The Obama Admin’s Anti-Marijuana Manifesto

CANNABIS CULTURE – In an attempt to clear up the Obama White House’s seemingly vague position on marijuana prohibition, US Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske has given a lengthy speech outlining why cannabis is Bad For America.

Though it is being billed as the government’s “most thorough, reasoned rebuttal to arguments for marijuana legalization” by boot-lickers in the US press, Kerlikowske’s screed sounds like more hot air – the same old stale arguments that have been refuted time and again by drug policy critics.

The Drug Czar’s speech contains some laughable lines decrying cannabis’ heinous effects on the “motor performance” of unsuspecting US citizens, and claims about pot users receiving “lower test scores and lower educational attainment”, along with the standard boilerplate propaganda about dependence and respiratory problems.

Some thought Obama’s team was lightening-up on the marijuana issue, with Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement that raids on medical marijuana dispensaries would stop. Turns out, they weren’t. One look at Obama’s Drug War budget destroys any myth of “Change”.

Obama obviously hasn’t been listening to his fellow Americans, who just pushed the marijuana issue to #1 on Change.org’s Idea’s For Change in America. Don’t hold your breath for a response from the Prez.

Below are the ONDCP director’s latest comments about marijuana from a speech he delivered at the California Police Chiefs Association Conference in San Jose, CA on March 4, 2010. Click here for his full speech with sources [PDF].

Why Marijuana Legalization Would Compromise Public Health and Public Saftey

by Gil Kerlikowske

I know it is impossible to talk about drug policy issues ranging from prevention to policing, from drugged driving to treatment, without mentioning the role of the most commonly used illicit drug today – marijuana.

You all know the impacts of marijuana in this state– from the proliferation of marijuana being grown on public lands and indoor grows, to the negative effects of marijuana use among youth, the increasing influence of violent gangs on the marijuana trade, and the problems associated with medical marijuana dispensaries.

As I’ve said from the day I was sworn in, marijuana legalization – for any purpose – is a non-starter in the Obama Administration. I’d like to explain why we take this position.

First, on the medical marijuana issue, I believe that the science should determine what a medicine is, not popular vote.

We’ve seen the problems of medical marijuana here in this state but also in places like Colorado, too, where kids are given the message that since marijuana is a medicine, it must be safe.

But we’ve also seen how localities are dealing with this, with success, through zoning, planning regulations, nuisance laws, and other mechanisms.

I recently met with officials from the Netherlands, they are closing down marijuana outlets – or “coffee shops” – because of the nuisance and crime risks associated with them. What used to be thousands of shops have now been reduced to a few hundred, and some cities are shutting them down completely.

This brings me to the issue of outright legalization.

The concern with marijuana is not born out of any culture-war mentality, but out of what the science tells us about the drug’s effects.

And the science, though still evolving, is clear: marijuana use is harmful. It is associated with dependence, respiratory and mental illness, poor motor performance, and cognitive impairment, among other negative effects.

We know that over 110,000 people who showed up voluntarily at treatment facilities in 2007 reported marijuana as their primary substance of abuse. Additionally, in 2008 marijuana was involved in 375,000 emergency visits nationwide.

Several studies have shown that marijuana dependence is real and causes harm. We know that more than 30 percent of past-year marijuana users age 18 and older are classified as dependent on the drug, and that the lifetime prevalence of marijuana dependence in the US population is higher than that for any other illicit drug. Those dependent on marijuana often show signs of withdrawal and compulsive behavior.

Traveling the country, I’ve often heard from local treatment specialists that marijuana dependence is as a major problem at call-in centers offering help for people using drugs.

Marijuana negatively affects users in other ways, too. For example, prolonged use is associated with lower test scores and lower educational attainment because during periods of intoxication the drug affects the ability to learn and process information, thus influencing attention, concentration, and short-term memory.

Advocates of legalization say the costs of prohibition – mainly through the criminal justice system – place a great burden on taxpayers and governments.

