New Bill In Congress Would Make Drug Czar Respect Science


Rep. Steve Cohen

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) introduced a bill Tuesday that would change federal law so that the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), commonly known as the “drug czar,” is no longer prohibited from studying the legalization of marijuana and no longer required to oppose attempts to legalize marijuana for medical or broader adult use.

Specifically, H.R. 4046, the Unmuzzle the Drug Czar Act of 2014, would amend the Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 1998 to remove the following language from the obligations of the director:

(12) shall ensure that no Federal funds appropriated to the Office of National Drug Control Policy shall be expended for any study or contract relating to the legalization (for a medical use or any other use) of a substance listed in schedule I of [the Controlled Substances Act] and.take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance (in any form) that 

(A) is listed in schedule I of section 812 of this title; and

(B) has not been approved for use for medical purposes by the Food and Drug Administration;

Rep. Cohen and other members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform slammed the ONDCP during a hearing last week. Rep. Cohen chided the office for failing to address the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s obstruction of research into the medical benefits of marijuana. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) criticized it for relying on marijuana “propaganda.” ONDCP Deputy Director Michael Botticelli drew criticism for refusing to acknowledge that marijuana poses less potential harm to the consumer than heroin or methamphetamine.

If you haven’t already done so, please sign our petition asking President Obama to reschedule marijuana and share it with your friends.

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Organization of American States Report Urges U.S. to Reform Drug Policies


Last Friday, the Organization of American States (OAS) gathered in Bogotá, Colombia for the release of its $2 million report, ”The Drug Problem in the Americas,” which characterized marijuana as a relatively benign drug.

The 400-page study concluded that if the United States was sincere in its desire to reduce drug violence in the western hemisphere, then it would have to seriously rethink its stance on marijuana and look into more rational drug policies:

“It would be worthwhile to assess existing signals and trends that lean toward the decriminalization or legalization of the production, sale, and use of marijuana. Sooner or later decisions in this area will need to be taken.”

Jose Miguel Insulza

The discussion is long overdue, according to OAS Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza, and most Latin American leaders – “whose countries suffer the bloody brunt of the largely failed U.S.-led drug war” – agree. Read the rest of this entry »

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Drug Czar Being Disingenuous and Evasive. No Kidding.


UPDATED: This blog post was updated to more accurately reflect the position of the Marijuana Policy Project.

At the Center for American Progress on May 1, Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske answered a question from MPP’s Steve Fox regarding marijuana prohibition. Or did he? What Steve essentially asked is that if a great many Americans use both marijuana and alcohol, and alcohol causes disease, violence and death while marijuana is not responsible for any of these problems, why are there laws prohibiting the use of marijuana, if alcohol is legal?

Now, with the exception of some brief gibberish about alcohol prohibition, the issue of allowing a harmful substance (alcohol) to be legally consumed by adults while outlawing a much less harmful substance (marijuana) was completely ignored. What was addressed, however, was the issue of prescription drugs.

The drug czar argued that there is no reason to tax, regulate, and control marijuana because legal prescription drugs take over 15,000 lives a year, saying, “we do a very poor job of keeping them out of the hands of abusers and young people.” This is interesting for several reasons, the first of which being that marijuana has not been responsible for any deaths in recorded human history. Also, medical marijuana patients are able to substitute marijuana for many of the dangerous prescriptions Gil is talking about, thereby minimizing their risk of becoming one of the 15,000 killed each year by legal prescription medications. Another reason for skepticism, and probably the most obvious: why should responsible users of a less harmful substance be penalized because the ONDCP is bad at its job? By keeping marijuana illegal, Gil and the Obama administration are giving drug dealers and cartels responsibility for deciding who can and cannot buy marijuana instead of an objective system of regulation, and to be honest, I’ve never heard of a drug dealer who checked IDs.

You can see the full video here. This kind of doubletalk is disrespectful to both the audience and the American people. If someone cannot be trusted to be honest enough to answer a simple question, how can that same person be trusted to make decisions that impact the lives of private citizens?

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Drug Czar Says Something Stupid — Again


Every White House drug czar who has reigned since the office was created in 1989 makes numerous incorrect and deceitful statements.

But, I only like to rebut the czars’ nonsense when it really catches my attention, like the following statement today from Director Gil Kerlikowske …

“The people that are involved in hoping to legalize drugs are very well funded,” he said. “They’re very organized, they have offices, they’re well supported, and with the push of a button, they can get as many signatures as they want, and we see that with a number of other special interest groups, so it’s not surprising.”

The drug czar’s office is formally known as the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Let’s do a quick comparison between MPP and ONDCP …

Of course, MPP has allies whose annual budgets — combined — are about $15 million.

ONDCP has allies, such as the DEA, whose annual budget is $2 billion. And, unlike our team, the DEA has badges, guns, and jail cells to quash its political opponents.

I’d trade our resources for the DEA’s and ONDCP’s resources any day of the week. Deal?

