December 14, 2004

                      Note: Straight ASCII text.
          Please check paragraph end markers before reformatting.
                  "_" marks beginning and end of italics.  
         Travis Charbeneau  3421 Hanover Ave., Richmond, VA 23221
      Phone: 804 358 0417
                     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 
     "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."