To The Mayor From The Executive Director
J. Thomas CochranSeptember 16, 1996
A New Drug Coming Your Way
Boise Mayor Brent Coles and Gary Mayor Scott King, newly appointed by Conference President, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley to head up our 1996 Drug Control Task Force have had several meetings and discussions since their appointment to bring us new focus on what we need to be doing to cope with the increased use of drugs among our young people.
In Boise, in his State of the City address this year, Mayor Coles spoke of a "surge in popularity of methamphetamine," also known in the West and Southwest as "crank." This drug is a new phenomenon in the United States. Mayor Coles' concern is a result of some alarming statistics in his state and others in the West. In 1994, 27 pounds of methamphetamine were seized. That number skyrocketed to 1,845 pounds in 1996.
In 1995, methamphetamine use by arrestees in San Diego was 30.6 percent, in Phoenix 19.5 percent, in San Jose 16.3 percent and in Portland, Oregon 15.2 percent. In Omaha, the figure was 8.1 percent, which indicates use of the drug is moving East. In 1995, Miami, Cleveland, New Orleans and Chicago had no zero- adult methamphetamine-positive arrestees. 10-Year Effort
For 10 years, since the Drug Abuse Act of 1986 was passed, the Conference of Mayors has been in the forefront on drug control. New York City Mayor Edward Koch and his police commissioner taught us about "crack" and how, when developed, it would flood streets and neighborhoods of some of our cities. It was then that our Conference President, Kansas City Mayor Richard Berkley, a Republican, directed the Conference of Mayors staff to do a study which showed that one year after the Drug Abuse Act of 1986 was passed, not one red cent had come to city halls and police departments. That, of course, was due to a flawed distribution mechanism which put money through the states. But we have coped and fought cocaine, and we have seen in many of our neighborhoods the damage that cocaine, guns and money have done to so many of our young people. Mayor Koch reminded everyone that cocaine cannot be grown in the continental USA, and he pushed for military interdiction at our borders and, indeed, inside other cocaine-producing nations. There are still many Americans who believe that the federal government does have the power, through its military force, to stop the flow of cocaine coming into our country. All will conclude that the federal government has failed. Cocaine is still very much with us. Easy To Make and It Lasts Longer
Now, we have methamphetamine. People used to say, that if we did stop cocaine, someone would create a substitute. Well, the substitute has arrived. It's in Boise, Idaho and Phoenix, Arizona and San Diego, and it is probably going to be in your neighborhood soon as it sweeps east across the plains.
At our recent drug control meeting, chaired by Mayors Coles and King, we heard Mr. Monte Stiles, Assistant U.S. Attorney, explain to Conference staff and mayors present exactly how "crank" is made. There are "drugs" sold over the counter to keep people awake which contain ephedrine. With slight adjustment of a molecule through heating, the common drug can be altered to become methamphetamine - "crank." One attractive feature is that the high lasts for several hours longer than "crack."
According to the National Institute of Justice Drug Use Forecasting, methamphetamine production and distribution was historically associated with motorcycle gangs. Recently, according to the Justice Department, Mexican drug gangs have increased their share of the wholesale methamphetamine market, and this may be the reason for the high use of this new drug in the Southwest. Our drug enforcement officials are concerned that higher usage in Omaha and the Midwest may signal "an impending methamphetamine pandemic." Special Meeting - September 26, Gary, Indiana
Mayors Coles and King have called for a special meeting on this specific concern September 26 in Gary, Indiana. General Barry McCaffrey, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, who joined us at Mayor Daley's invitation in Cleveland last June, has been invited to Gary. He has pledged in a most cooperative way his desire to work with mayors, police chiefs, and our civic leaders on the drug challenges we face every minute of every day. We are most appreciative of General McCaffrey's earnest approach to help us bring new action and focus to America's drug problem. Young Americans
We also learned at our recent meeting of the increases in drug abuse that are occurring on a number of fronts. The Clinton Administration, through the Department of HHS, released a study August 20, "The 1995 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse," which points to increased usage among youth.
Another serious problem is the lack of positive role models from the sports and entertainment industry. It has been pointed out that there are many local efforts underway, but in our recent meetings a strong need was expressed for the use of television to get a message to young people, early on, that it is not okay to do drugs. It is felt by many that we have slipped backwards recently. In our meeting we were briefed about the increased use of marijuana and the easy availability of publications such as "High Times" which give the young person the impression that it's "cool" to do drugs. Mayors United
These, and a number of other factors, bring new issues before us in 1996. Mayor Daley, as our President, announced last April when he spoke to the New Jersey Conference of Mayors that drug control is still a huge problem within our nation, states, counties, cities, neighborhoods and homes. He has asked two smaller -city mayors -- Boise, Idaho and Gary, Indiana -- to lead our effort, and they are stepping up to meet the new challenges. Scott King, before becoming Mayor of Gary, has spent his professional life as a district attorney prosecuting, and as a defense attorney, defending citizens of Gary from all walks of life who have been involved with the ever-present drug culture in our country.
There have been signs that the "drug issue" may become a part of the Presidential campaign. Let us hope that we have a bipartisan approach to this continued national concern, just as we have had against Saddam Hussein these past few weeks. Drugs today, coupled with violence, guns and money are, indeed just as much of a national threat to Americans as Saddam.
Democratic and Republican mayors, working with their police chiefs, will be together on this issue, and they will not let finger-pointing and partisan charges stop them from telling the truth and coming up with new initiatives to meet the new challenges we face. Boise Mayor Brent Coles and Gary Mayor Scott King are off to a good start. Mayor Daley is totally committed and he will be there to help them. And all three will need your help in the days ahead. Together, as an organization, we can forge a new national consensus in 1996 and be the leaders in our national effort to find workable solutions to our new drug challenge.
We must continue to help our nation focus and act. And we will.
Copyright © 1996, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.