NORML's Deputy Director Debates The Drug Czar

Well, the ex-Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey that is. (As a rule, acting Drug Czar’s do not debate marijuana law reformers in public forums.)
Below is the clip from this afternoon’s edition of the Dylan Ratigan Show on MSNBC.

Before anyone comments, yes I am well aware that the host — who was clearly favorable to NORML’s position — did not give us equal time. Then again, former General McCaffrey is a regular consultant to MSNBC (and a guest) so the deference was to be expected. That said, Ratigan, to his credit, did allow me the first and the last word on the subject.
Anyone who wants to read all of what I would have liked to have said, given the proper time, can see my recent commentary — Are U.S. Pot Laws the Root Cause of Mexican Drug Violence? — from last week’s online edition of The Hill, or you can listen to my recent appearance on I think they say it all.

0 thoughts

  1. Kick ass Paul! You countered that fascist (excuse me, czar) McCaffery point by point and no doubt Dylan was sympathetic but honest with the facts, further putting you on the greater ground in the debate. That’s the way to debate these fools–present how legalization, regulation, and taxation would benefit us economically and in terms of net societal costs.

  2. I understand the need for discussion in a public forum, but I’m pretty sure that subtitles should be popping up when the former Drug Czar pulls another lie out of his pocket, or just dodges a question he knows he can’t answer without making it sound like legalization is a good idea.
    Unfortunately no news show could do that without looking one sided. But it should be entirely fair to call BS flat out when he says we would be adding to health care costs, and when he said that he thought the numbers on the cost of the drug war and imprisonment of innocent people were inaccurate, when if anything they were rounded down.
    Anti-Drug Lies are the only thing that has kept marijuana illegal this long, and the people who are on the opposite side of the fence should be forced to at least be honest during a discussion or debate. It is entirely too difficult to have to both disprove lies and try to explain the pro legalization side of the argument, it is simply a scare tactic on their part as well as a strategy to burn more of the time we are given to speak our side.

  3. What’s this guy’s deal with “drug-based behavior” among truck drivers and airline pilots. Guess what… truck drivers already use speed and pilots already drink.
    Isn’t it possible that truck drivers and pilots and teachers and whatnot can all enjoy the inebriation of their choice when they’re not on the job and then still be productive members of society during the working hours?
    What a maroon.

  4. Another point, perhaps the most important of all. Anyone who watches needs to pay particular attention to when Dylan Ratigan asked McCaffery if, under his and other’s idea of prohibition as the only way of dealing with any drug or mind-altering substances, the country would be better off with alcohol and tobacco were illegal. Notice how McCaffery responds–he doesn’t answer either way, but instead merely states how dangerous those two substances can be. Anyone debating the prohibitionists or asked questions from interviewers or journalists need to press on whether the prohibitionists support alcohol or tobacco and not let them get away with deflection, press for a yes or no answer vigorously. And also bring up alcohol prohibition from the 1920s and early 30s and point to its utter failure and accompanying criminal element and its resulting complete repeal. America has been better ever since

  5. It will pass and who cares if teachers are smoking pot. Old people with no intellectual capacity don’t support this. It is insanity to continue with these policies and this “War on Drugs”. This guy’s a moron. Not one shred of evidence? And cigarettes kill people, marijuana doesn’t. And it’s only illegal in Mexico because the US has forced these policies on our trading partners.. Man I wish they’d let me at this asshole, I’d eat this dude for lunch…

  6. Wow this debate is getting very interesting. I expect more and more prime time coverage of this issue as we get closer to the November election. There is certainly a sound of desperation in the prohibitionist point of view. I think they understand they are in big trouble here as most Americans are not buying their bullshit statistics anymore. The scare tactics of the past are seen through like cellophane. I can’t wait to blow smoke in the face of a radical prohibitionist once it becomes legal. Thanks Paul you ROCK dude!!!

