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Even Anti-Meth Activists Oppose the Drug War

Tom Siebel is a multimillionaire philanthropist who funded terrifying anti-meth ads in Montana. His work has been praised by ONDCP, but now he's speaking out against the drug war.

The nation's drug policy "is a little bit crazy," Montana Meth Project founder Tom Siebel said Thursday.
...
Pointing out that the skyrocketing rate of incarceration is mostly because of drug offenses, Siebel said, "it used to be that we put people in jail who we were scared of. Now we put people in jail we're mad at."

Prison doesn't work, he said.

"They just get a better education," Siebel added. "It's like a graduate school program in drug distribution." [Great Falls Tribune]

Tom Siebel absolutely hates meth, and yet he also opposes the drug war. How can this be? Maybe his aggressive anti-meth ads are actually some sort of drug legalization conspiracy, because everyone knows that only "pro-drug groups" would ever criticize the wisdom of trying to arrest our way out of the drug problem.

Of course, Tom Siebel's work and his words demonstrate that people who care about victims of drug addiction can simultaneously oppose drug abuse while advocating commonsense policies that emphasize public health and reject mass incarceration. Having previously heaped praise upon Tom Siebel, will ONDCP now accuse him of being "pro-drug"?

Regardless, it is becoming increasingly obvious that ONDCP couldn't alienate anti-drug activists, the U.S. Congress, and the academic community any faster if they were actually doing speed themselves.

Location: 
United States

Sober North Dakotans Hope to Legalize Hemp

Location: 
Osnabrock, ND
United States
Publication/Source: 
The New York Times
URL: 
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/21/us/21hemp.html?em&ex=1185163200&en=187b22d1791d9eda&ei=5087%0A

Medical Marijuana: DEA, ONDCP Take Flak on Dispensary Raids, Research Obstacles in House Committee Hearing

A House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security hearing on July 12 saw representatives of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) grilled by Democratic congressmen, including committee chair Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), on the administration's attacks on medical marijuana in states where it is legal and on the administration's stalling the request of University of Massachusetts researcher to be able to grow medical marijuana for research purposes.

(The same hearing also saw pain patient advocates get a chance to tell the committee about the DEA's prosecutions of pain doctors -- see feature story here -- and written testimony from an ONDCP official claiming a leading medical marijuana advocate no longer supported medical marijuana -- see newsbrief here).

Testifying before the committee on medical marijuana issues were the DEA's Joseph Rannizzisi, ONDCP chief scientist Dr. David Murray, and Valerie Corral, cofounder of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM), a California dispensary raided by the DEA in 2002.

Murray was in typical form, telling the committee "it is not the medical community who identifies a need out there for a smoked weed to alleviate pain and suffering." Instead, Murray said, "this is an issue that is pushed overwhelmingly by legalization advocates for marijuana who fund initiatives and referenda in various states, trying to push through what we think is a troubling development." In his written testimony to the committee, Murray called medical marijuana advocates "modern-day snake oil proponents."

Murray went on to charge that marijuana has not been found to be effective as a medicine, that there is better stuff available, and that the weed could even be "harmful for those for whom it was intended to be a healing device."

That prompted Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) to interrupt Murray's testimony to ask if he thought marijuana were as dangerous as nicotine, which in turn prompted Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) to denounce Nadler for talking out of turn. After a brief procedural scuffle, Murray adeptly deflected Nadler's pointed question.

WAMM's Corral was up next, telling the committee about how WAMM began as a small collective garden to serve its members -- people who benefited from marijuana as medicine -- and that those people were not lying. "It is not that we wish to break the law, for surely we do not," she said. "We've made every effort to change it. What we ask here today is that you stop the aggressive antics of the DEA against sick and dying people, because that is what we are. Stop the raids. Allow research to continue. Allow the research to continue that the DEA is blocking in the [University of Massachusetts researcher Lyle] Craker case, for instance, because only you can do that."

Committee chair Bobby Scott turned up the heat during later questioning of the witnesses. "I'd like to ask, I guess, Dr. Murray, in terms of policy, what the public policy imperative it is to deny terminally ill patients the right to marijuana, if they believe that it's going to help them, they believe that it reduces pain, terminally ill patients?"