While there are certainly costs to current prohibitions, legalizing drugs would not cut the costs of the criminal justice system. Arrests for alcohol-related crimes such as violations of liquor laws and driving under the influence totaled nearly 2.7 million in 2008. Marijuana-related arrests totaled around 750,000 in 2008.

Our current experience with legal, regulated prescription drugs like Oxycontin shows that legalizing drugs is not a panacea. In fact, its legalization widens its availability and misuse, no matter what controls are in place. In 2006, drug-induced deaths reached a high of over 38,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control – an increase driven primarily by the non-medical use of pharmaceutical drugs.

Controls and prohibitions help to keep prices higher, and higher prices help keep use rates relatively low, since drug use, especially among young people, is known to be sensitive to price.

The relationship between pricing and rates of youth substance use is well-established with respect to alcohol and cigarette taxes.

There is literature showing that increases in the price of cigarettes triggers declines in use.

Marijuana has also been touted as a cure-all for disease and black market violence – and for California’s budget woes. Once again, however, there are important facts that are rarely discussed in the public square.

The tax revenue collected from alcohol pales in comparison to the costs associated with it. Federal excise taxes collected on alcohol in 2007 totaled around $9 billion; states collected around $5.5 billion.

Taken together, this is less than 10 percent of the over $185 billion in alcohol-related costs from health care, lost productivity, and criminal justice.

Alcohol use by underage drinkers results in $3.7 billion a year in medical costs due to traffic crashes, violent crime, suicide attempts, and other related consequences.

Tobacco also does not carry its economic weight when we tax it; each year we spend more than $200 billion and collect only about $25 billion in taxes.

Though I sympathize with the current budget predicament – and acknowledge that we must find innovative solutions to get us on a path to financial stability – it is clear that the social costs of legalizing marijuana would outweigh any possible tax that could be levied. In the United States, illegal drugs already cost $180 billion a year in health care, lost productivity, crime, and other expenditures. That number would only increase under legalization because of increased use.

Rosy evaluations of the potential economic savings from legalization have been criticized by many in the economic community. For example, the California Board of Equalization estimated that $1.4 billion of potential revenue could arise from legalization. This assessment, according to a researcher out of the independent RAND Corporation is, and I quote, “based on a series of assumptions that are in some instances subject to tremendous uncertainty and in other cases not valid.”

Recent testimony from a RAND researcher concluded that “There is a tremendous profit motive for the existing black market providers to stay in the market, as they can still cover their costs of production and make a nice profit.”

Canada’s experience with taxing cigarettes showed that a $2 tax differential per pack versus the United States created such a huge black market smuggling problem that Canada repealed its tax increases.

Legalizing marijuana would also saddle government with the dual burden of regulating a new legal market while continuing to pay for the negative side effects associated with an underground market whose providers have little economic incentive to disappear.

Now that I’ve told you what the research says, let me tell you what this means in practical terms. Legalization means the price comes down, the number of users goes up, the underground market adapts, and the revenue gained through a regulated market will never keep pace with the financial and social cost of making this drug more accessible.

Now let’s talk about what will work to reduce drug use.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy is pursuing a combined, coordinated public health and public safety strategy.

This strategy recognizes that the most promising drug policy is one that prevents drug use in the first place.

We have many proven methods for reducing the demand for drugs. The demand can be decreased with comprehensive, evidence-based prevention programs focused on adolescence, which science confirms is the peak period for drug-use initiation and the potential for addiction.

Our young people must be made aware of the risks of drug use – at home, in school, in sports leagues, in faith communities, in places of work, and in other settings and activities that attract youth.

This is vital because an individual who reaches age 21 without smoking, using drugs or abusing alcohol is virtually certain never to do so.

ONDCP’s National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign can reinforce these efforts by connecting with youth through popular television shows, Internet sites, magazines, and films. Community anti-drug coalitions can provide an environment conducive to remaining drug-free. Expanding early intervention services for drug users and treatment options for the addicted will also be major components of our effort to reduce demand for drugs in this country.