  7. As always Paul… great job! On the one hand, it sucks that you didnt get more air time… but on the other hand it is good that Barry got to spew a lot of stuff that makes no sense and he was also talking about “drugs” … he was lumping in cannabis with all the other drugs…. more and more Americans are seeing that and they are realizing that cannabis is not cocaine…. is not heroin… is not meth… etc… i actually love when prohibitionists talk nonsense.. because i feel that my generation, i am 26, has evolved past all that nonsense and we will be the ones to drive cannabis prohibition into the ground…….
    it is no longer a question of if….. it is a question of when…… almost every single day it is looking like cannabis prohibition will end sooner rather than later

  8. Something I would like to see brought up in these debates is the fact that companies both private & public could still screen against users of cannabis just like they can screen against alcohol (ie teachers or nurses may still be prevented from using cannabis in a world of legal markets) So Mr Mccaffery would still be incorrect in assuming that all sorts of professional would be “abusing” Cannabis.

  9. As long as insurance companys are allowed to dictate who employers can hire throught drug testing… we wont have to worry about eye surgeons having bloodshot eyes. It is federal law to drug test in the transportation industry…. So the pilots and truck drivers wont be flying high…. If these people want to drug test… let them do so…. if the rest of the people want to smoke marijuana … let them do so…

  10. Hey u did good Paul, and for Mr.McCaffrey u are a funny guy because THOSE Truck Drivers and Airline pilots are probably drinking Alcohol on their free time too …lol i think u Mr McCaffrey need to pull your head outta your ass and a million other responsible Cannabis users would love to help ya …lol

  11. It’s time for Barry to get rid of that MIND IN A FISHBOWL MENTALITY on MARIJUANA PROHIBITION. He sure did not mention about BIG PHARM DRUGS addicts out there and abusers. Look at that billions of dollars empire THE BIG BLACK MARKET on GOVERNMENT APPROVED PHARMS. South of the border NARCO STATE and it seems like Mexico had marijuana before the U.S. did and that is one of the main reasons for MARIJUANA PROHIBITION.

  12. Approximately 440,00 dead every year in this country alone from smoked tobacco. Not one death ever, any where, since at least the beginning of recorded human history on this planet, from cannabis. The General flinched at the prospect of making tobacco illegal, but wants to continue putting millions of cannabis consumers in jail. This insanity can only be classified as a very special kind of stupid.

  13. wow, paul, you are definitley right. whoever that guy was ( like i give a crap ) is a complete ass.

  14. looks like the general is still in the reffer madness times and does not make much sense,what he says contradicts .he states if it was legal people can marijuana then like teachers or what ever,and then states if it was legal people could get it from the mexican cartell market the bottom line is legal or not you can still get it.and alcohol is worse and pilots or drivers can get that,i know for fact drunk drivers are way worse then high on pot drivers.and he states that it is a percuser drug a gate way drug and that is not true.a recovering hard drug addict coming off ,may only be able to use marijuana now.alcohol is the real gate way drug!it seems there are alot more corrupted reasons they do not want marijuana legal!

  15. While I fully support of Tax Cannabis 2010 and I’m hopeful that it will pass, the General makes a valid point; “it will do nothing to change federal law or international treaty”. Primarily he’s referring to the Controlled Substances Act and the UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, respectively. The first classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, and the latter secures agreements with international entities (other countries) to do the same. The key to changing federal law will be in getting marijuana removed from Schedule I. As long as it is classified as such, prohibition of cannabis will continue. Many people thought that Obama would be the one to finally end prohibition since he was (perhaps he still is) a toker. Unfortunately, I don’t think Obama (or any president for that matter) will ever directly end prohibition because of the UN treaty. But, Obama once said that you have to change things from the bottom up, not the top down. He’s given us an opening with his direction to the Attorney General not to go after medical marijuana. In doing so, he has allowed the seeds of activism to really take root. And while it is critical to keep this movement going at the state level and to keep pressure on the congress to end prohibition, we also need to put more direct pressure on the Justice Dept (DEA, Drug CZAR)to move cannabis from Schedule I. When that happens, we’ll see real progress.

