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.”
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 Change.org petition asking President Obama to reschedule marijuana and share it with your friends.
Members of Congress grilled a representative from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Tuesday at a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and slammed the office for failing to acknowledge key facts about marijuana. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) chided the drug czar's office for relying on marijuana "propaganda." Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) criticized the office for failing to address the National Institute on Drug Abuse's obstruction of research into the medical benefits of marijuana.
During his testimony regarding the Obama administration's marijuana policy, ONDCP Deputy Director Michael Botticelli refused to acknowledge that marijuana poses less potential harm to the consumer than heroin or methamphetamine.
Some of the highlights of the hearing:
Rep. Blumenauer telling Dir. Botticelli "you're part of the problem." ...
Rep. Cohen telling Dir. Botticelli to "ask Phillip Seymour Hoffman if marijuana is as dangerous as heroin." ...
Rep. Gerry Connolly pressing the witness on the fact that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol.
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.
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.”
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.
This is not the first time the Obama Administration has been asked by its neighboring governments to consider adopting more lenient marijuana policies in order to help combat the violent drug cartels that plague Latin America. The question was raised at last year’s Summit of the Americas.
The response from American officials was typical: making marijuana legal is not an option they will consider.
Rafael Lemaitre, spokesman for the White House’s drug czar, said in response to the report that “any suggestion that nations legalize drugs like heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine runs counter to an evidenced-based, public health approach to drug policy and are not viable alternatives.”
It is hardly “evidence-based” to lump marijuana in with the other drugs mentioned in that statement. Studies have conclusively shown that marijuana is objectively safer than all of them, including legal alcohol. Nor is it in the interest of public health to continue allowing the marijuana industry to be controlled by violent criminal organizations.
Latin America can attest to the fact that this drug war has a real body count. The United States needs to take responsibility for its failed policies and be willing to listen to its neighbors.
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?
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.”
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.”
The drug war claimed another victim this week, this time in the form of organized professional sports. On Wednesday, February 2, the LPGA Tour announced that it would postpone the Tres Marias Championship, which was to be held in Morelia, Mexico. Tour officials stated that their security firm determined that safety issues surrounding the event are “too severe” to have the event this year, and in order to hold the event in future years, things would have to “improve dramatically.”
I’ll be the first to admit that losing one golf tournament is nothing to lose sleep over and it should be put into context (we all know the true tragedy of the War on Drugs). However, the fact that a security firm decided that the current state of affairs in Morelia, Mexico renders a LPGA tournament unplayable due to safety concerns should give everyone pause. Today Morelia loses a major golf tournament, tomorrow could see other industry follow suit. Once industry leaves, the only employers are the cartels that create the violence that drives away the business and the police who do battle with them. The cycle of violence continues. Rinse and repeat.
If American officials, who invest heavily in Mexico’s war against cartels, were to simply lift the prohibition on marijuana, we could see real change for our neighbors to the south. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy estimates that Mexican drug cartels derive 60% of their profits from marijuana sales to the U.S. market. With one policy decision, we could cripple the cartels’ bank accounts and their power structure, bringing an end to the violence that has devastated vast areas of Mexico. When that day comes, it will certainly be a fine day for golf.
A new report released today by the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy uses figures provided by the U.S. government to highlight the unquestionable failure of America’s marijuana prohibition to accomplish a single one of its goals. Reviewing 20 years of data, the report shows that despite drastically increased spending on enforcement efforts, including near record-level arrests and seizures, marijuana has become cheaper, more potent, and more available than ever. It concludes, “the legalization of cannabis, combined with the implementation of strict regulatory tools could help reduce cannabis-related harms, as research has demonstrated is successful in tobacco and alcohol control, when strictly enforced.”
Among the report’s findings:
- The annual overall budget for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy increased by more than 600%; growing from approximately $1.5 billion in 1981 to more than $18 billion in 2002 (the last year reliable figures were available).
- Between 1990 and 2006, marijuana-related arrests increased by 150%, while marijuana seizures increased by more than 400%.
- The estimated retail cost of marijuana decreased from $37 per gram in 1990 to $15 per gram in 2007.
- Marijuana has remained almost “universally available” to American youth during the last 30 years of prohibition.
The report is very clear in its endorsement of a regulated marijuana market over simply a decriminalized model, in which criminal penalties against users are removed, but the sale of marijuana would remain illegal, and therefore, in the hands of criminals. “Without regulatory controls allowing for limited distribution – as employed for other psychoactive substances such as alcohol and tobacco – organized crime groups continue to exercise control over the cannabis market,” the report states.
It goes on to explain that regulations could include “age restrictions, restricting driving or operating machinery while intoxicated, limiting hours of sale and outlet density, restricting bulk sales and limiting potency of legal cannabis.”
Boiled down, this is the same message that MPP and others have advocated for years: marijuana regulation is a far superior policy alternative to the chaotic and ineffective nature of prohibition.
On November 2, voters in California will have a historic opportunity to choose that superior alternative by voting yes on Prop 19.
We’ve all heard the rhetoric, trotted out again and again by law enforcement and paranoid city officials, that dispensaries and other marijuana facilities cause crime wherever they are. They focus on a horror story and blame the dispensary regardless of the facts at hand. They point to media coverage of similar incidents and say that all dispensaries are blights on the community.
Now, the media and the authorities are very good at using scare tactics, but what they consistently lack are statistical data to support their claims. This is because there is no such data.
Yesterday, the Denver Post reported that neither Colorado Springs or Denver police could find any data to support a correlation between dispensaries and increases in crime. In fact, such locations were the targets of crime at rates comparable to any other business. Criminal acts in the surrounding areas did not rise when the stores opened.
This is surely disappointing to many prohibitionists, most notably Kevin Sabet, a special advisor to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Over the summer, Sabet was so desperate to prove the negative effects of dispensaries that he started an intensive search for anything that could provide statistical support for the wild claims of law enforcement.
Looks like he came up short.