Drug Czars Past and Present Oppose Prop 19 Marijuana Init

In an absolutely unsurprising turn of events, current head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske and five former drug czars have come out against Proposition 19, California's marijuana legalization initiative. The six bureaucratic drug warriors all signed on to an op-ed, Why California Should Just Say No to Prop 19, published in the Los Angeles Times Wednesday.

Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske with President Obama
Joining Kerlikowske in the broadside against legalization were former drug czars John Walters, Barry McCaffrey, Lee Brown, Bob Martinez, and William Bennett.

The drug czars claim that Prop 19 supporters will "rely on two main arguments: that legalizing and taxing marijuana would generate much-needed revenue, and that legalization would allow law enforcement to focus on other crimes." Then they attempt to refute those claims.

Noting that marijuana is easy and cheap to cultivate, the drug czars predict that, unlike the case with alcohol and tobacco, many would grow their own and avoid taxes. "Why would people volunteer to pay high taxes on marijuana if it were legalized?" they asked. "The answer is that many would not, and the underground market, adapting to undercut any new taxes, would barely diminish at all."

Ignoring the more than 800,000 people arrested for simple marijuana possession each year, including the 70,000 Californians forced to go to court for marijuana possession misdemeanors (maximum fine $100), the drug czars claim that "law enforcement officers do not currently focus much effort on arresting adults whose only crime is possessing small amounts of marijuana."

They then complain that Prop 19 would impose new burdens on police by making them enforce laws against smoking marijuana where minors are present. Those laws already exist; Prop 19 does not create them.

The drug czars warn that if Prop 19 passes, "marijuana use would increase" and "increased use brings increased social costs." But they don't bother to spell out just what those increased costs would be or why.

The drug czars' screed has picked up a number of instant critiques, including those of Douglas Berman at the Sentencing Law and Policy blog, Jacob Sullum at Reason Online, and Jon Walker at Firedoglake.

We're waiting for a drug czar to come out for pot legalization, not oppose it. Now, that would be real news.

Los Angeles, CA
United States
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Lock the drug czars in a room w/ 'marijuana is safer' advocates

And don't let the czars out until they seriously discuss the subject of alcohol vs. marijuana with their opponents.

Say no to stonewalling alcohol supremacist bigots who want to force people to use alcohol to get high, and just don't care how many people get killed in the process.

Given that a recent poll had half the public believing alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana, and only 1/6th believing the opposite, I think there's a third major argument being made and it has two aspects: not just that marijuana is safer so its prohibition causes violent crime by forcing people to use alcohol to get high, but also that prohibition of the safer substance violates fundamental American principles of fair play, like the supposedly beloved level playing field. 

There is also the matter of prohibition messing with respect for and cooperation with the police, any honest drug warrior would have to admit this would be one advantage to ending the war on drug users, or the marijuana part of the war on drug users. 

I wonder if these guys can

I wonder if these guys can look at themselves in the mirror without laughing. I can think of 1 government job that should be eliminated to save the country some money. Drug Czar, more like drug bizzzare.

The point is missing

There is way too much money in keeping marijuana illegal.


I agree , there is way too mch money in keeping marijuana illegal. Let me give an example or two.. Jobs in the penal system would not be needed so fewer monies towards that goal... the police departments would not need as many people to maintain the current police force "not having to arrest those folks possessing and smoking marijuana". Courts would not need those court dates to prosecute simple possission cases or just smoking marijuana because IT would be LEGAL!!!

  A myriad of other things come to mind that if you think about it I am sure you can come up wth yourself!!!

A Puff of Smoke

There it is. The representatives of the State throw the "moderate and  reasonable" position of the Tax and Regulate model right back in the promoters faces.

Notice that their concern isn't that huge amounts of revenue won't be generated by Prop 19, they are stressed that someone, somewhere, might get away without paying their pound of flesh! If the Tax and Regulate crowd had insisted that all homes and businesses be equipped with television monitors inside and out so that all potential illegal growing operations could be observed by law enforcement at any time of their choosing maybe they would be more supportive.

