MPP's Pen Pal

Jan 20, 2009

drug czar, drug war, drug warriors, gateway, junk science, MPP, ONDCP, science

You wouldn't know it from their Web site, but it turns out the White House drug czar's office is legally required to provide the public with facts that are, well, factual. Under the Data Quality act, all government agencies, including the Office of National Drug Control Policy, are responsible for "ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information."

You could print out the material on ONDCP's site, throw a dart at the printout, and probably hit an assertion that's at least suspect. We picked one we found particularly egregious – the demonstrably false title of the drug czar's publication, "Marijuana: The Greatest Cause of Illegal Drug Abuse."

On Oct. 16, 2008, my colleague, Nathan Miller, an attorney here, filed a petition calling on the drug czar to correct the title, which obviously refers to the long discredited "gateway theory" fantasy (see Question 6).

On Dec. 28, the drug czar's chief scientist, David Murray (who isn't a scientist, by the way -- his degree is in anthropology) responded, but didn't really address the substance of the claim. His letter is pretty short and straightforward if you want to look at it, but basically he made two bizarre arguments: 1) that titles are inherently statements of opinion or policy and therefore not subject to DQA standards, and 2) that the word "cause" shouldn't be read to refer to the gateway theory.

Nathan responded last week, pointing out that Murray had failed to adequately address the underlying falsehood as he is legally required to do. We'll see how that goes.