So this is your administration on drugs. Any questions?
05-12-2010, 07:38 PM
So this is your administration on drugs. Any questions?
Posted by Paul Armentano at 9:56 am
May 11, 2010
Obama Administration ‘Firmly Opposes’ Marijuana Legalization — Here’s Why
So this is your administration on drugs. Any questions?
Obama drug plan ‘firmly opposes’ legalization as California vote looms
via The Hill
The Obama administration said Tuesday that it “firmly opposes” the legalization of any illicit drugs as California voters head to the polls to consider legalizing marijuana this fall.
The president and his drug czar re-emphasized their opposition to legalizing drugs in the first release of its National Drug Control Strategy this morning.
“Keeping drugs illegal reduces their availability and lessens willingness to use them,” the document, prepared by Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, says. “That is why this Administration firmly opposes the legalization of marijuana or any other illicit drug.”
Is anyone surprised? You shouldn’t be. After all, this is the same Gil Kerlikowske that has said repeatedly that legalization is not in his vocabulary, and publicly stated, “Marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit.” And this is the same administration that recently nominated Michele Leonhart to head the DEA — the same Michele Leonhart who overruled the DEA’s own administrative law judge in order to continue to block medical marijuana research, and publicly claimed that the rising death toll civilians attributable to the U.S./Mexican drug war “a signpost of the success” of U.S. prohibitionist policies.
Yet, given that national polls now indicate that an estimated one out of two Americans nationwide support legalization, and that a solid majority of west coast voters and Californians back regulating the retail production and distribution of pot like alcohol, it seems politically counterproductive for the administration to maintain such a ‘flat Earth’ policy. So what could possibly be their reasoning?
It’s actually spelled out here, in the White House’s 2010 Drug Control Strategy:
We have many proven methods for reducing the demand for drugs. Keeping drugs illegal reduces their availability and lessens willingness to use them. That is why this Administration firmly opposes the legalization of marijuana or any other illicit drug. Legalizing drugs would increase accessibility and encourage promotion and acceptance of use. Diagnostic, laboratory, clinical, and epidemiological studies clearly indicate that marijuana use is associated with dependence, respiratory and mental illness, poor motor performance, and cognitive impairment, among other negative effects, and legalization would only exacerbate these problems.
There it is in black and white — in less than 100 words: The federal government’s entire justification for marijuana prohibition; their entire justification for a policy that has led to the arrest of over 20 million Americans since 1965, that is responsible for allowing cops to terrorize families and kill their pets, that has stripped hundreds of thousands of young people of their ability to pursue higher education, and that is directly responsible for the deaths of over 20,000 civilians on the U.S./Mexico border. And that’s just for starters.
Yet the entire premise for maintaining the government’s policy — that keeping marijuana criminally prohibited “reduces [its] availability and lessens willingness to use [it]” — is demonstrably false. Under present prohibition, more than 1/3 of 8th graders, more than 2/3rds of 10th graders, and some 85 percent of 12th graders say that marijuana is “easy to get.” Even according to the stridently prohibitionist group CASA (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University), more teens say that they can get their hands on pot than booze, and one-quarter say that they can buy marijuana within the hour. That means, President Obama and Gil Kerlikowske, that 25 percent of teens can obtain marijuana as easily — and as quickly — as a Domino’s pizza!
This is your “proven” method for “reducing availability?” Don’t make us laugh.
By contrast, dozens of studies from around the globe have established, consistently, that marijuana liberalization will result in lower overall drug use. For example, no less than the World Health Organization concluded:
“Globally, drug use is not distributed evenly, and is simply not related to drug policy. … The U.S. … stands out with higher levels of use of alcohol, cocaine, and cannabis, despite punitive illegal drug policies. … The Netherlands, with a less criminally punitive approach to cannabis use than the U.S., has experienced lower levels of use, particularly among younger adults. Clearly, by itself, a punitive policy towards possession and use accounts for limited variation in national rates of illegal drug use.”
In fact, NORML has an entire white paper devoted to addressing this issue here.
Of course, the best option to truly reduce youth availability to cannabis is legalization and regulation. This strategy — the same one that we employ for the use of virtually every other product except cannabis — would impose common sense controls regarding who can legally produce marijuana, who can legally distribute marijuana, who can legally consume marijuana, and where adults can legally use marijuana and under what circumstances is such use legally permitted.
But we already know that this option isn’t in the administration’s vocabulary, now don’t we?
I’ve written time and time again that this administration ought to view marijuana legalization as a political opportunity, not a political liability. They obviously aren’t listening. Nevertheless, it is the voters who have led — and will continue to lead — on this issue, and it is the politicians who will follow. Could we expect it to be any other way?
After all it was the federal government that followed the states lead in 1937 — federally criminalizing pot, but only doing so after virtually every state in the nation had already done so. California, for instance, outlawed marijuana use in 1913 — nearly a quarter of a century before the Feds acted similarly. Likewise, it is going to be the states — and California in particular — that are going to usher in the era of re-legalization.
And it will be the Feds who eventually will have no other choice but to fall in line.
Paul Armentano is the Deputy Director of NORML and the NORML Foundation. He has spoken at numerous national conferences and legal seminars, testified before state legislatures and federal agencies, and assisted as a consultant and expert witness in dozens of criminal drug cases. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, and is a faculty member at Oaksterdam University in Oakland, where he lectures on the medicinal properties of cannabinoids. Mr. Armentano is a prolific writer on the subject of marijuana and marijuana policy. His work has appeared in over 500 publications, including the New York Times, Washington Post, and The Christian Science Monitor. His writing has been featured in more than a dozen textbooks and anthologies, and he is a frequent contributor to AlterNet, The Huffington Post, and the Washington, D.C. newspaper The Hill. Mr. Armentano is a 2008 recipient of the 'Project Censored Real News Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism.' In 2009, Mr. Armentano co-authored the book Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? (2009, Chelsea Green), which rose to #14 on Amazon.com's best-sellers list and was recently selected by Publishers Weekly as one of "20 titles from independent presses that show big promise."