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Obama Administration Increases Drug War Spending


Earlier today, the Obama administration released its annual National Drug Control Strategy, detailing the methods and budgets planned to combat drug use for fiscal year 2013. The report stresses that more resources need to be spent on addiction treatment and prevention, and that an enforcement-centric “war on drugs” is unworkable. The report shows, however, that budget allocations for traditional law enforcement methods could increase by hundreds of millions of dollars, including domestic military operations. Government data from previous years have shown no connection between drug-arrest rates and drug-use rates.

While significant portions of the budget are dedicated to harm reduction and abuse prevention programs, many of the “drug war” methods that have proven ineffective over the last 40 years — particularly those used to enforce marijuana prohibition — will likely see funding increases this year. Domestic law enforcement is slated to receive $9.4 billion, a $61.4 million increase from last year. The Department of Defense Domestic Counterdrug support program will get nearly $150 million this year. Over $4.5 billion will be spent on federal incarceration of drug users and distributors. In addition, the Obama administration has requested the revival of the Youth Drug Prevention Media Program with a $20 million budget. Studies have shown that this program had the opposite of the intended effect on teens, and Congress allocated no money for the program last year.

“This budget is appalling. The drug czar is trying to resurrect those stupid TV ads, like the one where a teenager gets his fist stuck in his mouth,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. “The budget intentionally undercounts the federal government’s expenditures on incarcerating drug offenders, who comprise more than half of the federal prison population. And the budget dangerously proposes a massive escalation in using the military to fight drugs domestically. Congress should just ignore this budget and start from scratch. Specifically, Congress should not provide the Obama administration with any money to go after nonviolent marijuana users, growers, or distributors.”

The drug czar’s strategy would keep control of the marijuana trade in the hands of drug cartels and illegal operators, endangering communities, and creating massive death tolls throughout Latin America. In the past year, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, current and former Latin American leaders whose countries are being ravaged by drug cartels, and tens of millions of Americans have called for a more rational approach to marijuana policy. The Obama administration has repeatedly stated that making marijuana legal is not an option.

Check back for further analysis in the coming days.

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New Study Shows Moderate Marijuana Use is Not Associated with Breathing Problems


A study released by the American Medical Association is getting a whole lot of attention this week, as it rightly should. This study, which shows that people who smoke marijuana exhibit little to no harmful pulmonary effects from their use, pokes a gigantic, gaping hole in one of the most often-employed attacks against marijuana reform.

According to the 20-year study, those who used marijuana occasionally (2-3 times a month) did not show any decrease in lung functioning and, in some cases, actually showed improvements. This is in glaring contrast to cigarette smokers, who displayed significantly less breathing ability at the end of the study. Even some heavy marijuana users showed no decrease in function.

Of course, this is antithetical to what prohibitionists and scaremongers have been claiming about marijuana for decades. One of the most commonly used arguments against marijuana reform is that it is too dangerous to be used as a medicine because of the lung damage caused by smoking (even though many patients prefer vaporizing or eating their medicine). By this logic, making marijuana legal for recreational use is out of the question because of the threat to public health and the associated costs that would be incurred.

The American Medical Association just invalidated that argument. This is the latest in what appears to be a trend of science exposing the lies in the major prohibitionist talking points.

Take teen use, for example. The drug czar has repeatedly tried to blame medical marijuana and reformers on the increase in teen marijuana use, saying that it “sends the wrong message” to young people. By looking at the available data for medical marijuana states, however, MPP was able to show that in most of those states, teen use actually decreased after the implementation of medical marijuana laws. It appears that the message reformers are sending teens is that marijuana is not as glamorous when being used by a cancer patient. That is quite a bit better than the message being sent by the government, which is that teens cannot handle hearing legitimate policy debates and that it is worth lying to them and arresting them to stop others from using marijuana in the future (a tactic we can see has failed by comparing our continuously high arrest rates with the increasing rate of teen and adult use).

Another point, brought up most often by law enforcement, is that if more people are using marijuana, the roads will become more dangerous. They conjure images of stoned drivers and bloodstained pavement and complain about lack of effective tools by which to judge marijuana impairment. This argument was similarly refuted by a recent study that showed traffic fatalities also decreased in states that allowed the medical use of marijuana. Apparently, access to marijuana leads to a drop in alcohol sales, particularly among people who may self-medicate with alcohol for painful conditions. This, combined with the fact that driving while under the influence of marijuana is far safer (yet still potentially dangerous; no one should drive impaired on any substance), leads to a marked decrease in fatal car accidents.

(As a side note, there is a time-tested and proven way of determining impairment caused by any substance or condition. It is called Standardized Field Sobriety Testing and has been in use since there have been cars on the roads. In recent years, this tool has become much more accurate through research and increased training protocols.)

The vast majority of arguments against reform tend to be based on emotion. They have little to do with facts. As more and more research becomes available that disproves the propaganda, hopefully more people will see through the smokescreen of lies and fear. When they do, our nation will make great strides toward enacting rational marijuana policies.

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Prohibition Hurts Children Far More Than Marijuana


One of the most often-heard arguments against marijuana reform can basically be summed up as follows:

“But what about the children?”

