Talk about seeing the error of his ways.
John J. Dilulio, Jr., the man who once co-authored a book with two former drug czars that described America’s drug war as “the most successful attack on a serious social problem in the last quarter-century,” has now reversed course, writing in the journal Democracy that it is “insane” to “expend scarce federal, state, and local law enforcement resources waging ‘war’ against [marijuana] users.”
Specifically, Dilulio, who served for eight months in 2001 as director of President George W. Bush’s White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, listed making medical marijuana legal as one of “six steps to zero prison growth,” along with removing all federal mandatory-minimum drug sentencing policies. He also said the United States should “seriously consider decriminalizing [marijuana] altogether” because marijuana arrests have “close to zero” effect on crime rates and there is “almost no scientific evidence” showing marijuana to be more harmful than alcohol or legal narcotics.
This is coming from the same guy who in 1996 co-authored a (now out-of-print) book that was subtitled “How to Win America’s War Against Crime and Drugs,” with former directors of the Office of National Control Policy Bill Bennett and John Walters.
I would love to know what got Dilulio to change his views of drug policy—and how we could make other former prohibitionists see the light as well.
Here is the complete excerpt of Dilulio’s article that discusses marijuana policy:
“Sixth, legalize marijuana for medically prescribed uses, and seriously consider decriminalizing it altogether. Last year there were more than 800,000 marijuana-related arrests. The impact of these arrests on crime rates was likely close to zero. There is almost no scientific evidence showing that pot is more harmful to its users’ health, more of a "gateway drug," or more crime-causing in its effects than alcohol or other legal narcotic or mind-altering substances. Our post-2000 legal drug culture has untold millions of Americans, from the very young to the very old, consuming drugs in unprecedented and untested combinations and quantities. Prime-time commercial television is now a virtual medicine cabinet ("just ask your doctor if this drug is right for you"). Big pharmaceutical companies function as all-purpose drug pushers. And yet we expend scarce federal, state, and local law enforcement resources waging "war" against pot users. That is insane.”
The Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR), based at the University of California, San Diego, published a report today summarizing the results of clinical trials studying medical marijuana’s efficacy in treating pain. The studies, funded by CMCR under the mandate of a 1999 legislative action, found that marijuana is particularly helpful in relieving pain associated with nerve damage and in treating the muscle spasticity from multiple sclerosis.
In 2002, then-drug czar and rabid medical marijuana opponent, John Walters said, “The Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research is currently conducting scientific studies to determine the efficacy of marijuana in treating various ailments. Until that research is concluded, however, most of what the public hears from marijuana activists is little more than a compilation of anecdotes.”
Well, the proof is in. Now it’s time for Congress to bring federal medical marijuana policy into line with the science.
The full CMCR publication can be downloaded, here.
Steve Fox, MPP’s new director of state campaigns (who was also MPP’s federal lobbyist from 2002-2005), sends in the following dispatch:
While riding the Metro’s Red Line yesterday, I spotted former drug czar John Walters entering the train. When he ended up standing right beside me, I realized I couldn’t pass up the chance for a conversation. I know it sounds like a fruitless endeavor, but I’m an eternal optimist and thought, “Maybe if we have a casual lunch together, he’ll come to see the folly of keeping marijuana illegal.”
I opened with a polite, “Hello, Mr. Walters. I just wanted to introduce myself. I am Steve Fox and I work with the Marijuana Policy Project.” The chipper look on his face quickly changed. It looked like he had just thrown up in his mouth a little and was regretting the fact that he had nowhere to spit.
I said, “I know we have been on opposite sides of the issue, but I was wondering whether you would be interested in having lunch any time just to talk about our differences and to see whether we have any mutual interests.” He seemed to stifle a laugh and said, “I don’t think that would be worth our time. You know where I stand and I know where you stand.” This is not the first time I have been turned down for a date, so I let it slide right off. More importantly, I had more work to do. I had just eight more minutes to get him to support ending marijuana prohibition.
I don’t mean to spoil the ending, but it didn’t work. But it was a fascinating conversation nonetheless. The most interesting part is that he never broke character. I assumed he must, at some level, appreciate that most of what he said during his tenure as drug czar was either a distortion of the facts or completely ignorant of other available information. Boy, was I wrong.
He proceeded to give me all of his standard lines as if they were actually true and meaningful, like alleging (incorrectly) that marijuana is the leading cause of drug treatment admissions for teens, even more than alcohol.
When I asked him if he really thinks that marijuana is more harmful than alcohol, he quickly said, “Sure.” I said, “I mean, in terms of overdose deaths, overall deaths from use, the likelihood of causing domestic abuse and other forms of violence?” He said, “I talk to directors of treatment facilities and they tell me that those who are violent use all kinds of substances – marijuana, alcohol, heroin, cocaine…”
As we reached his stop, I repeated my lunch offer and extended my hand with my business card. For a moment, I thought he was going to just walk away, but he took it with a look of annoyance on his face.
I assume that card is in the trash somewhere now. But perhaps it is sitting on his desk and each look at it is making him ponder the true value of his work as drug czar.
As I said, I am an optimist.
[P.S. – Be sure to check out Steve’s new book, Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? (Chelsea Green, July 2009).]
You may remember a few weeks back when Dan posted a couple of John Walters's question and answer segments from a drug czar press conference where Walters claimed that "finding somebody in jail or prison for a first time, non-violent offender [sic] for possession of marijuana is like finding a unicorn." More recently, Ben found plenty of unicorns by Walters's definition.