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

“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 thoughts

  1. You know…I read that response…
    “Nationally, someone dies…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?”
    My answer: Well, since every 19 minutes someone dies from prescription drugs, alcohol, and tobacco use, I’d say there would be a lot of people alive and happy.
    Well, considering this guy mentions how people die every 19 mins from prescription drug, alcohol, and tobacco use, and since marijuana doesn’t kill

  2. [Editor’s note: Ron Paul is too old and too libertarian to win the GOP nomination…and he will never win a general election in a country that is not libertarian. If you support Ron Paul for president you might as well as try to elect a fairy godmother or a magical pixie to be president. They actually might possess a better chance!]
    It is still too early and there is so many primaries coming up and already you are damning all hope to end this cannabis prohibition. What are you and Russ up too? You both are saying the exact same thing. Is it about job security?
    People still believe in democracy and the power of voting. This is the best time ever.
    Ron Paul is doing very well.
    End the federal war on cannabis!
    Get serious, stay focus, and VOTE! The spirit of November 2012 election day will be the biggest voter turnout in history.
    [Editor’s note: When was the last time a sitting member of Congress was elected President? When was the last time a 75-year-old was elected President? Should a 75-year-old be elected President??
    When was the last time that someone won their party’s nomination and the presidency after failing numerous times in consecutive elections? When has the US voting public ever voted more than 3% for a Libertarian candidate in a national election?
    The answer to these questions is never. Could a sitting, 75-year-old Libertarian congressman possibly win both the GOP nomination and a national election? It is possible….possible like winning the lottery.
    NORML is non-partisan and a long time supporter of Rep. Paul, but, the organization’s job is to be analytical and based in real politics, not being dreamy and projecting front runner status to a political candidate who so clearly does not warrant such and who has close to zero chance of being president.
    Should there be a libertarian candidate in these elections–from both major parties–pushing their vision of how government and citizens should interact? Indeed! Yes! No doubt! But, none of this means that candidates like Paul, or Johnson for that matter (or the ‘Kucinichs’ for the Democrats), have much or any chance to win their party nominations and the general election.]

  3. A lot of good comments and views here, but it kind of concerns me that the editor thoroughly discredits Ron Paul as a presidential contender. Doing so only makes it less likely for him to receive a fair chance at election to POTUS. Do I believe he has a chance? not really, but as the strongest supporter of the reform of marijuana laws, he should receive support here, not be thrown out of the running by those he speaks in favor of.

  4. when it comes to the medical marijuana issue, our federal government receives tax money on the sale of medical marijuana, and accepts it KNOWING it is “weed money” yet at the same time it is breaking its own laws. Any cash the government takes in from the sale of medical marijuana makes our government an accessory to illegal drug sales.

  5. Want to end the war on drugs? Want a smaller, more limited federal government? Want our country to get back to it’s roots and let the idiots in Washington know that WE THE PEOPLE want our constitutional rights back? Vote RON PAUL 2012. If you do not know who he is or what he stands for, look him up. You might not agree with every view he has but I guarantee you will agree with most of them. I am completely disgusted with Prohibition and and the direction this country is headed. We can’t depend on the idiots in Washington to fix our nation, we have to depend on ourselves and get someone in office who actually cares about the welfare of our country. We have to let our voice be HEARD! Ron Paul stands for liberty and the AMERICAN PEOPLE. Get the word out. Research Ron Paul, listen to him speak, look up his voting record. He has stood up to the idiots in Washington and has stood for what he believes in, and what most of us believe in. RON PAUL 2012!
    [Editor’s note: Ron Paul can’t win the GOP nomination and could never win a general election. To boot he is too old.
    RON PAUL 2012? Why not ‘TINKERBELL 2012″? Both have equal chance of being president….]

  6. Thank you Paul, for standing up for the truth! It makes me sick to see that our government continues to lie to us. Soon they won’t have a leg to stand on in the fight against responsible cannabis use. Keep spreading the good word!!!!
    [Paul Armentano responds: And thank you.]

