The NORML Truth Report

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Your Government Is Lying To You (Again) About Marijuana - An Updated Refutation of the Drug Czar's "Open Letter to America's Prosecutors"


In 2003, NORML published a comprehensive report entitled, "Your Government Is Lying To You (Again) About Marijuana: A Refutation Of The Drug Czar's 'Open Letter To America's Prosecutors.'"

NORML's report publicly addresses an ‘open letter' to America's prosecutors (dated November 1, 2002) from the White House's Scott Burns, Deputy Director for State and Local Affairs for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). In the letter, Burns insisted, "Nationwide, no drug matches the threat posed by marijuana," and urged law enforcement officials to "aggressively prosecute" marijuana violators. The ONDCP's letter, filled with half-truths and outright lies regarding marijuana's alleged dangers, purposely misrepresented the available research in an attempt to justify federal and state policies that result in the arrest of more than 650,000 Americans annually on minor marijuana possession charges.

Since then, the White House's anti-marijuana propaganda campaign has continued to take on an increasingly alarmist and extremist tone, arguably crossing over any reasonable line of probity. The Bush Administration's latest rhetoric does not qualify as mere exaggeration; they are flat-out lying to the American public about marijuana.

As a result, NORML has updated and greatly expanded our 2003 report. Like our initial paper, the "2005 NORML Truth Report" relies on the federal government's own science, data, and statistics to rebut the Drug Czar's lies and propaganda.

NORML believes there is nothing to be gained by exaggerating claims of marijuana's harms. On the contrary, by overstating marijuana's potential risk, America's policy-makers and law enforcement community undermine their credibility and ability to effectively educate the public of the legitimate harms associated with more dangerous drugs. In addition, exaggerating the dangers associated with the responsible use of marijuana results in the needless arrest of hundreds of thousands of good, productive citizens each year in this country. We cannot remain silent and permit this taxpayer-funded propaganda to occur without a challenge, and we encourage all concerned citizens to refer to this report for the truth and science regarding marijuana and marijuana policy.

It's time to begin an honest public education campaign about the minimal risks presented by marijuana. Let's allow science, not rhetoric, to dictate America's public policy regarding marijuana. As you will see, the facts speak for themselves.

  • ALLEGATION #1 - "There is a serious drug problem in this country."
  • ALLEGATION #2 - "Nationwide, no drug matches the threat posed by marijuana."
  • ALLEGATION #3 - "60 percent of teenagers in treatment have a primary marijuana diagnosis. This means that the addiction to marijuana by our youth exceeds their addiction rates for alcohol, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, ecstasy and all other drugs combined."
  • ALLEGATION #4 - "We may never rid this country of every crack pipe or marijuana plant. However, research proves that we have made substantial success in reducing drug use in this country."
  • ALLEGATION #5 - "The truth is that marijuana is not harmless."
  • ALLEGATION #6 - "As a factor in emergency room visits, marijuana has risen 176 percent since 1994, and now surpasses heroin."
  • ALLEGATION #7 - "Smoked marijuana leads to changes in the brain similar to those caused by the use of cocaine and heroin."
  • ALLEGATION #8 - "One recent study involving a roadside check of reckless drivers (not impaired by alcohol) showed that 45 percent tested positive for marijuana."
  • ALLEGATION #9 - "The truth is that marijuana is addictive. … Marijuana users have an addiction rate of about 10%, and of the 5.6 million drug users who are suffering from illegal drug dependence or abuse, 62 percent are dependent on or abusing marijuana."
  • ALLEGATION #10 - "Average THC levels rose from less than 1% in the late 1970s to more than 7% in 2001, and sinsemilla potency increased from 6% to 13%, and now reach as high as 33%"
  • ALLEGATION #11 - "The truth is that marijuana and violence are linked."
  • ALLEGATION #12 - "The truth is that we aren't imprisoning individuals for just ‘smoking a joint.' … Nationwide, the percentage of those in prison for marijuana possession as their most serious offense is less than half of one percent (0.46%), and those generally involved exceptional circumstances."
  • ALLEGATION #13 - "The truth is that marijuana is a gateway drug. … People who used marijuana are 8 times more likely to have used cocaine, 15 times more likely to have used heroin, and 5 times more likely to develop a need for treatment of abuse or dependence on ANY drug."
  • ALLEGATION #14 - "The truth is that marijuana legalization would be a nightmare in America. After Dutch coffee shops started selling marijuana in small quantities, use of the drug nearly tripled … between 1984 and 1996. While our nation's cocaine consumption has decreased by 80 percent over the past 15 years, Europe's has increased … and the Dutch government has started to reconsider its policy."
  • ALLEGATION #15 - "The truth is that marijuana is not a medicine, and no credible research suggest that it is."

Allen St. Pierre
Executive Director
Washington, DC
July 21, 2005

This updated report is written, once again, by NORML Senior Policy Analyst Paul Armentano with research provided by NORML Intern Paul Varnado (Duke University).

Important and timely reports such as this are only made possible when concerned citizens become involved with NORML. Please consider joining NORML or making a donation.