05-13-2010, 10:19 PM
RE: So this is your administration on drugs. Any questions?
From the Obama Administration's recently released National Drug Control Strategy (hat tip to NORML reader Glen):
Encourage States To Adopt Per Se Drug Impairment Laws [ONDCP]
State laws regarding impaired driving are varied, but most State codes do not contain a separate offense for driving under the influence of drugs (DUID). Therefore, few drivers are identified, prosecuted, or convicted for DUID. Law enforcement personnel usually cite individuals with the easier to prove driving while intoxicated (DWI) alcohol charges. Unclear laws provide vague signals both to drivers and to law enforcement, thereby minimizing the possible preventive benefit of DUID statutes. Fifteen states have passed laws clarifying that the presence of any illegal drug in a driver's body is per se evidence of impaired driving. ONDCP will work to expand the use of this standard to other states and explore other ways to increase the enforcement of existing DUID laws.
Here are the states President Obama would like the others to emulate:
Arizona: Zero tolerance for cannabis metabolites, mandatory 24 hours jail, up to 6 months upon conviction.
Delaware: Zero tolerance for cannabis metabolites.
Georgia: Zero tolerance for cannabis metabolites, mandatory 24 hours jail, up to 12 months upon conviction.
Illinois: Zero tolerance for cannabis metabolites, up to 12 months upon conviction.
Indiana: Zero tolerance for cannabis metabolites, up to 60 days upon conviction.
Michigan: Zero tolerance for cannabis metabolites, up to 93 days upon conviction, vehicle immobilization for up to 180 days.
Nevada: 15 ng/ml for cannabis metabolites.
Ohio: 15 ng/ml for cannabis metabolites, mandatory 72 hours in jail, up to 6 months upon conviction, 6 month to 3 year license suspension.
Pennsylvania: DUID for cannabis metabolites, amount unclear.
South Dakota: Zero tolerance for cannabis metabolites for persons under the age of 21.
Utah: Zero tolerance for cannabis metabolites, mandatory 48 hours jail, up to 6 months upon conviction.
Nine of the fifteen states cited have "zero tolerance for cannabis metabolites". What this means is that if the inactive (read: non-impairing) THC metabolite (THC-COOH) is detected in the urine of a driver, that driver is impaired in the eyes of the law. (There are actually 17 states that have per se DUID laws, but Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Wisconsin exclude metabolites of cannabis.) Nevada and Ohio have 15 ng/ml levels which are very low; most workplace pre-employment screenings set the initial screening limit at 50 ng/ml. At the confirmation level of 15 ng/ml, the frequent cannabis user will be positive for perhaps as long as 15 weeks.
Of course, faithful NORML readers and most of the public know that cannabis metabolites can remain detectable in the urine for up to 100 days or longer for a regular cannabis consumer and up to fifteen days for the casual consumer, even after quitting cold turkey. Metabolites in urine don't tell you a driver is actually impaired, they tell you someone used cannabis, but not when. Even the US Department of Transportation admits that a positive test for drug metabolites is "solid proof of drug use within the last few days, it cannot be used by itself to prove behavioral impairment during a focal event."
Cannabis metabolites are funny things; they don't eliminate from the body in any predictable fashion. In fact, when you think about it, a metabolite is produced when the body metabolizes, or breaks down, a substance. The presence of metabolites for THC tells you the body has already broken down the THC! You could actually call a urine screening for metabolites a non-impairment test!
Now some of these laws do have per se standards for actual THC in the blood and you could argue that is a more realistic determinant of current impairment, but do you think most cash-strapped city, county, and state police are going to use an expensive, invasive blood test when a cheap urine screen is available and more likely to get them a conviction for DUID?
These per se DUID "zero tolerance" laws are nothing but discrimination against cannabis users, plain and simple. Metabolites for every other drug, legal and illegal, are eliminated from the body much more quickly:
PCP ("angel dust") = up to 2 days detection.
Cocaine (and "crack") = up to 2-3 days detection.
Opiates (heroin, oxycontin, etc.) = up to 1-2 days detection.
Amphetamines (meth, speed) = up to 1-3 days detection.
Barbiturates (Seconol, etc.) = up to 3 days detection.
Benzodiazepenes (Xanax, Valium, Clonopin, etc.) = up to 2-3 days detection.
Alcohol (Budweiser, Jim Beam, Reisling, etc.) = you can actually be considered unimpaired with current blood alcohol levels up to 0.08%, so long as you pass the roadside sobriety test!
Cannabis (marijuana, hash, pot) = up to 7-100 days detection.
So you could smoke some dust, snort some coke, shoot some smack, and pop some pills at the party Friday night, and possibly be considered an unimpaired driver by Monday (you could even have a couple of drinks before you got pulled over), but if you smoked a joint last month, in eleven states you could be going to jail and losing your license for endangering the public on the roadways.
These "zero tolerance" laws are criminalizing an entire population - cannabis users - for molecules in their bodies that have nothing to do with impairment or driving ability. Can you imagine the uproar if police harassed drivers based on the melanin content of their skin... whoops, never mind.
Don't believe anything they say.
And at the same time,
Don't believe that they say anything without a reason.
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