The Marijuana Policy Project has issued the statement below in response to reports that Congressman Tom Marino (R-PA) will be named the next director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), also known as the “drug czar.”
As a member of Congress, Marino has consistently voted against marijuana policy reform legislation.
MPP's Robert Capecchi released the following statement in a press release:
“We are disappointed but not at all surprised to hear a marijuana prohibitionist is being selected as the next drug czar. After all, whoever fills the position is required by law to oppose any attempts to legalize the use of marijuana for any purpose.
“Despite a steady stream of anti-marijuana drug czars over the past several decades, 28 states have legalized marijuana for medical use and eight states have enacted laws regulating it for adult use. We expect that trend to continue regardless of who the next drug czar is.
“President Trump repeatedly said he believes states should be able to determine their own marijuana policies, and the vast majority of Americans agree. We remain hopeful that the administration will respect state marijuana laws. It is also critical that Congress take action to ease the tension that exists between state and federal marijuana laws.”
Proponents of Measure 91, which would make marijuana legal for adults in Oregon and regulate cultivation and retail sales, are up in arms at the discovery that federal funds are being used to bring drug warrior Kevin Sabet and company to their state to fight against the initiative.
While being billed as nothing more than an educational tour, the two-day conference in Oregon will spend at least half that time focusing on marijuana and providing law enforcement and other prohibitionists with tools to use against the Measure 91 campaign. The tour is funded by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. According to the Willamette Week, the event will also be spearheaded by Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis, who says the "Oregon District Attorneys Association plans to invest in the No on 91 campaign..."
[Anthony] Johnson, the chief petitioner for Yes on 91, says the tour appears to skirt campaign finance law, if not outright break it.
“It’s a misuse of federal taxpayer dollars to campaign against a state ballot measure days before people start voting on it,” he tells WW. “Calling this an ‘education campaign’ is preposterous, and if it is legal, it shouldn’t be.”
MPP has long contended that public funds should never be used to campaign against legislation and ballot initiatives, including the use of on-duty law enforcement. Such behavior is a violation, in spirit if not in law, of the democratic process.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy released an email invitation this past Friday for the first White House Drug Policy Reform Conference in history. The email contained a graphic with a quote from U.S. Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske that read, Drug policy reform should be rooted in NEUROSCIENCE – NOT POLITICAL SCIENCE. Now, MPP is asking the office to explain the meaning behind their contradictory statement, since actual neuroscience has shown that marijuana harms the human brain far less than alcohol does.
For example, in 2005, Researchers at Harvard University reported in the American Journal on Addictions that marijuana use was not associated with structural changes within the brain.
When compared to control subjects, [marijuana] smokers displayed no significant adjusted differences in volumes of gray matter, white matter, cerebrospinal fluid, or left and right hippocampus. ... These findings are consistent with recent literature suggesting that cannabis use is not associated with structural changes within the brain as a whole or the hippocampus in particular.
Furthermore, according to a 2004 report from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:
Heavy drinking may have extensive and far–reaching effects on the brain, ranging from simple ‘slips’ in memory to permanent and debilitating conditions that require lifetime custodial care.
Studies that compare the effects of marijuana and alcohol side by side also find that alcohol is more damaging than marijuana. A 2009 study published in the journal Clinical EEG and Neuroscience found:
Abnormalities have been seen in brain structure volume, white matter quality, and activation to cognitive tasks, even in youth with as little as 1–2 years of heavy drinking and consumption levels of 20 drinks per month, especially if >4–5 drinks are consumed on a single occasion. Heavy marijuana users show some subtle anomalies too, but generally not the same degree of divergence from demographically similar non-using adolescents.
Mason Tvert, MPP’s Communications Director and coauthor of Marijuana is Safer: So why are we driving people to drink? outlines the Drug Czar’s hypocrisy:
Every objective study on marijuana has concluded that it poses far less harm to the brain than alcohol, The ONDCP has long championed laws that steer adults toward using alcohol and away from making the safer choice to use marijuana. If the drug czar is truly committed to prioritizing neuroscience over political science, he should support efforts to make marijuana a legal alternative to alcohol for adults.
To read more about scientific studies of marijuana and its effects on the human body, visit our Science, Studies, and Research page.
Drug czar Gil Kerlikowske has stated on many occasions that his vocabulary does not include the word “legalization.” Now today, we learn that our nation’s top drug warrior doesn’t know the meaning of the word “prohibition” either.
Sadly, I’m not making this up.
In an online video interview today with the Washington Post, Kerlikowske says the Obama administration is “very much opposed” to taxing and regulating marijuana because—get this—he says the taxes paid on alcohol do not make up for the “criminal justice, health care, [and] social costs” of alcohol consumption. Oh, and he just assumes taxes on marijuana wouldn’t either, though he doesn’t bother to mention the billions of dollars we could save on law enforcement, prison, judicial and environmental costs by calling for an end to the futile and unwinnable war the government wages against our country’s largest cash crop and the millions of otherwise law-abiding Americans who use it.
This bizarre answer prompts Post editor Fred Hiatt, the interviewer, to ask an obvious question: “So … are you looking at the prohibition of alcohol?”
The drug czar chuckles. “No,” he says, “we’re not exploring prohibition.”
Actually, Mr. Kerlikowske, you’re enforcing prohibition (defined as a “law, order or decree that forbids something”). It’s the same prohibition—on marijuana—that the federal government has kept intact for more than 70 years, despite its undeniable failure to meet any of its stated goals, and of which you are now the chief overseer.
Your prohibition, Mr. Kerlikowske, leads to the arrest of more than 750,000 Americans every year, all for mere possession of a substance that is demonstrably safer than alcohol, the very notion of (again) prohibiting you yourself find laughable. Marijuana prohibition, meanwhile, has deprived countless sick people of potentially live-saving medicine, endangered peaceful families in terrorizing and unnecessary SWAT raids that murder their pets, and killed more than 22,000 people in Mexico in less than four years of prohibition-fueled violence.
There’s nothing funny about prohibition, Mr. Kerlikowske. You might want to stop laughing, pick up a dictionary, and think long and hard about what it means.