  7. “O.K. I get it- I really do.” Maybe Ron Paul won’t win – but – at least that one vote won’t go to a prohib – and – it most certainly sends a clear message that no one will ever get that vote if they continue to be a prohib. Now you “get it” – it’s a poke in their eye with a sharp stick. But there’s other pro-cannabis candidates. Same message – different day.

  8. I have a problem with this sentence “Legalizing cannabis simply acknowledges this reality and seeks to regulate the behavior appropriately. In a free society, why would even consider doing differently?
    “seeks to regulate the behavior appropriately” I thought we were a free country how naive of me the government wants to regulate my morals and behavior.
    Over and over we see the same thing but nobody just stands up and says enough is enough because those who smoke are non violent.
    I have personally had enough of the government telling me how to run my life and what is right and what is wrong. There is the illusion that we are free and the power of the people to choose but it is just an illusion. Something needs to give. we could vote for legalization and the government would pull some law they just created and say nope sorry still illegal.
    [Paul Armentano responds: “I thought we were a free country how naive of me the government wants to regulate my morals and behavior.” Well, I don’t think that anyone here is advocating for government entities to ‘regulate your morals.’ By contrast, the state can arguably have a role in the passage of reasonable regulations of behavior, if/when that behavior potentially limits the liberty of others.]

  9. When is the last time United States elected a black candidate, or a candidate with a Moslem name and also is still a member of Congress? (Here’s the answer: November 2008.)
    And what have you got against old people?
    When Senator McCain ran during the last presidential election, he has been on the bottom of the polls many times with very little hope and still ended up as the winner of the primaries. We all know why and how Obama got to be president?
    Ron Paul is still running strong.
    Other candidates may sing,dance, and flip-flop their way through the elections, but Ron Paul is very consistent.
    It’s only been a few primaries. There are still more surprises ahead.
    Only You and Russ are the only two people from NORML who are throwing mud at this guy and to those who want to end cannabis prohibition at the federal level.
    Ron Paul is 75 and still have the mind and the balls to become president! Old people are not losers!
    [Editor’s note: Throwing mud or trying to introduce some to reality? Again, NORML has been a multi-decade supporter of Rep. Paul, but that does not divorce the organization from the reality that he is too old to be an effective president (Reagan’s second term was mired by how old and senile he’d become from 75 years old forward…Rep. Paul is trying to get elected at 74), that he has no chance to win the GOP nomination and even less of a chance of winning the presidency in the general election.
    So why waste one’s time and money on a candidate who can’t win under most any circumstance??]

  10. It’s probably true Ron Paul doesn’t have a chance in Hell (the US) of winning the Republican nomination, let alone to be President. But if his age, his Libertarian ideals, his eccentricities are the reason, then that is why this is Hell, not the USA. My own mother who’s 82 and very conservative (and we rarely get along) told me she is voting for Ron Paul (she lives in NY). She told me, who else is there who isn’t a fanatic, and that includes Rick Perry, and she didn’t even know about his extreme Right Wing ideology of making this country a theocracy… and Mr. Armentano, Rick Perry and Michelle Bachman both are advocating regulating the morality of American Citizens, should they get elected.
    We all need to vote our conscience, and btw, my mother is a religious fanatic and still she would not vote for any other politician currently running other than Ron Paul. See, Ron Paul is so much to the Left, that he has swung Right, and is in the midst of being the most balanced Presidential Nominee.
    Finally, it’s not nice to know that as more and more people become centenarians, that age 75 is considered TOO OLD to be President of the USA. I surely hope by the time I become 75, in approx. 18 years, and I decide to run for Pres., that attitudes have changed. 75 years of age is not old… having ideals that lie 75 years in the past when the Marijuana Tax Act was passed is on the other hand – VERY OLD.
    Time for a Free America – Vote Ron Paul… and besides, if I have to listen to Rick Perry as President for 4 years, who sounds like George W. Bush’ twin, I’ll flee to Canada, like I almost did back in the early 70’s.

  11. @Jeanne…
    They THINK we are on drugs and unable to function and think clearly in a society bend on destroying itself, which became obvious during the recent Congressional “I DARE YOU” re: the federal debt, the ceiling, and the supposedly for America Tea-partiers (who frankly to me appear more interested in protecting Wall St. and millionaires than the average citizen who’s suffering big time because of the so so-called Wall Street experts we believed in, and shouldn’t have.
    We’re not dummies, we’re suppose to be SHEEP!!!

