December 14, 2004
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Travis Charbeneau 3421 Hanover Ave., Richmond, VA 23221 email@example.com Phone: 804 358 0417 www.travischarbeneau.com
We've Polled the Drug War! Travis Charbeneau slug "polldrug" 884 words
PULL QUOTE: "The President would like to know how much, if any, cocaine you used last year."
With the War on Terror hogging all the news, we seem to have forgotten the good old War on Drugs. I had to google the WOD just to get an overview. I found that drug offenders now comprise over half our 2 million-plus prison population. And the WOD gets about $20 billion a year direct from Washington, with many billions more in "soft costs" for police, courts, prisons, treatment; foreign aid. So are we "scared straight" yet?
A 1996 National Review digest had pot use down in the '80s. But, alas, those were the bust-out years for crack cocaine. "Just say no" to the '80s.
For the '90s, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported in March, 2000, that "Although no significant changes occurred in 1999 in the use of marijuana, amphetamines, hallucinogens, tranquilizers, or heroin, several significant changes in other drug use did occur, including: a reduction in the use of crack cocaine by 8th- and 10th- graders." Ouch. Damnation by faint praise wrapped up the '90s.
For 2003, the Bureau of Justice had 87.1 percent of high school seniors reporting they could still obtain drugs "fairly easily or very easily."
But these no-doubt important figures are all derived from polls, and I've always wondered how citizens admit they use drugs to people who ultimately report to the authorities. So, when I was recently invited to ride with a drug polling team checking different "demographics" for cocaine use, I said "yes."
I accompanied three large "polling agents" wearing sincere-blue, Kevlar suits and mirrored sunglasses. One pollster always carried a drum-fed, fully-automatic, 12-gauge shotgun.
We parked our enormous black-on-black Ford Bronco with black-out windows before a modest home in a mostly-retirees neighborhood. We knocked politely. An elderly lady peeked out.
"It's OK, Ma'am," smiled Agent One. "We're from The Drug War. If you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear." Agent Two noisily chambered his shotgun machine.
The little old lady opened the door. "Yes?"
"The President would like to know how much, if any, cocaine you used last year."
"Cocaine. It's a white powder that makes you feel good but is bad for you. In 'crack' form you smoke it, and you feel even better, but then it's even worse. How much did you use last year?"
"Land O'Goshen. Well, I reckon no more than 15 grams. All Bolivian flake. I don't do crack."
Agent Three poked excitedly at his personal digital assistant and grinned. "That's down three grams from last year, chief!"
Agent One grinned back. "Excellent!" He turned to the old lady. "The President thanks you for doing your part in the War on Drugs."
The next house was several blocks over in a nice new housing development. There was some delay answering the door, as we seem to have come at an incommodious time. After some flushing noises, the door was unlatched, but the homeowner could barely push it open. When he did, there was a furious sucking draft from a B-29 attic fan.
"Greetings, citizen!" Agent One shouted over the now-howling wind. "We're from The Drug War! How much cocaine did you use last year?!"
"C - Cocaine?! Hey, man. I went to med school. I don't use cocaine!" His eyes were indignant (and somewhat red).
"Make a note of that, Agent Three! This is terrific. What about the wife?"
"Absolutely not." Our respondent turned to Agent Two. "Is that a Twinkie you have there under your jacket?"
Agent Two looked hurt. "That's my Beretta 9mm pistol."
"'Got any salted nuts?"
Our respondent grew alarmed. "_They_ aren't illegal now?!"
"No ..." Agent One paused. "Say, ... you haven't been smoking marihuana, have you?"
Our poll respondent jumped. "Absolutely _not_, man! I only smoked it once. In college. Look, I'm expecting a pizza."
Agent One smiled. "We're not here to intimidate honest citizens, especially white, home-owning, ex-med school students. The President thanks you for doing your part in --"
The door sucked shut with a great "phoop!" and off we went, this time "across the tracks." Agent One saw three black youths acting suspiciously, feeding quarters to a Coke machine. He cried, "Defcon One!!!" and screeched the Bronco up alongside. All three pollsters rumbled out brandishing shotgun machines. In no time our respondents were chewing concrete. They were gently handcuffed, thumbscrewed and thrashed with batons.
Agent One paused to catch his breath: "Gentlemen. The President would like to know how much, if any, cocaine you used last year."
The first black youth spoke up. "Man, I didn't even _see_ any coke last year!"
The second volunteered, "I saw some."
The third began to weep profusely, "I not only used five pounds of crack myself, but I sold 30 kilos to school kids! I got a load in my car right now. Oh, God. Please! Help me!"
"Tsk, tsk." Agent Three unstrapped his shotgun machine, took off his mirrored sunglasses, retrieved his PDA and frowned. After some poking, however, his smile returned. "That still doesn't hurt the overall figures, chief, provided we find a few more non-users today."
"Really?" Agent One looked relieved and motioned for Agent Two to loosen the thumbscrews. "OK. The President thanks you for doing your part in the War on Drugs. Scram. You, too, Mr. Hophead. You're lucky this is only a poll."