Drug Czar’s Office To NORML: ‘We Can’t Legalize Marijuana Because Some People Abuse Prescription Drugs!’ Wait, Huh?
(Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director )
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
What can I say? I’m flattered. David Mineta, deputy director for demand reduction in the Office of National Drug Control Policy, has taken time to publicly respond to little ol’ me. I wonder if they pronounce ‘Armentano’ phonetically at the Drug Czar’s office?
The back story: Last week NORML Board member Paul Kuhn and I published a guest commentary in Nashville’s largest daily newspaper, The Tennessean, opining in favor of H.R. 2306, the ‘Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011. Here’s an excerpt:
Marijuana legalization bill offers safer alternative
via The Tennessean
We know tobacco is the leading cause of death in America, contributing to 400,000 deaths each year. So it’s hardly any wonder the FDA will require the placement of prominent warning labels. Alcohol is the third-leading cause of death in America. The World Health Organization reported earlier this year that “alcohol causes nearly 4 percent of deaths worldwide, more than AIDS, tuberculosis or violence.”
… What about marijuana? With every other drug from Advil and alcohol to Zantac, a correct dose is effective, but too high a dose kills the patient. No dose of marijuana is capable of causing a fatal overdose.
… And unlike alcohol and tobacco, adverse effects of even heavy cannabis use are minimal. There is no epidemiological evidence in any country, after scores of studies and centuries of use by tens of millions of people, that marijuana smokers have a shorter life expectancy than non-smokers.
… They don’t become violent at sports events or beat their spouses and children. They don’t get heart disease, cancer, brain damage or any other deadly illness at a higher rate than those who abstain. In fact, a pair of studies conducted by Kaiser Permanente found that marijuana use, even long-term, was not associated with elevated levels of mortality or incidences of cancer, including types of cancers associated with tobacco smoking.
… America is on a path to allow adults to choose a safer alternative to tobacco and alcohol. And create more tax revenue and more jobs in Tennessee. And more freedom.
Apparently quite a few people read our editorial, including some folks at the Drug Czar’s office. And it must have gotten under their skin because today the White House responded with this.
Movement for legalized marijuana ignores dangers
via The Tennessean
Proponents of marijuana legalization often argue it will do everything from fixing our economy to ending violent crime (“Marijuana legalization bill offers safer alternative,” Tennessee Voices, Aug. 15). Yet, the science is clear: Marijuana use is not a benign drug and it is harmful to public health and safety.
… Would marijuana legalization make Tennessee healthier or safer? One needs to look no further than Tennessee’s current painful experience with prescription drug abuse. In Tennessee, prescription drugs are legal, regulated, and taxed — and yet rates of the abuse of pain relievers in the state exceed the national average by more than 10 percent.
Nationally, someone dies from an unintentional drug overdose — driven in large part by prescription drug abuse — on average every 19 minutes. What would America look like if we had just as many people using marijuana as we currently have smoking cigarettes, abusing alcohol, and abusing prescription drugs?
The classic ‘bait-and-switch’ goes on and on, but you get the idea. But I’m not sure the Drug Czar’s office does. After all, if their logic above had even a hint of consistency then they would be arguing for the criminal prohibition of cigarettes, alcohol, and prescription drugs. And lots of other things.
Yet when it comes to Americans’ use of substances like tobacco, booze, and prescription drugs — substances that pose far greater dangers to health than does cannabis — the White House recognizes that prohibition is not the answer: regulation and education are. So why does the Drug Czar’s office fail to apply this same common-sense principle to pot? Perhaps it has something to do with the federal requirement requiring the office to lie about legalization.
Finally, as to the specific question: ‘What would America look like if we had just as many people using marijuana as are presently using tobacco, alcohol, and prescription medications?’ Well, what does America look like today? After all, the federal government imposed criminal prohibition over 70 years ago; yet today that very same federal government admits that over one out of ten Americans admit to having using cannabis in the past year. Among those age 18 to 25, almost half admit to consuming cannabis recently!