Unsatisified with Murray's response, which basically reprised his earlier testimony, Scott continued to dog him: "Well, if they want it and they're terminally ill, what scientific studies have you had to show the effectiveness of marijuana? What scientific studies have you had? Do you have a list that you can supply to the committee?"

After going around with an evasive Murray, Scott settled for a promise from the ONDCP functionary to respond with written testimony.

Nor was the chairman pleased with Murray's non-response to his question about the problems UMass professor Lyle Craker was having getting his request to grow marijuana for research purposes approved. Rep. Nadler also jumped on Murray about obstacles facing medical marijuana researchers.

"Marijuana is the only controlled substance currently for which the federal government maintains a monopoly on the supply for use by scientists conducting research, even though federal law requires competition in the production of research-grade, schedule-one substances, such as research-grade heroin, LSD, ecstasy and cocaine," Nadler said. "Can you please tell us marijuana, as a comparatively harmless drug, compared to these other substances, is the only controlled substance for which the federal government maintains a monopoly on the supply made available to researchers? In other words, why is it different than heroin, ecstasy, LSD, et cetera?"

Murray had no substantive response to Nadler's question, a posture the congressman qualified as "evasive," and DEA's Rannazzisi fared little better. "They've refused the supply for basically every researcher. They've basically cut off medical research with respect to marijuana," Nadler pushed.

"I don't believe that's the case," Ranazzisi responded. "If you look at my testimony..."

"I won't debate that with you because it's clearly the case," an annoyed Nadler retorted.

Nadler went on to pepper Ranazzisi about when the DEA is going to get around to moving on the Craker application, without getting a straight answer.

With Democrats in control of the Congress, some of the right questions are finally being asked of the drug war bureaucrats. We may not like the answers we are hearing, but at least the questions are being asked and the drug warriors are on notice.

Feature: In Spreading Scandal Over White House Political Operations, House Panel Head Accuses Drug Czar's Office of Electioneering

The ever-broadening scandal over White House political operatives' involvement in what are supposed to be non-partisan activities within the federal government engulfed the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP, the drug czar's office) this week. On Tuesday, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the powerful chair of the House Operations and Government Reform Committee, accused ONDCP of electioneering on behalf of vulnerable Republican senators and congressmen in the run-up to last November's elections. Waxman is calling for a former high White House staffer to provide a deposition to the committee next week and to be prepared to appear before the committee as early as July 30.

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John Walters -- BUSTED
According to documents made available in a report on the committee web site, former White House Director of Political Affairs Sara Taylor asked drug czar John Walters and his deputies to attend 31 pre-election events at taxpayer expense where ONDCP's drug-fighting mission commingled with the Republican Party's efforts to retain its hold on Congress. In many cases, the trips were combined with grant announcements or other actions designed to benefit the districts of Republican incumbents. In a post-election memo from Taylor to former ONDCP White House liaison Doug Simon, Taylor recounted how ONDCP had managed to make 20 of the "suggested participation" events on the list.

An email from Doug Simon responding to Taylor's post-election memo only added more ammunition for Waxman and other critics of the White House's politicization of federal agencies and activities. In it, Simon summarized a meeting he had with White House political guru Karl Rove.

"I just wanted to give you all a summary of a post November 7th update I received the other night. Presidential personnel pulled together a meeting of all of the Administration's White House Liaisons and the WH Political Affairs office," Simon wrote. "Karl Rove opened the meeting with a thank you for all of the work that went into the surrogate appearances by Cabinet members and for the 72 Hour deployment. He specifically thanked, for going above and beyond the call of duty, the Dept. of Commerce, Transportation, Agriculture, AND the WH Drug Policy Office. This recognition is not something we hear everyday and we should feel confident that our hard work is noticed. All of this is due to our efforts preparing the Director and the Deputies for their trips and events. Director Walters and the Deputies covered thousands of miles to attend numerous official events all across the country. The Director and the Deputies deserve the most recognition because they actually had to give up time with their families for the god awful places we sent them."

