While heading police departments in Atlanta, Houston, and New York, Lee Brown was so smooth they called him “No-rap Brown.” Now he’s America’s drug czar, directing the Office for National Drug Policy Control. We tried to pin him down:
Q: How are you different from your predecessor, William Bennett?
A: We’ll place more emphasis on reducing demand for drugs by focusing on our youths, our inner cities.
Q: When do you start education, prevention, and treatment?
A: In preschool. [Parents], schools, religious institutions, the media all have a stake in this. It’s not a black-white issue or a Democrat- Republican issue; it’s an American issue.
Q: Some critics believe that introducing drug-education programs to kids at too early an age only encourages them to experiment.
A: You can’t fool kids; you have to be honest. They have to see the danger. Your program has to vary depending on their age.
Q: The civil rights movement believes in mandatory minimum sentencing for drug crimes. Do you see any value in reform?
A: Disparity does exist. For five grams of crack cocaine, you get mandatory minimum time in prison. For the same amount of powder cocaine, you get probation. The result is that African-Americans are the ones using crack, and they are going to prison for possessing small amounts, while whites are not for possessing the same small amount of powder cocaine. We’ve made minimum mandatory punishment more severe, but not more certain. We have to try to reverse that.
Q: What about legalization of drugs?
A: I’m diametrically opposed–it would be the moral equivalent to genocide. We can’t let that happen.
Q: So what do you propose?
A: One policy that would do the most in the long run is to give people jobs. I [also] want to see legislation to end the proliferation of guns on the streets of our cities. Drug addiction is more than just a criminal-justice problem; it’s a public-health issue as well. There’s no silver bullet. Saying you’re going to solve the problem with one idea is folly.