Surveys of prevalence show that these efforts work. Drug use today remains comparatively low. Annual marijuana prevalence peaked among 12th graders in 1979 at 51 percent. By 2009, annual prevalence had fallen by about one-third. Similar statistics can be found for other age groups. However, we are seeing some troubling signs that have bubbled up in the last year or two. The perception that drugs are dangerous is dropping, and that usually predicts imminent increases in use.

At the same time, we’ve learned that trying to manage drug-addicted criminal offenders entirely through the criminal justice system results in a costly, destructive cycle of arrest, incarceration, release, and re-arrest.

Together, we can transform this situation through new collaborations between the criminal justice system and the treatment system. Drug courts are just one example of how these systems can work together.

Re-entry programs that provide addiction treatment, combined with intensive monitoring and swift and certain sanctions for violations – as evidenced by Hawaii’s HOPE program – are another example of the kind of scientifically supported cross-system initiatives we seek to expand, especially in the probation system, which represents a highly important but often under-utilized and forgotten role in drug and crime control.

We advocate further research on pre-arrest diversion programs like the one piloted in High Point, North Carolina. These programs threaten dealers in a community with credible sanctions, but also offer them other resources to change their lives. Research on these kinds of pre-arrest diversion programs is just emerging, but preliminary results have been positive.

We are also firm believers in the law enforcement techniques you employ every day, based on local assessments of needs and available resources.

A balanced approach based on a combination of public health and public safety strategies is the surest route to reducing drug use and its consequences. This approach employs best practices in prevention, treatment, and law enforcement with community partners. We know that working together has resulted in lowering crime and drug use.
Thank you for being on the front line of these issues. I look forward to supporting you to reduce drug use and its consequences.

Comments

24 Comments

  1. dan on

    if ur in rehab for pot you usually smoke tabacco

  2. Anonymous on

    dont for get clinton

  3. Anonymous on

    We know that over 110,000 people who showed up voluntarily at treatment facilities in 2007 reported marijuana as their primary substance of abuse. Additionally, in 2008 marijuana was involved in 375,000 emergency visits nationwide. The only way this statement would be true is if it was changed to.
    We know that over 110,000 people who showed up involuntarily at treatment facilities in 2007 reported marijuana as their primary illegal substance of abuse. Additionally, in 2008 marijuana was involved in 375,000 emergency visits nationwide.
    In addition how were there so many emergency room visits due to marijiuana? Was it breathing problems well most people who smoke pot also smoke ciggaretts which we all know is much worse that pot.
    The government has been blatently lying about the negitive effects of pot from the first time it was made illegal.The first time it happened it was because it made people mostly black or mexican harm white people! Then the second time it was made illegal it was because during the cold war our enemy was trying to cause harm to us by slowing us down but between the prohibitions it was one of our nations greatest crops to be used for the hemp to make such a large amount of items and they couldn’t just make it illegal so the just sold stamps inwhich they would not sell.
    The only negitive side effect found through all the research is that yes it slows us down and that breathing in a combustable item is harmful to us . Okay but how much worse are legal cigaretts and legal alcohol. Aswell as how many people have died from pot? I know none but I do know people who have died from every other illegal drug aswell as alcohol and cigarrets
    These are the people we elect to protect us not put us in jail or treatment centers! Over half of the citizens of our great country do smoke and there are may more of us who don’t enjoy in marijuna simply out of fear of losing our jobs or being locked up. It has been enjoyed for many generations and weather it is legal or not it will continue to be used. Its grown dried and enjoyed. We don’t need permission to use it!
    OUR GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO GET OVER IT WE WANT IT AND WE WILL CONTINUE TO USE IT!!!!

  4. matt on

    I was thinking the same thing. I’m writing a paper right now, and isn’t it convenient that politicians don’t bother citing and backing up their “facts”. If I could pull them out of my ass instead of doing my research, college would be a lot easier.

  5. Anonymous on

    Nearly every “fact” that this guy stated was false. I found that I was able to debunk just about every paragraph of information presented. These prohibitionists are so simple minded. Get a job flipping burgers and let the people of our “democratic” nation decide what to ingest. Not the foolish government.