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Henry Waxman
In a Tuesday letter to Taylor asking her to voluntarily appear to be deposed on the politicization of what are supposed to be nonpartisan government agencies, Waxman noted that the ONDCP travel schedule hardly appeared to be nonpartisan.

"The list of Republican officials named in your memo reads like a roster of the most vulnerable Republican members of Congress seeking reelection in 2006," Waxman wrote. "Your memo identifies 29 events with 26 Republican office-holders. Assessments by political analyst Charlie Cook in October and November 2006 considered the re-election races of 23 of the 26 candidates identified in your memo as 'competitive;' 15 of the races were listed as 'toss-ups.' Your list included eleven Republican candidates who lost, ten who won their races with less than 53% of the vote, and two who won by fewer than 1100 votes. You included no Democrats or Independents in your memo of suggested travel by the ONDCP Director."

ONDCP has traditionally been a nonpartisan office. A 1994 law bars agency officials from engaging in political activities even on their own time, and certainly on the taxpayers' dime.

In 2003, thanks to a challenge to the drug czar's campaigning against a Nevada ballot initiative by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the US Office of Special Counsel held that the drug czar is subject to the strictures of the Hatch Act, which prohibits partisan politicking by federal government employees. The ruling did little immediate good for MPP -- the special counsel held the ban did not apply to non-partisan initiatives -- but would appear to be applicable in the present instance.

Critics of the politicization of the drug czar's office were shocked, shocked, they tell you. "This is shocking evidence that the Drug Czar, John Walters, and President Bush were scratching each other's backs," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). "Walters used taxpayer money to campaign for Republicans, while President Bush ignored the agency's failures and increased funding for programs his own analysts determined were ineffective."

The recently released memos and e-mails are only the latest evidence that ONDCP uses taxpayer money to influence voters. During a 2000 federal lawsuit, evidence surfaced showing that ONDCP created its billion dollar anti-marijuana TV ad campaign to influence voters to reject state medical marijuana ballot measures. The drug czar and his staff are also routinely accused of using taxpayer money to travel to states in order to convince voters and legislators to reject drug policy reform.

"How long will the drug czar use taxpayer money to influence voters before Congress takes action?," asked Piper.

"ONDCP is charged with developing effective strategies to reduce drug abuse and the problems associated with it," said Kris Krane, executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). "Instead, under the leadership of political appointee John P. Walters, ONDCP has illegally wasted time and resources pursuing ideological agendas and partisan politics."

In light of the latest evidence of ONDCP misconduct, SSDP is calling for Walters's resignation. The group has created a sign-on letter to be sent to Walters and his congressional overseers where people who agree that Walters should resign can get their message out.

The Marijuana Policy Project has long complained about ONDCP's interference in state initiative campaigns, and was little surprised by the latest revelations. "These 2006 campaign trips were nothing new," said MPP director of government relations Aaron Houston. "Walters and his deputies have been using tax dollars to interfere in state election campaigns since at least 2002, which is why we filed a Hatch Act complaint that December."

And so there's lots more to find on the ONDCP front, according to Houston, if investigators care to look for it. "John Walters is a serial lawbreaker," he said. "The Oversight and Government Reform Committee is now investigating some particularly blatant violations, but the only reason Walters has been getting away with it for so long is that until now the White House investigated itself."

What a difference a congressional election makes. With Democrats in charge and more than willing to probe the Bush administration's dealings, ONDCP is now squarely in the sights of congressional investigators.

Feature: Pain Doctor and Patient Advocates Get a Congressional Hearing… Finally

For the first time in more than a decade, the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) heavy-handed intrusion into the field of medicine came under congressional scrutiny last week. The broad-ranging review of the DEA's regulation of medicine came at a July 12 hearing before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security chaired by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA).

While the hearing also included testimony and members' questions about the DEA's role in pursuing medical marijuana dispensaries and blocking marijuana research (see this newsbrief), as well as its apparent underestimation of the amount of pseudoephedrine needed for legitimate commercial and medicinal uses, testimony by Siobhan Reynolds of the pain patients and doctors advocacy group Pain Relief Network and attorney and chronic pain advocate John Flannery put the issue of the federal prosecutions of doctors who prescribe high-dose opioid pain medications front and center.