  12. 116. Sushi Fury may have the answer.
    “WHAT IF” – big – “WHAT IF” – every cannabis user in the U.S. joined and supported an anti-drug organization.. Do you know what happens when, you as a company, grows too big – too fast. This could be mind boggling.

  13. Well, Bobkat I am not a sheep and I don’t follow very well. I don’t believe wall street, they are in it for the $$$. Just like the DEA they are a big waste of money also. DEA is Nixons last shot to use, before he was thrown out of office. Liars and thieves this is our goverment!!!!!!

  14. first off czar makes them sound evil.. which they probably are. and us stoners are actually great peaceful people and abusing weed is awesome and it would be a great society if people chose weed as their intoxicant of choice. also that is an extremely stupid comment of course people abuse drugs and end up in hospitals or dead and legalizing weed would only help.

  15. Paul,
    You do yeoman’s work to try and end a great injustice.
    Those of us who are a bit less articulate in public than you appreciate your representation. You speak for millions.
    [Paul Armentano responds: Thank you.]

  16. Listen _ I’ll say it again _ “If you’re for cannabis _ but _ against all other drugs _ go join an anti-drug organization.” Give them physical proof that we are not what they claim us to be. NORML is the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws _ not _ all drugs. There’s some nasty shit out there _ and _ were get the sharp end of the stick because of it. If I catch my kid taking meth I’ll kick his ass before the meth does.

  17. I’ve read a few of these. I’m hearing that pharma isn’t doing so well and I get the feeling the drug war is getting even them. It’s a vicious cycle because weed is prohibited, then it can’t be used by pharma. This induces more pharma production of drugs with harsh side effects, then law suits, then no more production of the bad drug, then pharma employees lose their jobs.

  18. OK, i just thought of something…Marijuana is a drug with no medicinal value…i disagree with that, but whatever. What about Ginseng, Valeria root, or any one of the other herbs that are sold legally? They cant be considered drugs, because they are herbs, and as herbs, they are not drugs…Marijuana is a plant, like the other 2 i mentioned, and many others i didn’t. how is one plant a drug, and the others cannot be classified as drugs? Shouldnt ALL plant derivitives be schedule 1? And if not all of them, then why is one considered a drug and the others arent?

  19. To Brian, #124…
    See http://blog.norml.org/2011/08/29/dea-issues-%E2%80%98final-order%E2%80%99-rejecting-private-production-of-cannabis-for-fda-approved-research/comment-page-2/#comment-115650 Comment #73…
    I’m with you bud!
    Some comments to your thoughts…
    “Shouldnt ALL plant derivitives be schedule 1?”
    Answer… cannabis, is not “a derivative”. It’s a plant, as are the others you mentioned. A derivative would be like opium is to the poppy plant or cocaine is to the coca plant. Cannabis is just a plant… if you want to extract a derivative in the privacy of your home for your own use that is one thing, it’s when derivatives that may be dangerous are exploited.
    There isn’t much of a concern for cannabis derivatives, even hashish isn’t technically “a derivative”, it’s just a glob of the female cannabis’ plants honey pot. This obviously a disgusting thing for prudish people, but simply a fact for us more sexually liberated types.
    To be honest there are three major differences between cannabis and other plants such as valerian, chamomile, blue vervain and other plants which promote relaxation.
    1) Valerian never had a the popularity of Mexican immigrants during the 1930’s. The popularity of Black jazz musicians, nor was it a threat to DuPont or the petroleum industries. Thus, not Valerian Madness, as there was a Reefer Madness.
    2) There was no slang-name, derived from prejudice towards another culture present for Valerian like there was cannabis. Prior to the 1930’s, cannabis was called ganja in it’s enjoyable use, and hemp in in industrial uses. Henry Ford designed the Model T to run on Hemp Oil, for example, and women’s nylons were being pursued as a hemp derivative until DuPont famously found a way to squash hemp research and came out with nylon, derived from petroleum.
    3) The DEA’s pet dragon is named “marihuana”, though not what the Mexican’s called it back then, nor what the DEA calls it today – i.e. “marijuana”, but close enough for for a government agency that prides itself on truth, justice and the American way!
    Since the DEA has never conducted legitimate research into cannabis, nor conclusively validated any real danger to society, essentially any laws and/or penalties associated with cannabis are unsubstantiated and based solely on anecdotal evidence. Unconstitutional in the way of any persecution or prohibition of cannabis, so technically, yes, either they ought to play their Schedule One game on any plant that has effects on people, be it “wake up with coffee”, or they ought to get their pretty little asses out of the rights granted American Citizens when it comes to use of herbs and plants.
    Even getting “high” on cannabis is unproven… literally, all in one’s head. But apparently the DEA is high on it’s own drugs and can’t seem to function in a sound, scientific way in our society. It’s mind-boggling how they still exist within our government, so inept they are at preventing prescription drug abuse, the number one drug related problem in our nation at this time. With all the DEA regulation and DEA Numbers ascribed to prescription drugs, they are absolutely powerless to control such drugs.
    Perhaps they spend too much time and money on their pet dragon, Mary-Jane!

