The Hill: “Obama Drug Plan ‘Firmly Opposes’ Legalization as California Vote Looms”

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 11, 2010

    So this is your administration on drugs. Any questions?

    Obama drug plan ‘firmly opposes’ legalization as California vote looms
    via The Hill

    The Obama administration said Tuesday that it “firmly opposes” the legalization of any illicit drugs as California voters head to the polls to consider legalizing marijuana this fall.

    The president and his drug czar re-emphasized their opposition to legalizing drugs in the first release of its National Drug Control Strategy this morning.

    “Keeping drugs illegal reduces their availability and lessens willingness to use them,” the document, prepared by Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, says. “That is why this Administration firmly opposes the legalization of marijuana or any other illicit drug.”

    Is anyone surprised? You shouldn’t be. After all, this is the same Gil Kerlikowske that has said repeatedly that legalization is not in his vocabulary, and publicly stated, “Marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit.” And this is the same administration that recently nominated Michele Leonhart to head the DEA — the same Michele Leonhart who overruled the DEA’s own administrative law judge in order to continue to block medical marijuana research, and publicly claimed that the rising death toll civilians attributable to the U.S./Mexican drug war “a signpost of the success” of U.S. prohibitionist policies.

    UPDATE: Director Kerlikowske will appear live tomorrow on WAMU, Wednesday, May 11, (likely in the first hour between 10-11am, eastern) on the Diane Rehm Show. Listeners can call (1-800-433-8850), email or Tweet their questions to the Drug Czar.

    Yet, given that national polls now indicate that an estimated one out of two Americans nationwide support legalization, and that a solid majority of west coast voters and Californians back regulating the retail production and distribution of pot like alcohol, it seems politically counterproductive for the administration to maintain such a ‘flat Earth’ policy. So what could possibly be their reasoning?

    It’s actually spelled out here, in the White House’s 2010 Drug Control Strategy:

    We have many proven methods for reducing the demand for drugs. Keeping drugs illegal reduces their availability and lessens willingness to use them. That is why this Administration firmly opposes the legalization of marijuana or any other illicit drug. Legalizing drugs would increase accessibility and encourage promotion and acceptance of use. Diagnostic, laboratory, clinical, and epidemiological studies clearly indicate that marijuana use is associated with dependence, respiratory and mental illness, poor motor performance, and cognitive impairment, among other negative effects, and legalization would only exacerbate these problems.

    There it is in black and white — in less than 100 words: The federal government’s entire justification for marijuana prohibition; their entire justification for a policy that has led to the arrest of over 20 million Americans since 1965, that is responsible for allowing cops to terrorize families and kill their pets, that has stripped hundreds of thousands of young people of their ability to pursue higher education, and that is directly responsible for the deaths of over 20,000 civilians on the U.S./Mexico border. And that’s just for starters.

    Yet the entire premise for maintaining the government’s policy — that keeping marijuana criminally prohibited “reduces [its] availability and lessens willingness to use [it]” — is demonstrably false. Under present prohibition, more than 1/3 of 8th graders, more than 2/3rds of 10th graders, and some 85 percent of 12th graders say that marijuana is “easy to get.” Even according to the stridently prohibitionist group CASA (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University), more teens say that they can get their hands on pot than booze, and one-quarter say that they can buy marijuana within the hour. That means, President Obama and Gil Kerlikowske, that 25 percent of teens can obtain marijuana as easily — and as quickly — as a Domino’s pizza!

    This is your “proven” method for “reducing availability?” Don’t make us laugh.

    By contrast, dozens of studies from around the globe have established, consistently, that marijuana liberalization will result in lower overall drug use. For example, no less than the World Health Organization concluded:

    “Globally, drug use is not distributed evenly, and is simply not related to drug policy. … The U.S. … stands out with higher levels of use of alcohol, cocaine, and cannabis, despite punitive illegal drug policies. … The Netherlands, with a less criminally punitive approach to cannabis use than the U.S., has experienced lower levels of use, particularly among younger adults. Clearly, by itself, a punitive policy towards possession and use accounts for limited variation in national rates of illegal drug use.”

    In fact, NORML has an entire white paper devoted to addressing this issue here.

