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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

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."


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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Drug Policy Alliance Press Release: Hillary Clinton Vows to End Federal Raids on Medical Marijuana Patients

For Immediate Release: July 19, 2007 Contact: Bill Piper at (202) 669-6430 or Tony Newman at (646) 335-5384 Sen. Hilary Rodham Clinton Vows to End Federal Raids on Medical Marijuana Patients Remarks Come on Eve of Vote in House of Representatives to Stop Bush Administration’s Heartless Raids During a presidential campaign stop in New Hampshire last Friday, Sen. Hilary Rodham Clinton pledged to end federal raids on medical marijuana patients. The pledge came in response to a question posed by Len Epstein, a volunteer for Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana (GSMM). After telling Clinton, "Twelve states allow medical marijuana, but the Bush administration continues to raid patients," she responded, "Yes, I know. It's terrible." Epstein then asked, "Would you stop the federal raids?" Clinton responded, "Yes, I will." Her remarks echo remarks she made in May in which she suggested the federal government was being “excessive” in its dealing with medical marijuana patients. Twelve states, (Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington) have adopted effective medical marijuana laws since 1996 - most of them by a vote of the people. Dozens of other states have adopted largely symbolic medical marijuana laws. The Drug Enforcement Administration, however, continues to arrest medical marijuana patients and their caregivers in those states. “Sen. Clinton has shown real leadership by pledging to stop federal medical marijuana raids,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “I hope her colleagues in the House follow her lead and vote to prohibit the Justice Department from arresting medical marijuana patients and their caregivers in those states where marijuana is legal for medical use.” Next week, the House of Representatives will vote on an amendment that would prohibit the Justice Department from undermining state medical marijuana laws. Last year, 163 representatives (75 percent of Democrats; 18 percent of Republicans) voted for a similar amendment. In addition to Clinton's remarks, every other Democratic presidential candidate has vowed to end federal medical marijuana raids - except for Sen. Barak Obama who indicated in June that the raids shouldn't be a priority for the Justice Department, but stopped short of pledging to end the raids completely if elected president. Earlier this year Gov. Bill Richardson became the first U.S. presidential candidate in history to sign legislation legalizing marijuana for medical use. On the Republican side, only Rep. Ron Paul, Rep. Tom Tancredo, and former Gov. Tommy Thompson have indicated they would end the federal medical marijuana raids.
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Karl Rove and John Walters are Stealing Your Cash

