Our Town [Portland, Oregon weekly newspaper], April 28, 1997, cover story, pp. 6 & 12

White Collar Drugs - Professional People Fuel the Drug Trade

By Ethan G. Machado and Robin Roth

The Rap On White-Collar Drug Use

Is the war on drugs lost? Experts say yes.

The famous Partnership for a Drug-Free America commercial once pictured a distraught father questioning how his son learned to use drugs. "I learned it from you dad," his son says shamefully.

Today's increased concern over children's drug use should come as no surprise. Republican State Rep. Lynn Lundquist announced ominously that marijuana use among 8th graders tripled since 1990. National numbers indicate that children all over the country are experiencing increased use of marijuana, inhalants and in some cases speed, cocaine and heroin. However, according to a new book, Censored 1997: The News That Didn't Make the News by Peter Phillips, it is not the children we should be concerned about. Writes Phillips: "... statistics do not seem to support the theory of a teen drug 'crisis,' they do, however, support the claim that a drug problem exists - but among the parents of teenagers, rather than the teenagers themselves."

The Workforce

A long day's work comes to an end in Portland. Steve*, a 37-year-old sales representative, enjoys a one-hitter of marijuana as he speaks. He does not consider himself a medicinal marijuana user. Rather, he considers himself a white-collar recreational drug user. "I haven't snorted speed this year," he says between puffs of marijuana. "I picked up some weed and mushrooms at a downtown bar, though, and drank fifteen beers last weekend."

Claire*, a 27-year-old artist and producer, uses drugs "to see inside myself." She feels the same way about drugs as she feels about casual sex. "I wish I could do it all the time and be lighthearted, but the reality is that it takes a toll on your soul. ... Drugs are a Pandora's box."

Pat*, a 22 year-old Lewis and Clark College student, says drugs are obviously out there, much more than people know. "People don't flaunt their drug use," he says. "It's not written on their face. People would freak out if they knew that drugs were more of a problem with their own social class and people with no other worries."

Sam*, a 50-year-old businessman, admits to having made a "major investment" in cocaine over the last month; a "month's supply of an ounce and a half." Though he says he is a casual user, he recognizes that many of his friends raising children frown on his activities. He also worries about his own health, "though the whole key is moderation and the quality of the product." During the interview he often pauses to contemplate. "I think most well-adjusted, balanced people don't use drugs."

The Battlefield

Adult drug-users ask to keep their identity secret for various reasons. One obvious reason stands out.

"They're afraid of going to jail," says Paul Loney, an attorney involved in the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA) drive to regulate marijuana. Loney and others, like OCTA head D. Paul Stanford, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Legislation (NORML) leader Terry Miller, activist Arthur Livermore and indicted marijuana cultivator and former Oregonian journalist Phil Smith, assert that the war on drugs is a misguided war on marijuana consumers.

"It's not just the guy in north Portland or Harlem."
However, 74 percent of those receiving prison sentences for drug possession
are African-American and other minorities.

In the last nine years the number of drug-related arrests have increased from 1,941 in 1986 to 5,376 in 1995 in Portland. More than 70 percent of these arrests involved marijuana because, according to NORML's Miller, marijuana is "bulkier and easier to detect than other drugs." According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, marijuana is the most prevalent drug used by illicit drug users. Approximately three quarters (77 percent) of current illicit drug users were marijuana or hashish users in 1995.

According to Portland Police Lt. Cliff Madison, economic breakdowns of arrests are not available, unlike racial and sexual breakdowns. "We don't keep records of whether you're a white-collar or a blue-collar drug user. We just know you're a drug offender if you produce, distribute or use drugs," he says.

"We're seeing a lot more drug activity," says Lynnae Berg, assistant chief of investigations in the Drug and Vice squad, who spent much of March involved in the CBS sponsored March Against Drugs. "People who use marijuana feel they are acting in a vacuum, but marijuana causes behavioral toxicity and affects sound judgment. They are not acting as individuals because society pays a price for their actions," says Berg, who cites a recent marijuana bust where parents used the child's bedroom to grow marijuana. "The rest of the house was filthy, but the plants were beautiful," she says. "Growing marijuana is all about making money."

In 1995, Portland police seized more than $39.9 million in property and cash in drug arrests. Berg has seen a rise in methamphetamine production and use, but says that most of the bureau's drug money is made from property seized in marijuana raids, not in meth raids where the cost of cleaning up the toxic residue outweighs the cost of seizing the property.

According to Terry Miller, 81 marijuana growers were busted in 1996. Of those, Miller says 80 were white and generally middle-class citizens, including an architect, an accountant and a 64-year-old retired postmaster. Loney contends the problem with drugs crosses all economic borders. "If only one group of people used drugs then it would be much easier to eliminate drugs. But it involves every stitch of society."