  6. Anonymous on

    That guy is 2 right it is more wide spread than theyll ever realize tell its legal then they will see how much are culture has grown in the last 50 years!!!

  7. Anonymous on

    Highland, huh? Anyone that would have been admitted to that ER for suspected cannabis OD would have realized they were fine by the time they got halfway done in the waiting room :)

  8. Julia on

    Over and over, Gil uses alcohol and cigarettes as a means of comparing the ill effects of marijuana, essentially stating that alcohol and cigarettes are equally bad. Interesting, because alcohol and cigarettes are legal…and lawmakers aren’t working actively to ban them! Then he states that increasing taxes on these legal forms of “abusive/addicting drugs” pushes them underground and increases crime. Duh. I guess he didn’t learn anything about prohibition did he? He also talks about the abuse of legal pharmaceutical drugs. So he presents no good argument against legalizing marijuana when he uses legal substances as the examples of why an “illegal drug” shouldn’t be legalized. Rather, his arguments SUPPORT the legalization of MJ, although he didn’t mean for them to. I don’t personally use the stuff, but have a daughter who has 3 spinal cord tumors and MJ is the only thing that handles the pain. I have another daughter with severe insomnia, all “legal” drugs have been tried, and MJ is the only thing that helps. These people need to get a clue – MJ use is much wider spread than they want to admit, and legalizing it would be less harmful than the effects of alcohol or cigarettes.

  9. Anonymous on

    no,no he isn’t…He’s a black NAZI!
    HEIL,OBAMA!(heel click)

  10. Kronic 71 on

    You mean you didn’t know?…For real?

  11. Jomila on

    Someday you too will see that this plant is wonderful for you and me. Ganja is the Tree of Life and the healing of the nation!

  12. Anonymous on

    They mention the Hawaiian HOPE project, that is instrumental in Hawaii legislators review of pot laws to make it fine-only offence.

  13. Dallas on

    A sad last ditch effort , Legalization is coming , there’s no doubt in my mind and if not before 100 million cannabis users walk out into the street and light up and demand they arrest us all or fuck off , They can’t stop this.

  14. Jack on

    I’m so over Bush III. How can people call Obama a radical socialist? He’s not even a fucking liberal.

    Ron Paul/ Gary Johnson 2012

  15. Anonymous on

    Amen!Thank you America for opening my eyes on the danger of evil marijuana!

  16. Anonymous on

    People feel connected to our planet through natural life forms and nature.
    Outlawing natural life forms eventually will lead to barren rock.

  17. Brian Kerr on

    The answer is for Americans to vote Independent.

    DO NOT for the Republicans or the Democrats.

  18. Sir Joseph on

    Ain’t that some shit.

  19. Daniel Johnson on

    So voting is useless because all the candidates are in the pockets of the banks, who are enemies of freedom, democracy, and goodness itself. Can we start talking about dropping the pacifist politeness crap soon?

  20. Anonymous on

    I register people in the ER at highland hospital in Oakland CA…..and I never ever have seen a overdose on marijuana.

    There is absolutely never been an OD on Marijuana in my 20 years at ER….Highland….Oaklands MASH UNIT.

    YOU ARE A LIAR A FEAR MONGERING LIAR!

  21. Anonymous on

    if you smoke mj you’ll never become president.

    WTF Obama?
    You sure pulled one over on me.
    Won’t happen again.
    Fuck you and your pig Czar.

  22. Anonymous on

    fascist imperial amerika deeply fears freethinking, introspection and intuition, which are enhanced by cannabis. pot is far less a problem than alcohol or tobacco, and is as easy to grow as a tomatoe. overgrow the dictatorship!!

  23. Anonymous on

    I’m a 5th generation Californian and we intend to legalize Marijuana this year….And in 2012 we vote for a real man as President….Ron Paul.

    Take your old stupid party line and shove it….Drug CZARA$$hole

  24. Anonymous on

    Whelp that settles that, Ron Paul 2012