The hearings gained an added sense of timeliness the following day, when nationally-known pain management physician Dr. William Hurwitz was sentenced to five years in prison on drug trafficking charges. Hurwitz had originally been sentenced to 25 years in prison, but his original verdict was overturned and he was convicted of 16 drug trafficking counts in an April retrial. While pain patient advocates and Hurwitz supporters believe he should never have been convicted at all, they viewed the much shorter sentence -- which with time-served could see Hurwitz free in 17 months -- as a victory of sorts.

Still, Hurwitz remains behind bars for what is at best laxness in dealing with some patients who lied to him and resold drugs he prescribed them for chronic pain. As such, he is emblematic of the growing number of physicians who have been persecuted and prosecuted by the Justice Department and the DEA, as well as state-level prosecutors who have taken their lead from the feds.

"The subcommittee has received numerous complaints about the DEA's regulation of medicine," said Rep. Scott as he opened the hearing. Turning to prescription drug abuse, Scott noted that, "When it was first introduced, OxyContin abuse became rampant in such areas as Appalachia and rural New England. DEA responded by adopting the OxyContin action plan, which involved prosecuting medical doctors who prescribed high doses of painkillers. The DEA claims that this policy was not intended to impact the availability of legitimate drugs necessary to treat patients; however, the evidence suggests that the DEA's decision to prosecute doctors has created a chilling effect within the medical community, so that some doctors are unwilling to prescribe pain medication in sufficiently high doses to treat their patients. The result is that many Americans live with chronic untreated pain."

The first witness was DEA Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Diversion Control Joseph Rannazzisi, who immediately took issue with the notion that the DEA was trying to regulate medicine. "The title of this hearing, 'DEA's Regulation of Medicine,' is inaccurate," he complained. "DEA does not regulate medicine or the practice of medicine. DEA does investigate violations of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of the source of the violation, be it a Colombian cocaine dealer, a marijuana trafficker or a doctor who abuses the authority to dispense controlled substances."

Saying that DEA considered the diversion of prescription drugs one of its most significant challenges, Rannazzissi said "small numbers of unscrupulous doctors" were part of the problem. Still, he said, the agency wasn't targeting doctors. "Generally speaking, in any given year, DEA arrests less than 0.01 percent of the 750,000 doctors registered with DEA for a criminal violation. More often than not, those violations are egregious in nature and are acts clearly outside the usual course of accepted medical standards."

That brought a sharp retort from the Pain Relief Network's Reynolds, whose life-partner, Sean Greenwood was a former Hurwitz patient who died last year as the family crisscrossed the country searching for a doctor who would treat his chronic pain, during her subsequent testimony. "The DEA contends that they only prosecute 0.01 percent of registrants," she said. "However, that's a misleading figure, because a very small number of registrants prescribe opioid medicines and an even smaller number would prescribe in doses that would relieve serious pain."

"So the actual number of doctors who are arrested is far greater, when you look at the correct denominator, which this leads me to my next point, which I think is really the most important point," Reynolds continued. "This is a government agency that plays fast and loose with the facts, uses incredibly inflammatory rhetoric, talks about crime and addiction and dependence and puts them all together and maybe has no cognizance of the fact that this all ultimately falls on and stigmatizes very, very sick people. But that is in fact what happens."

When it came his turn to testify, Flannery, a former prosecutor and congressional staffer and author of "Pain in America -- And How the Government Makes It Worse," took issue with Rannazzisi's taking issue with the hearing's title. "The title of the hearing, which is the regulation of medicine by DEA is, unfortunately, an apt one," Flannery retorted. "DEA has been regulating medicine, and for them to come here and say that they don't know it means that they either are consciously doing it or recklessly doing it. And I can't believe they're doing it recklessly, because we see the quality of people who work at the department. And that means there's an ideological purpose in regulating medicine. They do not approve of certain medical practices. And, if that is it, they should bring it to the Congress and tell us why, with statistics and explanations, because then it should be a formal policy rather than the secret one that it is presently."