The question isn’t ‘What if Americans consumed marijuana?’ The reality is that tens of millions of Americans have and do consume marijuana. Most do so privately and responsibly. Legalizing cannabis simply acknowledges this reality and seeks to regulate the behavior appropriately. In a free society, why would even consider doing differently?
(RAW STORY) Gil Kerlikowske, the United States Drug Czar, has backpedaled on his pronouncement that marijuana “is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit.”
His original statement was made to The Fresno Bee on July 22. But in a little-noticed interview with Komo 4 News in Washington earlier this month, Kerlikowske was given a second chance to address the question.
As pointed out by Jacob Sullum at Reason, the nation’s top official on drugs excused his statement by blaming the weather:
“We had been hiking in 107 degree weather in the Sierra Nevadas and when we came down … The question was in reference to smoked marijuana and as you know, smoked marijuana has not been shown by the FDA to have that, to show medicinal value. And that … This is a medical question and that’s where we’re gonna leave it.”
So, specifically, he believes marijuana burned then inhaled has no medicinal value, but other modes of delivery may.
The qualification does make sense, given that the FDA has approved human trials for Sativex, a liquid form of THC — the active ingredient in marijuana — that can applied under the tongue or as an inhaled mist. Maker GW Pharmaceuticals said it is developing the drug “as a treatment for patients with advanced cancer whose pain has not been adequately relieved by optimized treatment with strong opioid medications.”
It’s also worth noting that the federal government has run a medical marijuana program since the 70′s, called the “compassionate investigative new drugs” initiative. Only about 30 people were ever enrolled, and among them fewer than 10 survive today. Every month, each member of the program is given a tin can of some 300 rolled marijuana cigarettes. To smoke.
Paid for and grown by the U.S. Government.
The continued existence of this program makes even Kerlikowske’s backtrack ring hollow. Of course, it’s still notable as a public shift for the still-new drug czar.
In February, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the federal government would no longer raid medical marijuana dispensaries in states that have voted to allow doctors the right to prescribe the herb to their patients.
During the interview, Kerlikowske added that marijuana legalization is not in his vocabulary, but that the main focus of his office going forward will be prescription drugs, which he said kill more Americans than gun violence each year.
Thursday, 14 May 2009 12:55
(Celeb Stoner) – Obama’s new “Drug Czar” Gil Kerlikowske has a problem that won’t go away. His stepson Jeffrey Kerlikowske (see mug shot) remains in a Florida prison on a probation violation stemming from marijuana and battery charges. He was arrested on March 4.
Yesterday, Kerlikowske made headlines when he stated, “Regardless of how you try to explain to people it’s a ‘war on drugs’ or a ‘war on a product,’ people see a war as a war on them. We’re not at war with people in this country.”
It would appear that the War on Drugs is at least partially responsible for Kerlikowske’s estranged son’s continued incarceration at Paul Rein Detention Facility in Pompano Beach.
According to the Washington Times, Jeff Kerlikowske’s was arrested “for violating probation from a July 2007 felony battery charge and the two drug-related charges on his record. The violation was for not properly reporting his work hours and for not being in his home at the proper time.
“Among the charges from Florida agencies were marijuana possession and distribution charges, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, theft, cruelty to animals and larceny. Kerlikowske, who appears to have been adopted as a child by Mr. Kerlikowske during a previous marriage, was arrested for a violation on a warrant related to an original conviction of felony battery in Broward County, Florida.
“In June 2007, after pleading no contest to battery, he was sentenced to one year and one day in state prison, to be followed by two years of drug-offender probation and an additional year of regular probation.
“The drug charges included possession of 20 grams or less of cannabis in 2006 and distributing marijuana in 1998, both misdemeanors in Florida.”
New Times out of Broward-Palm Beach further reports:
“Jeffrey Kerlikowske, 39, of Coconut Creek, has a history of selling marijuana and was imprisoned in connection with an April 16, 2006, case of felony battery, for which he was released a year ago. He was arrested in Martin County for allegedly violating his parole.”
Kerlikowske should clean up his own house as he begins the more difficult job of dismantling the nation’s War on Drugs.