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

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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 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.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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I am not the least bit surprised

The out of touch advertising goes hand in hand with out of touch laws. Drug laws and their inherent consequences are out of touch. Whenever I see one of their commercials, I laugh. My little, church going, non swearing, bible studying teenage brother thinks they are funny. My favorite ones were the group of ads that portrayed "real life" situations. i.e. downtrodden little girl standing by herself near a sports field, cue kindly middle aged voice "Just tell her you were smoking pot with your friends, she'll understand". They are so ridiculous.

I honestly think that the ONDCP and similar money holes know that drug policy is completely failed. They simply want to appease the mass of mindless citizens who believe that the War on Drugs is a successful one and perpetuate the status quo.

well duh

It's been like this since the first drug Czar who I believe was Anslinger (BASTARD MAY YOU ROT IN HELL!!!!)I agree with anonymous up here, it really is just to keep the status quo, and like the article said the ONDCP can't possibly think these lame ass Marijuana ads keeps anyone from smoking, doesn't stop me, or any of my friends so...I extend my middle finger to you drug czar, do us all a favor and FUCK OFF!!!

What is the meaning of freedom?

They have been at it for seventy some years and little has changed, except, there are people who use drugs that believe drugs need to be illegal. I don't understand, is it because they think the law doesn't pertain to them?

That's exactly what it means!

Of course they don't think the law pertains to them! Why should this surprise you? Our president feels it's OK for members of the rich elite he hangs with to shovel mountains of cocaine up their collective snouts, and whenever anyone points it out, he simply labels it a "youthful indiscretion" and asks everyone to move on, as it is a "private family matter".

Compare that with the treatment offered to us regular working-class folk, whose "indiscretions" allow them to go to jail, lose their jobs, lose their homes, lose their children, maybe even lose their LIVES in a botched raid, all while having their families and names besmirched in the press. And all so that people just like George W can amass money and power talking about how they are "tough on drugs".

No one ever seems to ponder what happens to all those billions of dollars of drug money which is laundered back into circulation in the US. Wanna bet a large chunk of it gets funnelled (through legit cover oganizations, of course) into the pockets of our intentionally uninformed politicians to keep them in SUPPORT of the drug war, and thus keep the prices high? If I were in the business of producing (your choice of illegal drug here), that's exactly what I would do.

The drug war was a losing proposition from day one, if the intent truly was to curb drug use. Instead, all it has provided us with are the seeds of the destruction of our constitution, our government, and the fabric of our society, by pitting groups of the population against one another. If anyone in government learned ONE THING from the failed experiment of alcohol prohibition, it was that there was/is a lot of money to be made from prohibition, on both sides. That lesson they learned very well, and we taxpayers have all been paying for it (both literally and figuretively) ever since.

...follow the money...

I have been saying that for years: the politicians wouldn't keep voting the way they do if they weren't obeying their masters; and if there were nothing to make it worth while. They will suffer every degradation and humiliation to keep the laws the way they are, knowing they are wrong, immoral, useless, contrary to progress and capable of causing great amounts of cruel and unusual punishment to those who are affected. They receive sufficient remuneration to make it worth while to be reminded constantly of their previous statements .
One of my favourite examples here in Canada is the Rt. Honorable Jean Cretien. From 1980 -1982 he was, get this, Justice and Attorney General of State (Social Development) and Minister responsible for constitutional negotiations, and he offered us a great deal of hope.
As Minister of Justice, he seemed aware that we were growing in numbers and political savvy, and our sense of right and wrong, gifted to us by the martyrs of the sixties and not yet distorted, sold out nor surrendering. That seemed a major step for a real pol to take. He suggested quite firmly that he was in favour of easing up on the scandal that the marijuana laws were causing.
We were lulled, for a while, and nothing major happened.
Once he became the PM and could really do some good, he had discovered where the prizes were and decided to play with the boys. Any real improvement in marijuana legislation slid to the ground.
That's for starters. Why do you think he didn't lighten up? Of course it is because it paid more to behave and vote a directed.

'How To Know Whether Your Neighbor Is A Terrorist'..

Why the shock? Didn't you read the sections in the patriot act that maps the 'criteria' that makes one a terrorist?


This administration's approach to State's rights and individual rights is clearly to create its own agenda, whether solid science supports it or not. Look at the myriad of examples, from the Surgeon General to the EPA, where the administration stifled scientific studies that disagreed with their agenda. Unless the American public rises up in unison to decry these despicable practices, we can expect to maintain our first place position in the world for the percentage of our citizens incarcerated. It could be you next.

It's not about drug folks:

It is about having a "tool" to control those who would not normally be able to be controled.

Witness, who uses drug and who is the jails. Drugs are used by an even distribution of the population as to gender, age, and everything else. But who is in jail? Certainly not the "Bushies", Limbaugh's, etc. It is full (disportionaly) of minorities. Now do you get it?

You can not arrest a WHITE person unless they are WHITE-TRASH. Didn't you see the memo, Rush did?