Flannery accused DEA and the Justice Department of "bait and switch" tactics. The legal standard for criminal prosecution of doctors is that they have to be acting outside the course of professional medicine with the intent to push drugs, not treat patients, Flannery noted. "They create these standards on a case-by-case basis," Flannery said. "And how do they do that? They bring a doctor into the courtroom that they pay, who travels around the country, and the standard is created on a case-by-case basis by the DEA doctor."

Determinations of what constitutes criminal conduct by doctors -- as opposed to simple malpractice -- are better left to state medical boards, Flannery said under sympathetic questioning from Rep. Scott.

Ranking minority member Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) carried water for the Bush administration, asking whether marijuana should be legalized, worrying about teen prescription drug overdoses and "pharma parties," and asking about marijuana growing in national forests, while Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) provided inadvertent comic relief. Gohmert wandered into the hearing room, announced that voters in his district didn't support marijuana legalization, then launched into a bizarre tale about a bag of sterilized marijuana seeds from which some seedlings sprouted he had seen in a court case once before retreating back into silence.

While last week's hearing marked the first oversight of the DEA's regulation of medicine in more than a decade, it wasn't enough, Reynolds told the Chronicle. "Although I submitted written testimony, we were limited to five minutes, so I spent my time basically explaining how offended I was at the farcical nature of the DEA and ONDCP testimony, denying the possibility of a chilling effect on physicians."

"This is a step on a slow journey toward enlightenment," Flannery told the Chronicle. "In Jerrold Nadler and Bobby Scott, you can't find two better lawyers who are sensitive to these issues, but the Congress is immersed in lots of other business, and it takes a lot to move members from their preconceived notions of what the drug war is about. Very few understand this is about the government invading medicine -- not prosecuting drug dealers. We will have to turn around an ocean liner in order to get action."

But hearings like last week's are a first step. "I've asked for more hearings, but I'm not getting the impression that's the next step," said Reynolds, who was invited to testify by Rep. Nadler. "What I've been told is that we need to educate the Congress. We've been doing that, but there seem to be a lot of closed ears on this issue. Still, more and more, there is some awareness that this is a terrible problem."

Reynolds added that she and others are working with the committee to seek legislation that would ease the DEA pressure on pain doctors. "Both Nadler and Bobby Scott showed real concern and came up afterward and asked what they can do."

Nadler spokesman Shin Inouye told the Chronicle Thursday that Nadler is looking into the matter. "He's very interested in the issue, but I haven't heard anything specific about new legislation yet," Inouye said.

There is a long way to go before America's estimated 40 to 70 million chronic pain patients and the doctors who seek to treat them can live without the fear of the DEA, but last week's hearing was a good -- if insufficient -- beginning, and lays the groundwork for further action.

The written testimony of all witnesses at the hearing is available online here.

Drug Use: One in 12 US Workers Uses Drugs, SAMHSA Says

One out of every 12 full-time workers in the United States used an illegal drug in the past month, according to survey data released Monday by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The survey indicated that 8.2% of full-time workers -- or 9.4 million people, including 7.3 million marijuana smokers -- were past-month illegal drug users.

The survey also found that about 10.1 million full-time workers were heavy alcohol users, defined as downing five drinks at a time at least five times a month. Although SAMSHA's inclusion of past-month drug users with heavy alcohol drinkers suggests an equivalence between the two groups, that is not borne out by its estimates of dependence or abuse among the two. Of the 9.4 million illegal drug users, less than a third met SAMSHA's dependency or abuse criteria -- which undoubtedly overstate the number of problem substance users -- while the number dependent on alcohol or who abused alcohol was 10.5 million -- more than the number identified as heavy drinkers.

The report found the highest rates of current illicit drug use were among food service workers (17.4%) and construction workers (15.1%). Highest rates of current heavy alcohol use were found among construction, mining, excavation and drilling workers (17.8%), and installation, maintenance, and repair workers (14.7%). Public security workers, librarians, and health workers had the lowest rates of illegal drug use.

Other, unsurprising, findings: Young people were more likely to be illegal drug users or heavy drinkers, and drug users were less likely to work for employers who had drug testing programs.

