New Drug Survey Demolishes Drug Czar’s Claims

Sep 04, 2008 , , , ,

“When we push back against the drug problem, it gets smaller.”

                        — John Walters, White House Drug Czar

 Well, now we know why federal officials chose to release the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) on a day when the Republican convention’s climax and a string of hurricanes is likely to keep it out of the headlines. The survey pretty much dynamites Office of National Drug Control Policy chief John Walters’ claims of success in reducing marijuana and drug use during his tenure, which he’d like us to attribute to his aggressive policies , and particularly ONDCP’s near-obsession with demonizing marijuana.

First, some raw numbers: The total number of Americans (aged 12 and up) who have used illicit drugs is up from 108 million in 2002, the first full year of Walters’ tenure, to 114 million in 2007. And the number of Americans who’ve used marijuana has passed the 100 million mark for the first time — up from 95 million in 2002.

Rates of drug use have gone up as well. In 2002, 46.0 percent of Americans had used an illicit drug at some point in their lives. In 2007 it was 46.1 percent. For marijuana, the rate went from 40.4 percent to 40.6 percent. Both the “any illicit drug” and marijuana use rates had dropped a bit in 2006 and spiked notably in the new survey. Illicit use of painkillers such as OxyContin is up notably — a disturbing trend considering the addictive nature of such drugs, not to mention the risk of fatal overdose (a nonexistent risk with marijuana). “Current” (past 30 days) use of illicit drugs is down only marginally since 2002  — from 8.3 percent to 8.0 percent for all illicit drugs, and the trend for marijuana is similar.

And, strikingly, despite all of Walters’ huffing and puffing about marijuana, the number of Americans starting marijuana use for the first time has not budged during his tenure.

If this is success, someone please tell me what failure looks like.

But wait, there’s more. ONDCP officials regularly argue that maintaining criminal penalties for marijuana possession is essential to stopping drug abuse. So what’s happened with a dangerous drug whose possession is legal: cigarettes? NSDUH conveniently provides figures for past-month cigarette use, and both the number of users and the rate of cigarette use is down markedly. In 2002, 26 percent of Americans were current cigarette smokers; now it’s 24.2 percent, continuing a decades-long decline. And the decline in current cigarette smoking for 12-to-17-year-olds is even more dramatic, from 13 percent to 9.8 percent.

That, of course, is with zero arrests for cigarette possession, compared with 739,000 marijuana possession arrests in 2006 (the last year for which stats are available).

The numbers are in. Marijuana prohibition is a wasteful farce. And John Walters’ tenure as drug czar has been a failure.




7 responses to “New Drug Survey Demolishes Drug Czar’s Claims”

  1. The only thing applicable to the ns,is the DUH at the ed of it,why cant people see through this bullshit once and for all, when its time to vote,we need to let the elected officials we pay for that the parties over once and for all,we the people,not we the government and lie after lie.

  2. I know I posted this on your other blog but it’s worth repeating:

    I think whenever dealing with the ONDCP, it should be mentioned that they are required to OPPOSE any legalization efforts for schedule 1 drugs, like cannabis, for any reason including medical.

    Abridged from

    “Most people know that the “drug czar”, — the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) — is an advocate for the government’s position regarding the drug war. But not everyone knows that he and his office are mandated to tell lies as part of their Congressional authorization.
    According to Title VII Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 1998: H11225:

    Responsibilities. –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 section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812) and take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance (in any form) that–is listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812); and
    has not been approved for use for medical purposes by the Food and Drug Administration;

    For example, the issue of medical marijuana. If the government finds that marijuana has “currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States” or “accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision,” then by law, marijuana cannot remain in Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act, which would immediately legalize it for medical purposes.

    But by law, the drug czar must oppose any attempt to legalize the use of cannabis (in any form). Therefore, despite the fact that there is extensive evidence of medical marijuana’s safety and effectiveness (including the fact that even the federal government supplies it to patients), and clearly the drug czar would know about all this information, he is required by law to lie about it. The job description also means that since he must oppose any attempt to legalize, he has no choice but declare that the drug war is working, that legalization would fail, etc., regardless of any scientific facts.

    On April 2, 2003, Congressman Ron Paul wrote a letter to the United States General Accounting Office (GAO) asking for an investigation into ONDCP lobbying activities and their dissemination of “misleading information” (a polite euphemism for “lying”)

    The GAO responded (pdf):

    Finally, apart from considerations of whether any particular law has been violated, you have asked whether the Deputy Director’s letter disseminated misleading information in connection with statements relating to the debate over legalization of marijuana. […] ONDCP is specifically charged with the responsibility for “taking such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use” of certain controlled substances such as marijuana — a responsibility which logically could include the making of advocacy statements in opposition to legalization efforts. The Deputy Director’s statements about marijuana are thus within the statutory role assigned to ONDCP. Given this role, we do not see a need to examine the accuracy of the Deputy Director’s individual statements in detail.

    Translation: Since “lying” is in the job description of the ONDCP, there’s no point in bothering to see whether they’re telling the truth. Keep in mind that this requirement to avoid the truth if it interferes with the mission of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is not limited to the current drug czar, John Walters and Scott Burns. The next drug czar, even if appointed by a President who tepidly supports certain reform measures, will be constrained by the same job description defined by Congress.”

    This is particularly disturbing since these guys keep distributing misinformation and often, it’s the only info Congress hears. PLEASE CONTACT YOUR CONGRESSMEMBERS AND EDUCATE THEM ABOUT THE AFFECTS OF THE DRUG WARS IN YOUR COMMUNITY

  3. Great comment, herb. It’s also true, though, that Walters has been particularly active and aggressive in his mandated duties to slander cannabis and its users. I don’t see any “War on Prescription Drug Addiction” in the offing. The bottom line is that we need leaders who are willing to take a realistic, pragmatic assessment of the War on Drugs; vote Obama, and I think we’ll all appreciate the change he and his administration bring to this issue.

  4. What a pathetic excuse for a government, this country really sucks.
    I used to be a proud American, now its shameful and embarrassing, the fact that no one in a governmental position is accountable for anything is proportional to the governments quest/mission to punish its citizens

  5. Fascinating Fascism. Government has abolished all competition to its drug programs. Nobody has noticed. Ignorance, ignorance, ignorance abounds to such a degree because the average American knows nothing about what drugs have done to their brains. Or do you think that Alzheimers that was just a footnote in a 1962 Neurology text that is now a rampaging epidemic has nothing to do with polypharmacy? Get a life!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *