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. RayChristlTHC says:

      Nice job Paul…these straw man fallacies will be seen by both the ruling class & average educated citizens, as more nails in the coffin of sumptuary laws against cannabis. Emancipation is at hand. OCTA in Oregon needs your help, so find Jennifer Alexander on FB and donate.

    2. i think it’s ‘tsar’

    3. Ron says:

      WOW. Really? They really believe we will believe that b.s. Marijuana is safer than alcohol and cigs. and many legal and over the counter drugs. They are talking about overdoses in the us every year. No one has ever overdosed on marijuana or died from it or had severe withdrawls. People will and do use marijuana in the privacey of their homes and probably always will. I have never understood why it is illegal. All I can figure is the damn hypocrites who are apparently making a profit from keeping it illegal will probably go home and drink alcohol which is also highly abusive and harm ful to your health and society.

    4. Little Gypsy says:

      What does prescription drug abuse, alcohol, and tobacco use have to do with marijuana? If we legalized marijuana those problems would actually go down. Why? They would go down because people would have a cheaper safer alternative.

    5. That is ridiculous, these retarded people in office are going to get overthrown. If they keep lying to us, they may possibly face what the Syrian “president” is going through. Tens of thousands of peaceful protesters. Is the white house willing to kill every single protester, well they currently are killing millions of people by continuing the lack of education of marijuana and encouraging the publics use of alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drugs. They say that people abuse prescription drugs, well thats because they want a “legal” fix. No possible way to OD on weed. They say that people abuse alcohol, well half of Washington partakes in the abuse of alcohol themselves. I guarantee that most of these people have bars in their limos and have a bottle of scotch in their desk. Alcohol kills thousands a year. No possible way to OD on weed. The president of the united states is himself a smoker “proclaimed he quit, I don’t believe that for a second.” Tobacco kills thousands each year. What is my comment here mostly about? THERE IS NO POSSIBLE WAY TO OD/DIE FROM WEED. I hate these crooks in Washington and I am tired of their lies. Thousands of our children are suffering from alcohol use, whether it is themselves or the death of a parent(I am one of these, as a result I do not drink). Thousands of children dye from 2nd hand smoke and suffer the same from a parents death due to tobacco. Pardon my French here but, WHY THE FUCK IS OUR GOVERNMENT COMMITTED TO KILLING US. IT IS ABOUT TIME FOR CHANGE AND A SAFE ALTERNATE TO ALCOHOL AND TOBACCO (MARIJUANA) MUST BE MADE LEGAL. Not only for the peace and satisfaction of responsible adults, but for the future of our children. We lie to them each and every time we say marijuana is bad but then people go home and drink them selves retarded in front of them and the family. They fight at sporting events, they beat their wives and children. They kill with the cars. I have by far had enough and I think it is about time someone organized a million man march on Washington and demand the change that will point us in the right direction and far as personal choices go. They bash my love for weed, my non belief in a God, and my personal choice to live life how I see fit for me. I don’t care what god you believe in, how much you drink, how much you smoke. It is your decision and yours alone. Let me have my choice, my voice and my life back.

    6. Ll says:

      Their illogic is stunning.

      If Bayer developed an aspirin alternative that offered the same benefit without the bad side-effects, they would market it ASAP.

      Not only is marijuana a safer alternative to alcohol, but it has many benefits alcohol doesn’t.

      Hey Drug Czar, marijuana is a safer “alternative” drug. The more people who smoke it instead of using alcohol the better. Choosing marijuana over alcohol results in a net decrease in harm!

      In any case, doctors and medical researchers should be making the decision about drugs and not police officers like you.

    7. TheOracle says:

      They prove just how little credibility they have and how clueless they truly are because anybody who wants pot can go out and buy it right now without being carded. Just don’t be or look like a cop, and be at the right place with cash. America would look just like it does now, but be out of the shadows, and fewer minors would be getting their hands on it because they can’t blackmail their parents for using it and won’t be old enough when they get carded. And, they will get carded.

      And yes, legalization will create jobs for people whose salaries will be taxed, and it will create permit and sales and excise tax revenues, and it will reduce the prosecutorial and law enforcement costs.

      Taoist-like patience is needed, flow around the rock of prohibition, eroding it little by little.

    8. BobKat says:

      Excellent evidence the National Drug Control, ie Czar is losing sleep over how to keep 70+years of lies under the rug. Fact is they can’t, and their rambling, dangers of the exact drugs we know are more dangerous as a defense is not only laughable, and sad, but the crack in the egg too.

      What would America look like today? Much better than it does now; fewer people (millions fewer) incarcerated or harassed, fewer angry at our neurotic legal system, and more older people like myself able to get herbal cannabis for personal well-being legally, when the reality is the law makes it easier for younger people, many under age to buy it than responsible adults.

      The catch… I smoke a lot of tobacco and drink a lot of beer – have done so since cannabis became unavailable when I became “old” to the young dealers. I know I shouldn’t have caved to the lure of tobacco and alcohol, but no one hassles me and it’s necessary tax dollars for a struggling economy. I must do my part – would prefer a brighter America where cannabis is legal, but willing to do my part and dying in the process to support the governments choice…

      My parting suggestion: Those in charge of drug policy in this country all should be fired as incompetent. I have never heard educated people professionals defend lies the way they do, and create bogus truths to cover up those lies. It’s embarrassing!!!

    9. Jed The Head says:

      Paul I think you just scared the shit right out of the ONDCP. When confronted with the truth they always want to bring in other substances that have nothing to do with cannabis. Lies and bullshit is all they know. You and I will keep putting the truth out there then they can take their lies and choke on them. Great piece of writing. I love what you and all of the people of NORML do.

    10. cj says:

      Our Gov. says Marijuana has no medical benefits,yet it has US.Patents on its “medically beneficial” compounds.(US patent #6630507) for one.There have been over 20,000 documented studies on the HARMLESS HERB, yet OUR Gov.says “there have’nt been enough studies to prove its benefits”,but plenty (of their own studies) to prove its negative effects.

      In 1974 researchers at the Medical College of Virginia, who had been funded by the National Institute of Health to find evidence that marijuana damages the immune system, found instead that THC slowed the growth of three kinds of cancer in mice — lung and breast cancer, and a virus-induced leukemia.
      The DEA quickly shut down the Virginia study and all further cannabis/tumor research. THANK YOU DEA and OUR GOVERNMENT,FUCKING DOUCHE BAGS.