Government anti-drug officials used the survey data release to raise alarms about workplace drug use and call for expanded drug testing. "Substance abuse is a serious problem for the health, wellbeing and productivity of everyone in the workplace," said SAMHSA Administrator Terry Cline.

"Employees who use drugs miss work more often, are less healthy, and are more prone to harming themselves and others in the workplace," said drug czar John Walters. "We hope that employers will take note of this report and consider implementing workplace drug testing policies that can help prevent drug use before it starts, help identify drug-using employees who need drug treatment services and also reduce employers' liability from drug-related workplace accidents."

"The high rates of drug and alcohol use in hazardous industries is cause for concern," said Elena Carr, drug policy coordinator at the US Department of Labor (DOL). "Clearly businesses can ill-afford the risk of having workers operating meat slicers, backhoes, or other dangerous equipment while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, which is one reason why DOL helps employers and employees work together to proactively prevent such safety hazards."

Of course, admitting to past month drug use or heavy drinking does not necessarily equate to "operating… dangerous equipment under the influence of alcohol or drugs." While the people paid to send out anti-drug messages see only danger, an alternative reading of the data could suggest that millions of American workers manage to hold down jobs despite smoking a joint on the weekend or perhaps drinking too much.

The report is Worker Substance Use and Workplace Policies and Programs.

Medical Marijuana: ONDCP Claims Steve Kubby Has Changed His Mind, Kubby Says No Way!

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) used testimony submitted to Congress last week to misrepresent the position of Steve Kubby, a leading California medical marijuana advocate. Kubby acted this week to denounce the deception and clarify his continuing support for medical marijuana.

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Steve Kubby
In written testimony before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, Dr. David Murray, ONDCP's Chief Scientist called medical marijuana advocates "modern-day snake oil proponents," sneered at medicines that make patients "feel good," and claimed that laws okaying medical marijuana in a dozen states have led to "abuse, confusion, and crime." Then, to further buttress his argument against the therapeutic use of the herb, he added:

"Founding proponents of medical marijuana in the United States have reversed their key positions of support for medical marijuana. Rev. Scott Imler, Co-founder of Prop 215, has lamented the passage of California's medical marijuana law stating that, 'We created Prop. 215 so that patients would not have to deal with black market profiteers. But today it is all about the money. Most of the dispensaries operating in California are little more than dope dealers with store fronts.' Imler also said that medical marijuana has 'turned into a joke.' Steve Kubby, another Co-founder of medical marijuana in California stated in a letter to supporters on April 14th, 2006 that 'Marinol is an acceptable, if not ideal, substitute for whole cannabis in treating my otherwise fatal disease.' (Alternatives magazine, Fall, 2006 Issue 39, San Gabriel Valley Tribune 2/07, Message from Steve Kubby, Steve Kubby Released After Serving 62 Days in Jail, April 14th, 2006)"

Imler, a founder of the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center, which was raided and shut down by the DEA in 2001, has not taken exception to Murray's portrayal of his position -- after all, Murray accurately transcribed his words from the year-old magazine article. But Kubby, who was forced to resort to Marinol while jailed for two months in California, certainly took umbrage.

"My comments about Marinol were based upon my relief that I did not die in jail," he wrote in an email to supporters. "My comment was intended to acknowledge that I did get good blood pressure control with the Marinol and that finding certainly deserves further study. On the other hand, I lost 33 pounds in 62 days while on Marinol, so perhaps I should have used stronger language than 'less than ideal.'"

Kubby suffered from almost constant nausea while on Marinol, he wrote, adding that Murray took his sentence about Marinol out of context. The paragraph from which it was extracted reads as follows: "During that time I experienced excruciating pain, a vicious high blood-pressure crisis, passed blood in my urine and I lost 33 pounds. However, there was also good news. I learned that Marinol is an acceptable, if not ideal, substitute for whole cannabis in treating my otherwise fatal disease. Now I am a free man and I am profoundly grateful to be alive and to have friends and supporters such as you."

While conceding that Marinol can be effective for treatment of hypertension and would allow him to travel briefly without medical marijuana, it does not allow him to have an acceptable quality of life, Kubby said.

