Drug Czar’s Office To NORML: ‘We Can’t Legalize Marijuana Because Some People Abuse Prescription Drugs!’ Wait, Huh?

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 22, 2011

    “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?

    136 responses to “Drug Czar’s Office To NORML: ‘We Can’t Legalize Marijuana Because Some People Abuse Prescription Drugs!’ Wait, Huh?”

    1. I wonder what the ONDCPs response would be if a group asked their position on criminalizing alcohol again, or arresting people for using prescription medication because of the potentially hazardous abusive nature.

    2. Kevin says:

      The problem is twofold – 1) stupid ass right wing dinosaurs afraid of offending their (rapidly aging) demographic with anything remotely controversial. and 2) the enormous amount of money in this fight contributed by the alchohol and prescription drug industry. Especially prescription drug makers like Pfizer and Glaxo – they spend millions to fight pro-marijuana laws. The combination of these two factors is a large hurdle to overcome – but WE SHALL OVERCOME.

    3. Dan says:

      Actually heart disease is the number one cause of death in America. If we are going to publish articles lets at least get the facts correct.

    4. Jacquess says:

      “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.”

      I read that and laugh. Ok here’s the deal, if Cannabis were legal. People could choose to use Cannabis versus most… if not all, of these other prescription and OTC drugs. Then people wouldn’t have to worry about all these overdoses because you can’t overdose from Cannabis. Oh wait I’m sorry yeah you can, you just pass out get some good sleep and wake up hungry. Just terrible.

    5. Paul Watson says:

      Wow! that has to be the most ridiculous response from a government agency yet. By this line of logic, if you abuse children, none of the rest of us should have children. If you abuse traffic laws the rest of us should be taking mass transit. If you abuse the intelligence of the public, we should just turn our heads away and become stupid. I’d be investigating what those fools are abusing to get a better perspective on thier thinking, or lack of. % will get you ten, theyre borderline alkies!

    6. GS says:

      The response “Would marijuana legalization make Tennessee healthier or safer?”

      The answer is too obvious – If one life is saved by utilizing MJ versus any of the mentioned “dangerous” substances, then it is a positive thing for society, right? Unless you are paid to oppose MJ, I spose…. Common sense should prevail!

    7. Steve says:

      To release such a lame, idiotic statement scares me…
      Do they just throw out all facts and common sense before penning such nonsense… laughable …

    8. brooke says:

      It’s actually very simple.
      They keep marijuana illegal so they can jail users and they’ll likely have a shorter life span + increase the profits of owners of privately owned prisons.
      They keep prescription drugs legal to increase profits for the owners of big pharma. More people will overdose and die thus fulfilling their sick depopulation agenda. The owners of these companies also give hefty campaign donations to these politicians.
      As of today you cannot patent naturally occurring substances, but big pharma can patent synthetic marijuana drugs, such as marinol. Other companies stand to lose a fortune as well from this earth friendly substance that could be used for a multitude of items including safer plastics and fuel.

    9. Shannon Weirich says:

      It is a sad day when the “Drug Czar’s office” admits to how harmful all the abused prescription drugs are hahaha not mentioning the approval rate of said prescriptions with those wonderful side effects, in print, voices how horrible alcohol issues have become, puts up DEATH RATES, then lumps marijuana in with them. I am aghast.
      Currently I am a mother of 2 wonderful, bright, well adjusted, ornery, well taken care of (aka spoiled) children, I attend college, making honor roll or Deans list every term– not someone who sits on the couch and plays video games in my moms basement and eats junk food all day, let’s just squash that stereo type right now.
      I can only pray that one day enough people will learn it’s not okay to be afraid to stand up to the government for their needs and wants, and we will once again take back the representatives who are responsible for voicing our needs and wants, not voicing for the corporational politics what will put the biggest steak on their table and the prettiest hookers in their bed.

    10. David H says:

      I have become a stout believer that greed and corruption cause brain damage! For anyone to keep publicly spouting the same old song and dance when everyone knows it is pure garbage has definitely had their IQ lowered. Evidently secret agendas and kick-backs will do that to you. Is there anyone left in any form of authority in this country who isn’t on the take??

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