  20. In Michigan this last week out attorney general Bill Schuette began a war on Medical Marijuana. Dispensaries were raided people charged with felonies and he has stated that he will prosecute doctors who falsify patients to use medical marijuana. The law is in the process of being repealed while creating new laws and criminals. They do not believe that marijuana has any medical uses. Our state law makers not stepping up to fight this either. On Sept 7th Michigan citizens will be in Lansing questioning our so called elected officials that feel they are above human needs and the right to choose our own health care solutions. Please anyone that can help us please help…we need it.

  21. To Scott Kelley…
    Sad to hear what’s happening in MI!
    The truth is since the DEA has prohibited nearly all research into the benefits of cannabis, there is no proof that cannabis has medicinal value. But the same is true of any negative effects to people or society since no conclusive proof exists that cannabis use causes any real harm. Any laws, penalties, prohibition for cannabis are based on myths drummed up in the 1930’s, and are Unconstitutional. Period.
    We the People need to Demand from our Government the proof that the laws they are shoving down our throats are based on conclusive research that permitting the use of cannabis is truly a danger to the individual and society. Thanks in large part to the DEA’s own refusal to allow legitimate scientific studies of cannabis, there is no proof. Therefore, all laws against cannabis are unconstitutional and violate our rights under both Federal and many State Constitutions.
    Cannabis/marijuana is not a narcotic and was not as many believe included in the 1914 Harrison Narcotics Act. The only fallback the government has is Pres. Nixon’s 1971 Drug Control Act, and it is based on fallacy, since Nixon’s own commission delegated to study cannabis found no reason to continue or prohibit cannabis use.
    It’s time we fight back and ask – “Where’s The Beef?!” Where’s the Proof that cannabis is a danger to society? There are going to be a lot of Red faced politicians around trying to come up with a legitimate answer to that question… when it comes to cannabis, there is only the bun, NO BEEF!!!
    STOP The HURT! Demand the PROOF!!!

  22. “Yet, the science is clear: Marijuana use is not a benign drug and it is harmful to public health and safety.”
    That’s an absolutely correct statement, once the redactions are lifted, thus: “Yet, the science is clear: Marijuana is not a benign drug, it’s a benign plant. Drugs, which are pharmaceuticals, are not benign. Marijuana use is harmful to the public careers, fiscal health, and personal safety of the prohibitionists, corrupt politicians, and interlocking cabals of special interests that have gotten rich from prohibition, since it provides empirical proof that the War on Some Drugs is a War on People.”
    FTFY, Drug Tsar Gil Kerlikowske, you useless lying sack of mostly water.