  16. The lack of debate is legislated. VP Joe Biden used to be the head of the ONDP, Office of National Drug Policy. Many things happened during his service time there.
    Marijuana legislatively demanded to be labelled a Category One Drug, which it’s chemistry and medical risk records do not warrant, place marijuiana ina category group which is not merely involved in interdiction. Active interference with proponents of “legalsing” and Category One Drug is funded by millions of dollars a year in the ONDP budget, with no supervision but the head of the ONDP, and with no overseer bringing accountability to the process which goes as far as emotional arument entry into television programs, magazine placements of data, and more.
    Wiki – database field entry items “Joe Biden” and “ONDP”. Why take my word for it.

  17. This was definitely not a fair debate. Paul makes a great point at the end though, in reference to the general public not wanting to be criminals and purchase cannabis on the black market. I’m sure the general public (cannabis consumers) would much rather buy their cannabis in a legal taxed market than breaking the law. Keep up the good fight.

  18. he said that if it were legal then we would sell to Mexico? ITS LEGAL IN MEXICO. there is NO reason that we can not legalize it.

  19. an can i just say that you are my hero? like honestly. at the end with the beer and the, dead on. im 16 years old and i personally think that it is sad that people in general cant simply say “hey, we messed up. it shouldn’t be illegal” and change it. or ad-least do something more to try to legalize it.

  20. Great Host!
    Drug Czar says “I wouldn’t want pilots to smoke it” Well, if he would make people accountable for their own behaviors with marijuana like they do alcohol and tobacco.
    I am a responsible smoker. I don’t ever smoke on the job or while I am out on call. Thats because I am a flight attendant responsible for mine and everyones safety and the pilots are the same. When we have overnights, we are professionals. We are all trained and drilled in our mind about safety just like a military would be. Just because if they legalize it that it will change things for the worse. Wrong Answer, Czar. People who are smoking it and are doing it anyway if it is legal or not.
    After we have landed for the night, Why can’t I have a smoke? I don’t drink; my choice is to smoke. I am a very responsible smoker because see, to me, your safety when you are in the plane is my number one concern. So don’t ever think we would ever smoke a doobies before work. We are all held accountable for our own actions and being responsible means me and my crew will always keep you the safestest possible Ever!

  21. i agree that it should be legalized but why should it be taxed so heavily? Its such a benign substance. It should cost 1 dollar an ounce compared to other legal crops.

  22. Yes you had a very short time, but that time was used very wisely, you were very quick and got the facts out there. All in all great job. I am sure you would of done great the full time if given the opportunity. Very good speaker i like your style. thank you.

  23. What I want to know is this 50 dollar tax per ounce going to allow cannabis prices to fall in Cali with the wording of this initiative ? Because that sounds like a high tax on say a 300 dollar ounce at current prices (50/300 = .16) that would be 16% tax or if cannabis prices fell to say 200 an ounce that would be 25% tax per ounce ?! a 50 per ounce tax sounds to high to me in order to allow the free market to push prices low enough to make smuggling cannabis from mexico not profitable in Cali !

  24. I wish you couldve gotten to say more. None of McCaffrey’s arguments answered the questions or had a shred of evidence. Way to put him in his place Paul.

  25. What I want to know is this 50 dollar tax per ounce going to allow cannabis prices to fall in Cali with the wording of this initiative ? Because that sounds like a high tax on say a 300 dollar ounce at current prices (50/300 = .16) that would be 16% tax or if cannabis prices fell to say 200 an ounce that would be 25% tax per ounce ?! a 50 per ounce tax sounds to high to me in order to allow the free market to push prices low enough to make smuggling cannabis from mexico not profitable in Cali ! Cannabis prices need and should fall to at least 50% min of there current price, if not by 70% at about 100 dollars an ounce of senimilla.
    [Paul Armentano responds: The initiative does not set a flat tax. The $50 per ounce proposal was in a separate legislative proposal that has nothing to do with the initiative.]