The Immegrants from the South are misclassified. They are DRUG WAR REFUGEES. Let the refugees in unhasseled or end the war so the REFUGEES can return to the homes the NARCO-GOVERNMENTS took away from them.

Oh, that's another one of those white supremist things, the US needs slave labor without it being called slave labor. This is much better than in Lincoln's time.

The Presidents and wealthy white folks back then had to actually support kidnapping and abuse to get cheap foreign labor. The storage, feeding, keeping alive, avoiding the law, etc is nothing like the "kick em off the land and head them north" mentaity of today.

If it was a war on drugs, there wouldn't be so much drugs available in countries we recently invaded. The crops are better and more abundant then ever. See, the more arrests there are, the fewer of the "other" voters there will be; like independents.

To the tune 700,000 AMERICANS a year. Nice way to manage the vote, unemployment, minorites and dissenters.

Follow the money and see who is getting arrested and if you're not realy mad as heck then, the next no-knock on your door is GUESS WHO Mr & Mrs statistic? It may not now be serious to you until it is you getting busted. Too late then.

Look around and see that for every one (1) arrest how many people are impacted. Take your shoes off and get all the kids in the neioghborhood to help count noses, toes and fingers. It is a bunch of folks.

It all stinks to high heaven, which is Who made the marijuana plant in the first place; ("And He saw that all things were good"). Pretty ballsy messing with the Lords work and saying that at least one plant isn't good; sorry God, you are wrong.

The good folks who killed prohibition and the "Al Capones" didn't see the true politics for keeping alcolhol illegal. I say, make alcohol and cigarettes illegal. Then it would be a WHITE SUPREMIST TRIFECTA.

By the way, I am an embarrased white male and a lied to Vietnam veteran. The governments days of lieing to me are over. That buzzing in your ear is the wake up alarm.

WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT. Stupid question - nothing, just like always. What a waste of time this chatter, let's go boycott fast food places instead. Start having a negative impact on corporate earnings and we will then be listened to and only then.

Money talks and bull caca walks. Have a nice walk to jail by doing nothing but waiting for the door to get knocked down.

NO MORE PUBLIC RELIEF OF THE MUNCHIES. Start a garden and eat carrots and END THE DRUG WAR.

The usual justific'n for a

The usual justific'n for a "czar" is a lack of cooperation between 2 or more agencies, depts., offices, whatever, in dealing with some problem or task. The czar is supposed to be an ombudsman between them and have special powers to cut thru red tape and make them cooperate or otherwise go over or around their heads. So there's the concept against which a czar can be evaluated.

Choosing Your Audience

I think there is an assumption that the ONDCP propaganda ads are directed at drug users when in fact they appear to be directed toward the drug illiterate; specifically those people such as judges, prosecutors, parents, police officers, and various community leaders whose conscience must be clear when they ship someone off to prison for merely experiencing a good time.

I remember one such commercial appearing late in the evening that, to me at least, seemed to touch on the anxieties and fears many fathers experience when their daughters begin reaching sexual maturity. It depicted a pretty teenage girl who had smoked some pot at a party and was now feeling guilty about her subsequent virginal denouement. As usual, the ad was technically flawed in many ways, not the least of which is it mistook the effects of alcohol as the effects of marijuana. No doubt that for the drink’em and dink’em conservative politicians, all drugs look alike.

There was a replay of the same kind of paternal angst concept in the movie “Traffic” where Michael Douglas’ drug czar character is confronted with his drug using daughter becoming a sex slave to a drug dealer (and a black drug dealer, no less).

Ultimately, the ONDCP and organizations such as the Partnership for a Drug Free America are trying to push people’s buttons, and they focus on the ignorant. They have given up on the experienced and knowledgeable drug users because these people know the drug warriors are full of crap.

For Drug-Naive Fathers and Homeland Defenders

You bring up a good point about the fictional "Traffic" drug czar powerless against his own daughter becoming a sex slave. Why do those ignorant of drug culture not realize why alcoholism cannot be used by predators to lure the innocent into such depravity? By important measures of addiction, such as intoxication and withdrawal, alcohol is even more potent than heroin, cocaine and marijuana. The lack of prohibition defuses this sort of predation through alcohol - the coercion of the pusher is pointless when the alcoholic can easily go elsewhere, including AA. Drug rehabilitation has become an institutionalized arm of a punitive law enforcement system.

John Thomas Giordano is

John Thomas

Giordano is right. The ONDCP ads are not trying to convince teenagers. They are all about shoring up the fraud of prohibition. But the people will, unfortunately, sow what they reap. How could any civic-minded American passively stand by and watch how the Drug Czar spends 90 percent of his budget and time fighting against the LEAST harmful (including alcohol and tobacco) recreational drug - marijuana?

As soon as you understand they are only interested in protecting prohibition, then you understand they don't want anyone to stop using illegal drugs. The end of illegal drug use would spell the end of prohibition - and their empires - too. They like things just the way they are.

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