"Please help me squash this deceptive and dangerous misrepresentation of my true feeling on this matter by the ONDCP," Kubby wrote. "It just shows how desperate they are that they must mislead people in this way. And just so there is no question about this, let me be clear: Whole cannabis is not only the best medicine for me, it is the only medicine that has kept me alive during the 32 years that I have continued to live, in relatively good heath, despite a terminal diagnosis of malignant pheochromocytoma."

With Murray and ONDCP, it's sort of like that old country song title: "Who Are You Going to Believe -- Me or Your Lying Eyes?"

Marijuana: Drug Czar Calls Pot Growers Dangerous Terrorists

In a bout of rhetorical excess unusual even for the nation's drug czar, Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) head John Walters called California marijuana growers "violent criminals" and "terrorists" who wouldn't think twice about helping foreign terrorists enter the country to cause mass casualties. Walters made his remarks at a June 12 press conference in Redding, California as he lauded paramilitarized teams of law enforcement personnel conducting raids on marijuana grows on public lands in Shasta County.

People need to get over their "reefer blindness" and realize that drugs "fund terror and violence," Walters said in remarks reported by the Redding Record-Searchlight. As for pot growers tending crops on public land in the area: "These people are armed, they're dangerous," Walters said, calling them "violent criminal terrorists."

Upon reflection, the ONDCP noted the following day in its blog that Walter's comments were all good. "Do you have Reefer Blindness?" the blog post asked, qualifying the Redding Record-Searchlight story as "a good story" and displaying no second thoughts about Walters' incendiary rhetoric.

Unfortunately, no reporters present at the Walters press event challenged him on the role of marijuana prohibition in promoting violence or pushing marijuana growers onto public lands. Nor did anyone challenge him to present the least scintilla of evidence for his claim that marijuana growers would happily aid and abet Al Qaeda-style terrorists in attacking their fellow citizens. That is a good thing for Walters, because there simply isn't any.

Editorial: Why Should the Drug Czar's Office Even Exist?

David Borden, Executive Director

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David Borden
The frequency of inappropriate or dishonest (or strange) behavior by the US Office of National Drug Control Policy (the drug czar's office) seems to be increasing. Last month, DRCNet Blog Editor Scott Morgan and I were wondering at the growing inanity of ONDCP's "anti-drug" ads, which has reached a point where we don't think even ONDCP could really believe they could work. Bizarre productions comparing smoking marijuana with putting leeches on your body, or suggesting if you smoke pot then an alien might steal your girlfriend, were themselves trumped by "Stoners in the Mist," a fake documentary video posted on ONDCP's AboveTheInfluence.com web site featuring the fictional character "Dr. Barnard Puck," who performs various experiments on marijuana users to test their behavior and reflexes. It's really hard to see this slickly-produced video as making any positive or meaningful contribution to anything. How much of our money did they spend to create it? I suggested that maybe they've admitted to themselves that the ads just don't work and can't be made to work, and have decided to go wild and have fun with any looney idea they can come up with while the money lasts.

On the honesty front, professors Robinson and Scherlen provided an embarrassment of riches in the form of their recently-released book Lies, Damn Lies, and Drug War Statistics, which documents in detail the misleading presentations of data ONDCP has made in their annual National Drug Control Strategy reports to create an appearance of an effective drug policy when in reality the policy has proven itself completely ineffective. David Murray, a high-level ONDCP official who is involved with the statistics, professed offense and indignation at a book forum hosted by the Cato Institute where he confronted the authors, artfully playing the part of an injured victim whose integrity has been unfairly maligned.

The details don't support that act, of course, and Murray's most recent public statement demonstrates his true stripes. In testimony to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security last week, Murray offered as evidence against the legitimacy of medical marijuana the claim that Steve Kubby, a prominent medical marijuana advocate, had reversed his position. In a response distributed by email, Kubby vehemently denied the claim, and demonstrated how Murray had taken his words out of context to create an appearance about them that is completely false.

Strange, but not the only strange words to come out of ONDCP recently. According to a news report from Redding, California: "John P. Walters, President Bush's drug czar, said the people who plant and tend the gardens are terrorists who wouldn't hesitate to help other terrorists get into the country with the aim of causing mass casualties."

WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!?

When I saw the article, my first reaction was to wonder if Walters' presentation could have been misconstrued by the reporter, as it was not a direct quote, but a description. The direct quotes from Walters were offensive enough. But this particular idea just seemed too far out to me for even Walters to be willing to go there. I emailed the reporter to ask about this, but I haven't heard back from him, so I guess I can't say for sure. But I think we should give the reporter the benefit of the doubt, absent any evidence to the contrary. And a post on ONDCP's blog links to the Redding story, and calls it a "good story," suggesting they don't consider it inaccurate. The blog post has been online and unmodified now for six days, plenty of time for the higher-ups to catch anything they considered inappropriate.

Let's all agree that marijuana growers are out to make money, and therefore want most of all to remain undetected and to go about their business. Hence, they have a strong disincentive to get involved in anything that might attract attention to them, including supporting international terrorism targeting the United States. (I can't believe that even needed to be said.)

ONDCP week isn't over yet, though, we still have one more really big one. On Tuesday Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Operations and Government Reform Committee, accused ONDCP of engaging in electioneering last fall by sending drug czar Walters to make public appearances with Republican Representatives and Senators who were facing tough reelection campaigns. The evidence, which involves communications between Karl Rove, former White House Director of Political Affairs Sara Taylor and ONDCP staff, seems pretty compelling to me, at first glance at least. Of course, as drug reformers we know Walters has violated the law to campaign against marijuana reform ballot initiatives many times.

That's a political scandal. The policy scandal is that the agency continues to fund and lobby for programs which they know do not work. From the ad campaign and student drug testing, to Plan Colombia and the drug war as a whole, the evidence clearly shows we're not getting our money's worth, or maybe any worth. Putting that together with the nonsense constantly emanating from the agency -- misrepresentations of facts, violations of state and federal election laws, ads and quotes that can be truly wild and strange -- this seems like a good time to ask whether ONDCP should exist at all. What are we really getting from this agency that's worth keeping? Even people who agree with the drug laws ought to be taken aback at ONDCP's behavior by now.

Catching ONDCP in lies or lunacy or misconduct is getting to be like shooting fish in a barrel.

It's Time for the Drug Czar to Resign

News that ONDCP officials illegally campaigned for Republican congressional candidates has generated significant coverage this week, as well it should. Under the Hatch Act it is a crime for executive branch staff to engage in partisan political activity, which makes the drug czar a criminal if he wasn't already.

If you've been watching ONDCP for the past six years as I have, there's nothing surprising about any of this. Still, it's gratifying to see the drug czar's utter contempt for the law revealed for all to see.

Our friends at SSDP have created a petition demanding Drug Czar John Walters's resignation, which perfectly articulates how politics have guided Walters's actions throughout his tenure, and not just during campaign season:
* You've spent taxpayer money to campaign and lobby against citizen ballot initiatives and state legislation that would reform aspects of the ineffective War on Drugs.

* You've attempted to prevent Congress and the public from gaining access to a scientific evaluation of your "anti-drug" advertising campaign because you didn't like the results showing that the ads actually cause more, not less, teen drug use. Despite these alarming results, you've kept the dangerous ads on the air.

* You've spent millions of dollars a year spraying poisonous chemicals on the jungles and fields of Colombia in a failed effort to eradicate coca crops and prevent cocaine from entering or country. Yet while continuing to publicly advocate this eradication program, you admitted in a private letter to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) that cocaine prices on America's streets are dropping and its purity is increasing.

* You've actively pushed for the continued federal criminalization of seriously ill Americans suffering from cancer, AIDS, and multiple sclerosis who use medical marijuana with their doctors' recommendations, even where it is legal under state law. In an affront to federalism and states' rights, ONDCP and the Food and Drug Administration released a politicized statement last year criticizing states with medical marijuana laws.
Frankly, it is an indictment of the press and the Congress that it took until July 2007 to discover that ONDCP is deeply corrupted. Only by stepping into the realm of partisan politics did ONDCP finally manage to earn the full-blown public relations crisis it has long deserved.

(This blog post was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

 

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