  26. Am I mistaken or did he refer to it as a gate way drug again? You tried to hide this archaic myth under the guise of “Precursor”. But I saw what you did there.

  27. That liar mccaffrey has his back against the wall. You can hear him squirming uncomfortably away from the numbers which he dismisses as “nonsense” in his first few sentences when he incoherently babbles for almost a full minute (from 4:36-5:25) in an attempt to change the focus over to the bill in California.
    He then uses scare tactics (teachers will be just around the corner from kids smoking pot, and airline pilots and truck drivers will be high on the job) in an attempt to undermine the bill. Alcohol is legal and we don’t generally see those problems, but in barry mccaffreys mind, the American people have no will power, self-restraint, or common sense and we will just go crazy with legalized pot. He assumes we have no work ethic, responsibility, or dedication to family. What an offensive, self-serving, lying, stubborn, biased, waste of tax dollars he was!
    Paul did a great job of sticking to facts that the liars cannot deny.
    Go Paul!

  28. Of coarse mj should be legal Mj is their diversion from what they don’t want us to know I just finished reading Jacks book
    The Emperor Wears No Clothes
    “In later times, some shall…speak lies in hypocrisy…commanding to abstain from that which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” Paul: 1 Tim. 4:1 Hemp laws are the foundation of control of our economy and treason against the republic Today hemp is the trillion dollar crop Watch the news and hemp answers most of our troubles Grabbing Glenn Becks metaphore Hemp is the anvil of truth and we are the hammer of non violence

  29. Im getting sick and tired of hearing these old geezers even try to argue their worthless points. We really need to keep trying to make our government younger and younger, weeding out the decrepit morons that hold office. And this policy that no current “Drug Czar” will speak with NORML or anyone else involved in our cause, and then we have to debate with ex-officials who aren’t even going to be on this earth another 20 years and just can’t give in to today’s reality, is ridiculous. Even trying to talk to this guy Barry is a waste of time, he is living in another decade. Lets pretend Im the owner of Ford Motor Co. and Im having a debate about making a new Ford Focus to be better than the previous and I put a 2010 Ford Certified Technician in a room with the ghost of Henry Ford? If u ask Henry how the Focus is, he’ll probably say his new bifocals are working great. LOL.

  30. #32 Said it. I yelled at the screen when I heard that.
    More senseless fear mongering; at least he’s recycling.
    How gullible do they think we are; how gullible are we?
    Thanks PA for raising our collective voices nationwide.
    Educate, regulate, tax, relax. Emphasis on educate.

  31. sadly not all of us have the polished verbal skills Paul brings to the table or the savvy interconnect Russ has with his audience. Though We all know someone that can be brought over, some one on the edge, family or friend. With so much information on line now is the time to make converts. Please be a Diplomat for our believes, sometimes its hard to start with the people that we love and love us, yet that is the ground we must walk. The world is changing, thank you for helping and good on you

  32. Who do we stand against Perhaps satin himself You know Here is a medicine It relieves suffering Extends your life and illegal Here’s hemp Go to the country with the kids that look like skin wrapped around bones Plant 10-20k acres Help them prosess the first year Come back the next year they should be kicked back satelite tv with munchies with their own economy

  33. I cant wait till november,if it passes and millions
    of people flock to cali(myself included)from all over
    the world,we will see them come out of debt overnite.
    Then what will this asshole prohibitionist have to
    say,I think the govt highly underestimates just how
    many people enjoy smoking weed,unfortunately i live
    in GA, a religion controlled govt and will never,ever
    even think of anything close to medicinal let alone
    decriminalize,We cant even buy beer on sunday????
    which is why im on a course to move
    anywhere a.s.a.p.,Not to mention im so sick of all
    this low quality mexican weed,I would gladly pay
    for taxed higher quality smoke,FA-Q mexico!