  23. Seriously? Why is it on every Pro/Anti- Marijuana Debate and or Article the Anti- Marijuana side of the argument on legalization, either flat out deny/ignore marijuana’s benefits or the Pro- marijuana argument, makes excuses ( Ex: We already have Alcohol, and Tobacco legal, we don’t need any more drugs in society Etc. Etc. ), answer’s the legalization question with more question’s ( What if this? What if that? ), or completely avoid’s the topic at hand. It just makes me angry, that anyone could be so ignorant toward’s Marijuana. They just hide behind a wall of lies and excuses, anyone who has a head on their shoulder’s could see that the Prohibition of Marijuana is a giant mistake, pure stupidity, and just a plain waste of time and money. The extermination of a plant Is just morally wrong, un- just and just plain not right. We do not have the right to make a part of God’s green earth illegal. Human- Being’s have the right to put in their bodies whatever they would like, it doesn’t hurt anyone else, if it bother’s you, then stay away from that person. The government does not have the right to say what we can or can’t consume! We the people have the right to a pursuit of Happiness, and the government is denying us that right! This prohibition has got to end! It does not make sense at all to keep this going any longer. We need to legalize Marijuana NOW!!! … Sorry, if I got a little out of hand, it just makes me angry that we even have to debate about this, it is clear that the prohibition, and the drug war ( which isn’t even a war on drug’s, the DEA spend’s more time eradicating Marijuana, than any other drug, it really is just a War on Freedom! The government know’s that Marijuana help’s us see the truth, and doesn’t like it. They want us to be blind to their lies and corruption ) are just pointless.

  24. 126. BobKat
    The DEA’s pet dragon is named Michelle Leonhart – and – she’s full of dragon shit.

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  26. Prescription drug is never sold over the counter and is not available in the market easily without a valid medical prescription. Such medicines are powerful dolor pills and are prescribed only when needed by the patients. Such medicines include names like opioids like hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine, morphine, propoxyphene, CNS and stimulants. These three classes of prescription drugs are most commonly abused. Opioids are used to treat moderate to severe dolor. CNS Depressants are used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. Stimulants are used to treat narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. These prescription medicines are commonly prescribed because of their dolor relieving properties.

  27. 132: The Road runner… you’re absolutely correct… Michelle Leonhart is the Evil Empress who in reality is a hideously ugly dragon And who holds the beautiful damsel Mary-Jane hostage high in the Tower within the wastelands and polluted swamplands of the DEA. In any other day and age people would see this evil for what it truly is, and there would be a Sir Lancelot battling this evil to free Mary-Jane from the fortress of evil.
    But Sir Lancelot has been imprisoned by the evil warlock Lamar Smith… and the pure Constitutional waters that once were the United States of America have been poisoned, rendering intelligent men stupid and powerless to see the evil that has overcome them.
    They see eggs as brains, and oil as sustenance, they drink intoxicating liquors and entertain mistresses of the night in their drunkenness. They abuse their power granted by The people and bring suffering to those People. They call it Justice… they call it good. In a land where the motto on their money is “IN GOD WE TRUST”, just what god, is that they believe in????
    The Emperor wears no clothes, the Dragon flies in the night bringing death, destruction and imprisonment to our once Great Land. The Czar, is required by law to lie, and the We are made to believe that all this evil, harm to society, scourge is the fault of Mary-Jane, locked away in the tower.
    It’s not really a question of how stupid and naive our elected officials might think we are, it a question of how stupid our elected officials are! If they truly believed in the Constitution of the United States of America and the Motto on our money they would end the reign of the Dragon Lady and free Sir Lancelot so he could rescue the beautiful Mary-Jane.
    But, they simply DON’T CARE!!! They don’t listen to the science, they don’t heed the truth… they believe and pray to their god that WE will go away, or that we will continue to pave our roads with our green blood. They pray that magically Mary-Jane will become the hideous creature they are told she is, by the Dragon Empress, the evil, Michelle Leonhart.
    That is what myth is all about… that is what tyrannies are all about, perpetuating the myths. Like Global Warming is a myth… like the US is far behind other developed countries in so many ways… all myths to our great leaders. President Obama took advantage of our hopes that the MYTHS WOULD FINALLY BE BUSTED, and see in TRUTH, TRUE JUSTICE and LIBERTY.
    And now the new demons of the elect are at our doorsteps asking us to believe once again. God Help US!!! Where the hell is Merlin???

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