For years President Bush has wasted taxpayer money on drug war programs that even his own analysts have concluded are ineffective. Now we know why. A recent Congressional investigation found that the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) used taxpayer money to boost support for Republican candidates in 2006. U.S. Drug Czar John Walters and his deputies traveled to almost 20 events with vulnerable Republican members of Congress in the months prior to the election. The taxpayer-financed trips were orchestrated by President Bush's political advisors and often combined with the announcement of federal grants or actions that made the Republican candidates look good in their districts. Karl Rove commended ONDCP officials for "going above and beyond the call of duty" in making "surrogate appearances" in "the god awful places we sent them." Those "god awful places" included cities like South Bend, Indiana, my hometown. At the same time Walters was spending taxpayer money campaigning on behalf of vulnerable Republicans, President Bush was increasing funding for Walters' favorite programs, the anti-marijuana ad campaign and the student drug testing program. This kind of I'll-scratch-your-back-if-you-scratch-mine arrangement is outrageous, even by Washington standards! Email Congress: http://actioncenter.drugpolicy.org/action/index.asp?step=2&item=31997&MS... And this corruption is just the tip of the iceberg. ONDCP has a long history of using taxpayer money to oppose drug policy reform. For instance, ONDCP bureaucrats traveled to New Mexico at least four times in 12 months -- at your expense -- to lobby state legislators to oppose the Drug Policy Alliance's medical marijuana legislation. Fortunately, the legislature passed our bill anyway and seriously ill people in New Mexico will finally have access to legal medical marijuana. We truly are in a David vs. Goliath fight here. ONDCP's annual budget is 67 times greater than ours; and while we rely upon the voluntary donations of supporters like you, the drug war extremists can dig into the taxpayers' purse any time they want. There are two things you can do to help level the playing field: 1) Email Congress (http://actioncenter.drugpolicy.org/action/index.asp?step=2&item=31997&MS...) and urge your representatives to pass legislation prohibiting ONDCP from using taxpayer money to lobby or influence elections. 2) Donate (https://secure3.ctsg.com/dpa/donation/index.asp?Item=8&MS=ONDCP-071807-aa) so we can rein in ONDCP and fight the politicians and special interests that benefit from the war on drugs. DPA has a strong track record on this issue. In 2003 we beat back an attempt in Congress by Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) to allow the White House to use taxpayer money to run attack ads against pro-drug policy reform candidates and ballot measures. Our campaign garnered national media attention and helped make Rep. Souder a laughingstock in Congress. Three years later we turned the tables on Souder and passed a provision prohibiting ONDCP from ever using the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign to oppose pro-reform candidates or ballot measures. Now we have an opportunity to really go after the Drug Czar. With your support we can push for hearings on this latest drug war scandal, work to ensure that ONDCP staff are punished for any laws they broke, and close the campaign finance loophole that allows ONDCP to spend taxpayer money lobbying against drug policy reform. Please take a minute today to email Congress. And if you can, please donate to this important campaign. Thank you, Bill Piper Director of National Affairs Drug Policy Alliance
Washington, DC
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CA NORML Release: DEA Announces Federal Medical MJ Indictments in So. Cal - Business as Usual in DEAland?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 17, 2007 The DEA announced several indictments of medical cannabis operators in Southern California today. There was less to them than meets the eye, however, as they involved outstanding cases against dispensaries that had been previously raided or warned. Indicted were operators of: (1) Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers in Morro Bay, which had been raided last March; (2) Compassionate Caregivers, once the largest chain of dispensaries in California, closed by federal action in 2005-6 (one former CC employee was also arrested for having opened a new facility); (3) Healing Nations Collective in Corona, which had been fighting efforts by local authorities to close it, and (in a raid yesterday) (4) Nature's Medicinal in Bakersfield, a popular, high-traffic facility that was raided in May. None of the arrestees had been targets of the LA DEA's recent landlord warning letter, nor were any forfeiture actions announced against landlords of the arrestees. One twist was that the charges named a doctor, who allegedly wrote recommendations for the Morro Bay store's patrons. Significantly, the doctor was said to have received a finders' fee for referrals, which would exempt him from the federal Conant injunction that protects doctors so long as they don't help patients procure cannabis illegally. Although the Morro Bay dispensary was alleged to have sold cannabis to minors, sources close to the case say all the minors were either over 18 or accompanied by parents. Although the Bakersfield dispensary was charged with making millions of dollars, DEA did not mention that it was paying payroll and sales taxes like other legal businesses. Today's announcements were obviously timed to "send a message" along with the landlord warning letters. That does not mean that the government is about to send forfeiture notices to all the landlords. To do so would invite more backlash than this bankrupt administration can afford. The DEA is picking off a few ripe targets in a desperate attempt to slow down the medical marijuana stampede. Every day brings more scientific evidence for the medical efficacy of cannabis. When the dust settles, the government will be forced to concede Americans' right to medicine. In the next week or two, Congress is expected to vote on the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment to halt federal funding for medical marijuana raids. TELL YOUR CONGRESS MEMBER TO END THE FEDERAL WAR ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA: http://capwiz.com/norml2/issues/alert/?alertid=9998376 - D. Gieringer, Cal NORML
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Drug Policy Director Stirs Things Up, but Not the Way GOP Candidates Had Hoped

Washington, DC
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The New York Times

Lawmaker questions White House role in drug policy events

Washington, DC
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The Boston Globe

Authorities allege medical marijuana stores profited from sales

Los Angeles, CA
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San Jose Mercury News (CA)

The Difference Between Pot Growers and Terrorists

When Drug Czar John Walters announced last week that pot growers are terrorists, I thought he'd gotten a little carried away. But ONDCP's blog actually blockquotes the worst portion of the article in which these wild claims first appeared:
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.
Silly me. I thought maybe the reporter had taken Walters's statement out of context, but ONDCP calls it a "good story." Apparently, it is actually necessary to explain that pot growers aren’t terrorists and don’t want to help other terrorists kill lots of people.

Ok, let's begin. Basically, I think the difference between pot growers and terrorists is that pot growers grow pot and sell it to customers for profit, whereas terrorists build bombs and blow up innocent people for political and/or religious reasons.

Since pot growers are trying to make money and avoid law-enforcement, it isn’t in their interest to work with terrorists. Terrorists want to kill the pot grower's customers, and they also attract all sorts of unwanted attention from the military and various high-level federal agencies. Moreover, pot growers don't want to hurt or kill people. They sell pot, which is widely believed – correctly – to be relatively harmless. I've never heard of a pot grower who generally wanted to hurt people or who thought that what they were doing would cause mass casualties.

Some of the confusion here may stem from the fact that pot growers sometimes keep weapons around. This is actually to protect their valuable gardens from thieves, primarily wild animals. Incidents involving pot growers shooting people or fighting with police are incredibly rare. We know this, because if such a thing occurred, it would immediately be prominently displayed on the ONDCP blog and discussed endlessly by them. This has not occurred.

But perhaps the best evidence that pot growers don’t want to help terrorists is that pot growers never help terrorists. In the history of the U.S., no pot grower has ever been found helping terrorists get into the country or expressed any interest in doing so.

If Ed Rosenthal ever hijacks a plane and tries to fly it into the Sears Tower, I'll reconsider. But for now, I think it’s safe to conclude that pot growers and terrorists are two completely different things.

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