"A lot of people we arrest have families," says officer Berg. "Their lifestyles translate into a message the kids see - society wide. It can be and is very damaging."

Former United States Attorney General Charles Turner does not believe the drug user of today fits into racial stereotypes. "It's not just the guy in north Portland or Harlem. " According to Reason magazine, however, 74 percent of those receiving prison sentences for drug possession are African-American or other minorities.

"The real emphasis (of drug use) is people with money and the capacity to buy and share drugs while not committing crimes on the side," says Turner. "Who really uses drugs? People would be surprised. The last significant case I prosecuted in 1992 in the U.S. attorney's office was a test case. We arrested a large cocaine ring, got their pagers, numbers and about six in the conspiracy, but 13 others were respected professionals with nice suits and cars. We just did it as a test to show the extent of the problem and confirm that professional people fuel the drug trade."

The Regional Drug Initiative, a group supported by Police Chief Charles Moose and Oregonian publisher Fred Stickel, claims that 74 percent of the people who use drugs are employed. According to RDI statistics, abusers of drugs and alcohol are five times more likely to file a worker's compensation claim, incur 300 percent more health costs, are one-third less productive and are absent from work three times as much as other workers. RDI is a broad-based coalition committed to making the entire four-county Portland Metropolitan Area drug-free through local action and by working cooperatively with companies both statewide and throughout the nation. "Portland's approach is one of compassion. It's not to identify the creep to get rid of them," says Carol Stone, executive director of RDI. In 1987, citizens and leaders in Portland joined together to create RDI. "There was, at the time, a sense of great anger amongst employees who were tired of covering for other employees who don't show up, who take advantage of other's good will," says Stone. "It's definitely a problem that effects everyone - the employee, the addicted person, co-workers - and always the customer."

According to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, the occupations with highest rates of illicit drugs among men include: writers, artists, entertainers, athletes, food handlers and construction workers. Among women, the occupations with the highest rates of illicit drug use are: food handlers, social workers, psychologists and the legal professions, including lawyers and legal assistants.

Why do educated professionals use drugs? "That would take two hours to explain," says Police Officer Pat Walsh of the Drugs Detail. "Some do it to escape reality. I spoke to a professional woman in her late 40s, a very intelligent woman. She talked about her weight concerns to a professional friend who turned her on to methamphetamines. Yes, you do lose weight, but you also lose your teeth, your hair gets goofy and you get rashes. l think that in the last couple of years almost everyone has become numb to that type of information."

Chuck Long, chairman of the drug-free workplace committee for RDI and US Bancorp senior vice president of human resources, says that only in cases where situations clearly demand attention will a company ask an employee to seek treatment. Long knows of only three such cases at US Bancorp in the last ten years. Two of the three involved alcohol abuse. "If there is an individual in a high-level or responsible position using drugs, he is not going to admit it," says Long. "The only way the company would know if that individual used drugs is if that person came forward or if the drug use impacted their work performance to the point where something needed to be done."

According to Long, most corporations have employee assistance programs. These programs are funded by the corporation and allow employees who feel they are addicted to place a confidential call to a treatment center contracted by the company. From there, they can discuss treatment options.

The Options

Serenity Lane, a drug treatment center at 9221 S.W. Barbur Blvd., says 70 to 75 percent of their clients use private means or private insurance to pay for treatment. Carol Yoshikawa, the clinic manager, herself a recovering alcoholic, says the clinic sees people with varying types of addiction, from prescrip-

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Addressing White-Collar Drug Use
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tion medication to illicit drugs to alcohol. Some patients have come to the clinic through self-admittance or were referred by family members, loved ones or for testing positive for drugs in the workplace.

"Instead of terminating the employee," says Yoshikawa, "employers sometimes send the person to us for an evaluation as to whether or not they are an occasional user or chemically dependent based on our diagnosis. It depends on their own level of denial, but if they violate the employer's workplace policy, it is chemical abuse. They knew they were supposed to be drug-free, and they were unable to not use drugs." Some clinicians believe there is something missing in a person's life when he or she begins to use drugs. Others in the medical profession believe people use drugs because they are genetically predisposed. "Who knows?" says Yoshikawa. "It's like the chicken or the egg question. We believe addiction is a primary disease. The problems in their lives are but symptoms of their disease."

