DRCNet would really prefer not to keep writing about Indiana congressman Mark Souder (R-4th District), but he keeps opening his mouth. Last week, we reported on the drug fightin' Fort Wayne rep's comments upon returning from a "fact-finding" junket in Amsterdam (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/212.html#moralbase). Apparently suffering a contact high and assiduously avoiding unpalatable facts, Souder reported that those wacky Dutch have "free pot and free prostitution" and that the Dutch has "no moral base" because they don't attend church as often as Americans.
But never a man to rest on his laurels, Souder quickly moved on to one of his new favorite themes: the drug-terrorism connection. In an op-ed piece published in one of his local papers, the Noble & LaGrange News-Sun, he attempted to tie the two phenomena together in a call for tighter border controls, but somehow along the way he slipped through the looking glass into a topsy-turvy world where marijuana is as dangerous as cocaine.
Well, not all marijuana. No, Souder was targeting Canadian homegrown, the high-powered boutique weed that is a major industry in British Columbia and goes by such sobriquets as BC Bud and Quebec Gold. Jaws must have dropped from DeKalb to Steuben as Sunday morning newspaper readers in northeast Indiana pondered Souder's dire warning:
"In many places, Quebec Gold and BC Bud are selling for more than cocaine," wrote Souder. "Don't be fooled by its name: it is not marijuana. It is far more potent than traditional marijuana, and is as dangerous as cocaine." Furthermore, he continued, the US has not allocated sufficient resources to stop "this deadly flow."
Shocked by Souder's discovery, DRCNet attempted to verify his claims. We contacted California cannabis expert Chris Conrad (http://www.chrisconrad.com), author of two books on the subject, designer and former curator of the Marijuana-Hemp-Hashish Museum in Amsterdam, and court-certified expert witness on cannabis matters in numerous California counties and at least one federal district. Conrad has testified in at least 40 criminal cases regarding all aspects of cannabis cultivation.
"Where do I begin?" groaned Conrad. "All three of his assertions are completely untrue. First, of course, BC Bud is marijuana. I have observed, I have analyzed it, I know for a fact that it is marijuana. Please. Souder is only parading his ignorance," said Conrad. "To have someone so obviously ignorant in a position to make drug laws is how we got the bad drug policies we have today."
"As for this stuff being 'far more potent' than traditional marijuana, again he doesn't know what he is talking about," said Conrad. "The marijuana he is talking about is probably 10-12% THC, which has probably increased since the 1960s, but remember, we also had hashish back in the 1960s, and that runs about 40% THC. I would argue that the real difference between pot now and pot then is the difference between cannabis sativa and cannabis indica. If Souder wanted to sponsor a return to the days of sativa, I could get behind that," Conrad added. "It's a much more up high."
The federal government, for its part, contends that potency has increased over the past two decades. According to the University of Mississippi's 2000 Marijuana Potency Monitoring Project (MPMP), sinsemilla potency increased from about 6% THC in the late 1970s and 1980s to 13% last year. But unlike Souder, the feds recognize that it is still marijuana.
As for marijuana being as dangerous as cocaine, Conrad was flabbergasted. "You're kidding, right? There is no way marijuana is as dangerous as cocaine; in fact, there is substantial evidence that pot could help people who have cocaine problems," he said. "That Souder would say something like that is outrageous. The marijuana reform community makes a careful distinction between pot and hard drugs, and for Souder to make that claim will only encourage young people to use cocaine. Every parent in the country should be after his head for that. He has to take personal responsibility for these lies."
As for comparative prices, it appears highly unlikely that BC Bud is selling for more than cocaine "in many places," as Souder asserted. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), cocaine prices were "low and stable" and ranged from $13,000 to $25,000 per kilogram in most major cities. ONDCP puts the price of BC Bud at at least $5,000 in major markets, with an upper limit of $8,000. Thus, according to federal government figures, some of the most expensive BC Bud may sell for more than some of the least expensive cocaine.
Seeking less tendentious sources, DRCNet also contacted High Times magazine, which runs a regular column on drug prices. According to High Times' Trans High Market Quotations, BC Bud prices ranged from $340 an ounce in Kansas City to $500 an ounce in Pennsylvania. High Times editor Steve Wishnia told DRCNet that in the New York City area, retail kind bud and cocaine prices are roughly similar, but he added that cocaine prices have been declining and marijuana prices increasing since the inauguration of the Reaganite drug war in the 1980s. "In the '70s, pot was $40 an ounce and coke $100 a gram and $1,500 an ounce; in the last 10 years, pot's been $300-350 an ounce and coke $40-50 a gram and $500 an ounce," said Wishnia.
That may be progress in the eyes of recalcitrant drug warriors, but it still does not validate Souder's assertion that BC Bud goes for more than cocaine "in many places."
Mark Souder is a man who may occasionally stumble across the truth, but when he does, he quickly picks himself up, brushes himself off and continues down his merrily mendacious path.