Drug Enforcement's Top Enforcer

Asa Hutchinson has served since August 2001 as director of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the federal government's law-enforcement arm to battle the illegal drugs.

Asa Hutchinson

Hutchinson, 51, served as a lawyer in Arkansas for 21 years before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Hutchinson recently talked with News Editor John W. Kennedy about topics ranging from new types of drugs in America to his Christian faith.

Q: In what way is drug enforcement a good-versus-evil situation?

HUTCHINSON: When you look at the founding fathers or the preamble to the Constitution, one of the first principles of our government was to establish justice. It is essential for the goodness of America that we have law enforcement and we are a nation under the rule of the law. That's what separates us from anarchy and rally gives the framework for democracy to work and freedom to survive.

Q: How has terrorism changed drug enforcement?

HUTCHINSON: It has given more responsibility to the DEA. Drugs are not just illegal and harmful; now we know they are a means to fund terrorism.

Q: What role do parents play in preventing drug abuse by children?

HUTCHINSON: Parents are not just the first line of defense, but really the only defense. If parents don't exercise responsibility, we're just plugging holes. Drug use among teenagers is diminished when parents have meals with them once a day, spend time with them, talk to them and go to church with them on Sunday.

Q: What role do Christian rehabilitation programs such as Teen Challenge play in the anti-drug effort?

HUTCHINSON: The treatment programs that involve the faith-based community are the ones with the most success, whether you're talking about alcohol addiction or methamphetamine addiction. It's difficult to overcome without some component of faith.

Q: Why is there an attraction to drugs such as Ecstasy?

HUTCHINSON: The draw for those who traffic in it is the huge profit. You can make an Ecstasy pill for 25 cents and sell it on the street for $25. When it is targeted to young people, young people sometimes like to live on the margins and take risks. It creates enormous health consequences and it can be deadly.

Q: In some quarters there is a growing sentiment that certain drugs, especially marijuana, should be decriminalized. Why is that not a good idea?

HUTCHINSON: Marijuana is a harmful substance. We underestimate the damage that can be done by marijuana. The level of THC, the addictive substance in marijuana, is much higher now than it was in the 1970s and therefore it's much more dangerous. I wish those who talk about legalizing marijuana could come with me to Judge [James] Doyle's courtroom outside Chicago [in Kane County]. He asked 15 heroin addicts how they started and they all said they started with marijuana.

Q: Does the amount of legal medication we take have anything to do with how we view illegal drugs?

HUTCHINSON: I have seen many people who are addicted still struggling into their 40s and 50s. Recently I saw an accountant who was going through a difficult time and all of a sudden he became addicted to drugs at 50. Although the greatest challenge is with young people, no one is age exempt.

Q: How can Christians pray about drug enforcement?

HUTCHINSON: I would encourage people to pray for the truth. There are a lot of myths out there. Those with an agenda of legalization argue that there's no success, when in fact there is a lot of success. They argue that marijuana is harmless, when in fact there is much danger. They argue that there are no new ideas and there are. We want the truth to be out there.

Also, people can pray for the safety of the brave men and women in law enforcement who are risking their lives every day.

And also for the sacrifice of those engaged in treatment and have such incredible ministry with young people, helping them to make right decisions.

It's a great privilege to work with Attorney General John Ashcroft. He's a great leader for the Justice Department and a real motivator for those engaged in fighting drugs. The faith side of things is very important.

Q: Tell me about your own Christian faith.

HUTCHINSON: I'm grateful that my parents instilled in me an appreciation for church and having a relationship with God as I was growing up. It has made a tremendous impact on my life and the values I developed. A pastor in rural Arkansas invested a great deal of energy in young people and through his ministry my faith grew and set me on a stronger path through life.

"Reprinted by permission of the Pentecostal Evangel."

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