Time magazine recently published a statistic that indicated drug use has gone down in the workplace. According to SmithKline Beecham Clinical Laboratories (a legal drug manufacturer), a survey of 4 million employees found that positives on drug tests in the workplace hit a 10-year low in 1996. Only 5.8 percent of workers came up positive, down 13 percent from a year earlier. Whether employees are more familiar with drug cleansing systems or whether testing is more lax is not clear. Most companies, according to US Bancorp's Long, only administer pre-employment drug-testing. "A company may not be aware of someone who is using drugs if they are a casual drug user, particularly if it does not effect their work performance."

"Journalists are the ultimate careerists.
Those who know the war on some drugs is a big lie
are the least likely to question the party line or report the truth factually."

Phil Smith, who worked in the Oregonian newsroom from 1979 until 1995, has a California psychiatrist's prescription for cannabis to treat his chronic depression and anxiety disorder. Even while under arrest for cultivating marijuana, he helps lead the fight to regulate the plant. He supports the current legislation put forward by Rep. George Eighmey that would allow for therapeutic use of marijuana. Another bill, sponsored by Rep. John Minnis, would force anyone convicted of marijuana possession to successfully complete a drug treatment program. Like Smith, OCTA's Stanford is dismayed by the latter piece of legislation. "They want to oppress us and force us into treatment and slavery," says Stanford. "The facts are all on our side. We have compelling proof that cannabis is not harmful and that prohibition causes harm."

"According to the government's own research and statistics," Smith says, "pot smokers make the best employees and have a higher rate of employment than non-users." However, he admits this is not an endorsement of pot smoking for everyone. He speculates that chronic pot smokers make up a small minority who just happen to be biochemically programmed to respond beneficially to cannabis. He thinks that if pot doesn't make an adult feel better and work better, he or she won't use it.

"The surveys I've seen indicate journalists use cannabis and other illegal drugs at higher rates than most professions. Certainly that squares with my impressions from the Oregonian," says Smith. "However, when such surveys were publicized in the mid-80's, managers at media across the country instituted urine-testing and other so-called anti-drug policies. The result was not to lower illegal-drug use, but to increase the lying, hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance.

"Journalists are the ultimate careerists. Those who know the war on some drugs is a big lie are the least likely to question the party line or report the truth factually. The common perception seems to be that doing so might raise suspicion about one's own use or lead to reassignment. Whatever one's profession, surveys from around the globe show the vast majority of recreational drug users quit or greatly moderate their intake by the time they reach their late 30's."

Chris Iverson, in his late 20's, is an entrepreneur and activist who has been a cannabis user for the past eleven years. Iverson envisions Portland's future modeled more like Amsterdam. "Our generation has been turned into a generation of criminals because cannabis is our drug of choice just like it was in the '60s. Americans are leading the world in incarcerating their population. By the year 2030, half of the U.S. population will be in prison, the other half guarding them. In Washington state, if you turn in a pot grower you get $5,000, but no money if you turn in a murderer. It's all about control, resources, people and the planet. That's what this drug war is all about."

While some adults admit their drug use, most adult drug users choose to, borrowing a well-worn Richard Nixon phrase, remain the "silent majority." In 1988, when Baltimore's Mayor Kurt Shmoke first suggested citizens re-examine the War on Drugs with a greater emphasis on compassion and harm-reduction, mainstream American attitudes toward drugs seemed set in Draconian stone. As images of unemployed blacks and Latinos using drugs filled the airwaves, the silent majority of drug users were employed and white. Nine years later, the "War on Drugs" shows signs of cracking, coming apart as both sides of the issue rethink and debate how America can better deal with the timeless conditions of drug-use and addiction. Despite the changes, silent adult drug-users finds themselves in the middle of a debate in which they would just as soon bow out of graciously.

"I think we have already lost the drug war," says Turner.

* Names changed as requested to protect identity.


[Our Town's table of contents credits the magazine's cover art for this issue (omitted here) to Lon Goddard. The stark, sort of art-deco drawing with army-green and greenish-yellow tones shows a man in a business suit at a desk with a "C.E.O." paperweight on it. The man's face is cut off above the nose by the magazine's name banner. Also on the man's desk is a spoon, a match (?) and a small paper box and round capped container that could just as likely be aspirin or cough syrup as something illicit. "An illustrator and writer for more than 20 years, Lon Goddard has contributed to nearly every publication in England including Time Out, The Mirror and The Sun. He also contributes to Tower Records' Pulse magazine and Sacramento News & Review." On the opposite page from the table of contents is a full-page ad for "Kamel Menthe" cigarettes with "Slide-O-Matic Action," allowing the cigarettes to be drawn out as with a chest of drawers. No doubt coincidentally, a drawing accompanying the ad showing a man lighting a cigarette is done in a style not dissimilar to the cover art.]


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