gathering of drug policy experts that the Reagan-Bush policies halted only 25 percent of the drug flow from abroad, and that an interdiction rate of 75 percent would be needed to make a significant impact on U.S. drug use. She urged a study to determine if interdiction was effective. Reno appeared with new Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Lee Brown, who said he favored a "balanced approach" to drug control combining legal sanctions with prevention and treatment.

The number one priority for law enforcement should be control of violent crime, Reno commented. She criticized mandatory minimums and spoke out in favor of alternative sanctions, treatment, and job training to reduce demand for drugs.

Rep. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the summit chair, termed Bush's $3 billion interdiction program "a near total failure," and suggested that Clinton abolish the program, which makes up roughly a quarter of the federal drug control budget. Former Bush drug policy official John Walters defended the efforts, noting that middle-class and causal drug use had declined. But others noted that drug use rose among hard-core addicts and inner city residents. The conclusion of the summit conference was a debate on the question of drug legalization. Favoring the suggestion were Judge Robert Sweet, Professor Ethan Nadelmann, and Professor Arnold Trebach. Opposing the idea were Reuben Greenberg, Chief of Police in Charleston, SC.