    Of course, the best option to truly reduce youth availability to cannabis is legalization and regulation. This strategy — the same one that we employ for the use of virtually every other product except cannabis — would impose common sense controls regarding who can legally produce marijuana, who can legally distribute marijuana, who can legally consume marijuana, and where adults can legally use marijuana and under what circumstances is such use legally permitted.

    But we already know that this option isn’t in the administration’s vocabulary, now don’t we?

    I’ve written time and time again that this administration ought to view marijuana legalization as a political opportunity, not a political liability. They obviously aren’t listening. Nevertheless, it is the voters who have led — and will continue to lead — on this issue, and it is the politicians who will follow. Could we expect it to be any other way?

    After all it was the federal government that followed the states lead in 1937 — federally criminalizing pot, but only doing so after virtually every state in the nation had already done so. California, for instance, outlawed marijuana use in 1913 — nearly a quarter of a century before the Feds acted similarly. Likewise, it is going to be the states — and California in particular — that are going to usher in the era of re-legalization.

    And it will be the Feds who eventually will have no other choice but to fall in line.

    157 Responses to “The Hill: “Obama Drug Plan ‘Firmly Opposes’ Legalization as California Vote Looms””

    1. t says:

      So they justify billions of dollars pent and millions of lives lost on what again? They keep it classified like herorin proving to every person who has the knowledge that the government lies. It was outlawed largely due to racism and i believe its time we elect thisa uncle tom out of office.

    2. N says:

      Marijuana is much easier to get than alcohol on my college campus, not that either is especially hard to find. The only difference is I can pick up the marijuana myself, while I have to persuade my of-age friends to drive to a liquor store.

    3. Mike says:

      This is completely ridiculous.

    4. freedom says:

      And it will be the Feds who eventually will have no other choice but to fall in line.

      They still think they are the ultimate power in this country, they still think their words are law when spoken… they better wake up, the states and the people are going to put them in thier place…As our employees…not their wage slaves.

      Too those of you that might not realize it….their drug war banter in form of their strategy is for those that dont know about or understand the truth of the drug war…all that banter is for those still asleep to the lies our leaders feed America. This banter is not for us. Its up to Cali to educate America. What will the feds do if its legalized in cali? What will Cali LE do? I think Cali LE will bow to the feds and work under their banner. Time to show Who owns this country…..WE THE PEOPLE.

    5. wash-voter says:

      Remove cannabis from the schedule 1 list of narcotics. You’re sending the wrong message to our people. They are assuming that all those other substances are safe too. The big lie is over. The “I am the great and powerfull OZ” trick is no longer working on the informed people of this country. You’re just making us look bad now.

    6. Mary says:

      I think Marijuana should be legalized and taxed to help the national economy and keep thousands of young people out of jails for possession. It is safer than alcohol which causes thousands of deaths and ruins families. The only result of of the laws are hurting people who use it for whatever reason. Vote for legalization!!!

    7. moldy says:

      It’s no surprise that Obama would continue a failed 70 year policy. It also won’t be a big surprise when he isn’t re-elected to a second term.

      Where is the science that he promised?

    8. Ga Sunshine says:

      Vote Eugene Moon in Georgia 9th District to replace Nathan Deal in Washington. He said that it should be a state issue and would not oppose it if the voters want it.

    9. Justin says:

      I really wish these administrators and high-end high payed people, with our taxes none the less, would really open their eyes, in their own school days I don’t know how hard it could be to get some pot but I am sure it was really easy, even if it was some crap mexican shwag it was always around, and much easier to get than alcohol.

      In my 4 years at high school I PURCHASED beer/alcohol 1 time because it was extremely hard for me to find someone over 21. I PURCHASED pot (under 18) countless times EACH YEAR because the dealer in the big black jacket and jeans saggin to his knees didn’t care if I was 9 years old or 30. The first time I bought pot he gave me a pre-rolled blunt ready to spark up right after class! Now listen Adults, help get these dealers that DO have access to harder drugs like cocaine, out of our childrens school. Even I didn’t like the pressure of buyinig and smoking pot right during school when I got it.

      I just want to buy and smoke in peace, all while keeping my job and providing for my family and kids.

    10. Yoni says:

      In my personal opinion, I think that marijuana law reformers are too focused on getting marijuana legalized when they should be more focused on informing the public on why marijuana is a safe drug. We need to make sure people stop seeing marijuana as an “illicit” drug and then legalization will be an easy task.

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