Prohibitionists are quick to trot this one out whenever their other arguments have failed because it’s an easy way to elicit a strong emotional response. They claim that marijuana reform will lead to increased rates of use, developmental damage, and easier access to marijuana. Even talking about the issue will lead to higher rates of use, according to their arguments. Never mind that teen use rates tend to decrease in states that pass medical marijuana laws, or that licensed distributors would have ample reason to ID customers.

No, facts don’t really apply to this argument. It is very useful, however, when it comes to terrifying parents. According to the standard drug warrior mentality, the only way to keep kids away from marijuana is to arrest adults for using it. To do otherwise would “send the wrong message to our youth.”

Apparently, all this concern does not extend to children living on the U.S.-Mexico border:

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) – Texas law enforcement officials say several Mexican drug cartels are luring youngsters as young as 11 to work in their smuggling operations.

Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told Reuters the drug gangs have a chilling name for the young Texans lured into their operations.

“They call them ‘the expendables,'” he said.

McCraw said his investigators have evidence six Mexican drug gangs — including the violent Zetas — have “command and control centers” in Texas actively recruiting children for their operations, attracting them with what appears to be “easy money” for doing simple tasks.

The policy of marijuana prohibition is the primary reason cartels are able to bring in so much profit from distribution within the U.S., the reason they are in such brutal competition with each other, and the catalyst for using cheap and available child conscripts within our borders. Instituting more rational marijuana policies and bringing marijuana into a regulated, legal market would greatly diminish the power of the cartels, as well as their need to corrupt our youth. Licensed businesses, unlike cartels, must obey child labor laws and other regulations in order to stay in business.

Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske and other prohibitionists don’t want to hear that, though. It seems as if they have no problem using imaginary children to scare people away from reform. Real children, however, are “expendable.”

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Obama: From First to Worst on Medical Marijuana


During his run for the presidency, Barack Obama instilled hope in medical marijuana supporters by pledging to respect state laws on the matter. And for the first two years of his term, he was generally faithful to his promise. Yet suddenly, and with no logical explanation, over the past eight months he has become arguably the worst president in U.S. history regarding medical marijuana.

1. In 1970, Nixon signed into law the Controlled Substances Act, which placed marijuana in Schedule I — the most restrictive of the five schedules, which declared that marijuana has no medical value whatsoever. Since then, all seven presidents have been content to keep marijuana in Schedule I, even going so far as to have (1) DEA bureaucrats overrule the DEA’s own administrative law judge on the matter, and (2) Health & Human Services reject scientific petitions for rescheduling.

Read more …

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FBI: 750,000 People Arrested for Simple Marijuana Possession. And For What?


The FBI released their annual Uniform Crime Report yesterday, and the results are anything but surprising. Across the country, people continue to be arrested for marijuana-related violations at an alarming rate, despite the steadily decreasing stigma associated with it and increasing efforts at reforming our irrational marijuana laws. And guess what? It still isn’t working. Our esteemed leaders claim otherwise, even while admitting that they need to change their tactics!

Over the past year, the Obama administration stated that the “war on drugs” is over, and that the government was going to shift its focus away from law enforcement and interdiction and instead put more effort toward public health and education with regard to drugs. At a press conference just last week, Office of National Drug Control Policy director Gil Kerlikowske stated that we cannot arrest our way out of the drug problem.

If these statements are true, then how do they justify the arrests of more than 853,000 people for marijuana-related violations in 2010? That’s one person arrested every 19 seconds! The Drug Czar maintains that law enforcement protocols are still considered a useful tool for eliminating suppliers and dealers as a way to decrease overall use.

Okay, that seems like it makes sense. So how many of those 853,000 arrests were for sale or manufacture of marijuana? The answer is just over 103,000. That means that more than 750,000 people were arrested last year for simple possession! A remarkably small number of people who may have distributed marijuana were arrested last year, along with three quarters of a million simple users, in an effort to curb marijuana use nationwide. Read the rest of this entry »

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Drug Czar upset with hometown paper’s pro-legalization editorial


On Friday, February 18, The Seattle Times ran an editorial endorsing HB 1550, a bill introduced by Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson that would tax and regulate marijuana in the state of Washington. The editorial was thoughtful, reasoned, and logical. Apparently, the Office of National Drug Control Policy doesn’t appreciate this kind of rabble-rousing.

As reported today in The Stranger, The Seattle Times received a call immediately after they ran their editorial from Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, who wanted to fly out to the Emerald City and personally meet with the entire editorial board. This meeting will take place on Friday. Please join us in requesting The Seattle Times live-stream their important and unprecedented meeting with the Drug Czar.

Beyond the obvious chilling of First Amendment rights implicated by an executive official making such a request, one can only assume that Czar Kerlikowske is making the cross-country flight on the American taxpayer dime. At the very least, Czar Kerlikowske will be ‘bullying’ the editorial board on the clock, meaning the taxpayer is paying for him to do this. Considering we’re paying for his flight and his meeting, we should at least be able to sit in via the Internet! In the interest of a transparent government, please join us in requesting that this meeting be streamed live via the World Wide Web.

Oh, and you’ll be pleased to know that The Seattle Times is not backing down in their support of HB 1550 in light of Czar Kerlikowske’s request.

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