  34. To #25 Cheryl. That is the best response I have ever heard to the bullshit about all of us going crazy smoking cannabis in some irresponsible way. I never smoke and drive. I smoke when I’m at home and my work is done and I’m ready to relax and call it a day. I would gladly fly with you and your crew anytime anywhere as I’m sure we would be in great hands. Thanks for standing up.

  35. Another point that was not mentioned (although I’m sure if you had the time Mr. Armentano, you would have) is the point against increased use in adolescents with legalization. Drug dealers don’t ask children for ID, and with legalization and regulation, it would only become more difficult for children to obtain.

  36. McCaffery can eat it! He used the same failed excuse prohibs always do. He acts like truck drivers , doctors and such arent consuming cannabis now. Hello Jackass! He acts like any health cost of cannabis isnt already here …agian hello Jackass! Moron control freaks all.

  37. What a surprise. A government official pushing for a more advanced federal police force. Fascism if I ever heard of it. Not to mention all the money wasted of equipping and training those buffoons.

    [Editor’s note: Drop both the all caps and xenophobia…neither support cannabis legalization very well.]

  39. Great job Paul! General McCaffrey is out of touch with reality and a hypocrite. How can he be OK with tobacco and alcohol remaining legal which causes far more deaths a year then cannabis? He kept linking use of cannabis by airline pilots, truck drivers, etc. Employers still retain the right to do drug test, esp if it is in a position of responsibility for others lives. Also kept trying to tie cannabis with meth and crack. They clearly are different and shouldn’t be even closely associated.

  40. definetly did seem unbalanced time wise, but Paul held up well. McCraffey has a very terrible way to debate. He didn’t answer questions asked and he brought up many untrue and very unrelated points. Hopefully they don’t give 5 minutes of ex_DEA speak time and only 2 minutes pro-marijuana speak next time

  41. I was so happy when Paul picked apart the General’s attempt at the old switcheroo when he started talking about the “costs of tobacco use on society”.

  42. I know people have commented on this already but seriously. Stoned pilots? Stoned School Teachers? please Airline piots have to be tested they aren’t under the influence of anything when they first arrive there anyway. I fly twice a year between my family in Seattle and my wife’s family in Germany and I don’t worry about my pilot and crew using marijuana before a 10 hour flight. The school teachers going to school stoned “just because it is now legal” is another terrible STUPID response.
    Teachers that drink don’t keep little shot glasses you can easily buy at the many liqour stores around my school. There are atleaast 3 lqour store within 2 or 3 miles of all the schools in my district. If a teacher wants to get stoned he can most likely get the “good stuff” from some kid at school or grow it himself in his house, or just happens to know a long time friend.
    The fact is that this drug-based behaviour is going to be regulated and more controlled if pot was legal. The mexican drug cartel makes more money because there are more illagal-high-volume-selling consumables to sell. If we take away the business from the cartel they have one less item to contribute their sales.
    Another thing is I remember the czar saying that it is stupid why people would buy the $50 an ounce taxed stuff as opposed to buying it from the gangsters with guns on the corner. I would choose to buy my weed from a shop over any friend or dealer most likely because I want to be able to know my stuff is what it is, and it will do EXACTLY what the clerk says. You can also regulate how much people buy. In stores in the netherlands they limit you to a certain amount per day. Which I found to be enough for me and I am an avid user.
    Please look at the facts legaliztion wont increase use, especially among youths, will cut drug cartel profits and gain the US Government’s income. Finally have other-wise law abiding citezens who just want to do good in this world and not create war or havoc or goto jail to become a hardened prisoner out of what use to be a peaceful person.

  43. Paul, a great interview. The General is definitely still towing the government mantra. I have got to wonder how much of those billions we spend on law enforcement, as well as those billions making it to the cartels, ultimately end up in the pockets of Washington elite. Who are these guys in bed with?

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