Here is the truth. THEY DON'T CARE ABOUT THE REVENUE. They have a quite profitable and self-sustaining system already in place; what they fear is the loss of their power and police empire ...all of the mouths that are fed and the "decent" citizens that are employed in the travesty that is prohibition. What will they do? Get real jobs? We're in a State induced depression and the State isn't hiring.

With all of the money generated by marijuana sales I suppose most could be kept as thumb twiddlers but that isn't as heroic as fighting faux crime. Plus there aren't the random opportunities for gratuitous acts of violence. Like Gandhi said:

The State represents violence in a concentrated and organized form. The individual has a soul, but as the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from violence to which it owes its very existence.

And that is the reason we need decriminalization. The use, possession, trade, sale, transportation, production, exchange of marijuana is no longer a crime. It simply isn't a part of their job description any more. This really hits them where it hurts and it doesn't throw them the appeasement regulation bone.


In a puff of smoke.

borden's picture


Actually I've been told by a friend who has met with public officials in cities about marijuana policy that they were primarily interested in how much tax revenue they could bring in.

By the way, what you have been calling decriminalization is actually legalization on a total free market model. Call it what you want. I respect the viewpoint, but it's pretty clear that the political feasibility of that model in the United States at this time is nil. I think it's time for critics of Prop 19 to get realistic about that.

Great Photo of Kerlikowske…

Kerlikowske looks like he’s saying “what the hell am I supposed to do?”

Speaking of photos and the art of framing, the alleged reliance of advocates on only two main arguments for proponents of Prop 19 is a big heap of wishful thinking by those who refuse to comprehend the present.  The official czarist framing of the proponents’ argument crumbles like dry bud. 

The Czars willfully neglect to mention the Mexican Drug War and the 28,000+ fatalities so far.   Then there are the more than 20-million-and-counting arrests for cannabis in the United States alone.  About 70,000 new California arrestees are added each year.  Despite the best efforts of over-eager drug cops, the prohibitionists have only managed to screw up the lives of about 20-percent of all U.S. cannabis users in the last 45 years.  Added to that is the drug war’s collateral damage that affects those not directly involved with drugs.  Then there’s the racism. 

All these drug war factors will be relevant to California voters in November.




Thanks old vet

It's great to get some positive feedback once in awhile.  Most the time I never know if my stuff is taking flight or not.


1. Bennett 2. Tax it

1.  Look up a recent article on William Bennett and his"gambling problem"... I remember when he was appointed drug czar by the earlier, lefthanded Bush in 1989.  Just to be credible, he had to hurriedly quit a "pack and a half'-a-day" $igarette habit... just think, this hot burning overdose addict had been Reagan's Education Secretary already for a number of years.  Thanks, Ron.  Of course we know you were being paid to advertise tobackgo on WHO Des Moines in 1937.


2.  I think they DO care about the revenue, but it's not the doubtful revenue they'll get out of good herb buyers.  What if cooperatives form to help thousands of families grow 25-sq.-ft.worth each?  What they're really afraid of, I think, is the LOSS of the tax revenue they NOW get from the hot burning overdose nicotine alternative (over $30-bil. nationwide according to a RJReynolds website).  The USA with 1/4 the population no longer grows more tobackgo than China, but the USA still gets export revenue off its tobackgo crop.  The USA is full of nice middle-class stockowners who may not even know there is tobackgo corp. stuff in their portfolio.  And some of our wonderful client states overseas are further into tax dependency: Pakistan gets 10% of all govt. revenues from $igarette taxes, did you know that?


Another way to look at it: once legal and no longer something you need to hide, your riefer use will help you invent your way out of consumer dependency on certain "comforts" including junk food and the $13,861 mattress.  What will this do to the "economy" built on "conning" people into BUYING "taxable" things just to feel good?  Will the gambling industry collapse as millions of suckers ALMOST as intelligent and virtuous as Bill Bennett suddenly find they enjoy handwork, natural foods and the great outdoors more than speculating on what a slot machine will do?  How will your county thenceforward finance roads, schools and narcotics cops?

McD's picture

This is a Good One, Max

Wow! With the exception of a very few of your very favourite overly used words and expressions, I think this is a really interesting and well-written comment. I wish I'd seen it a few minutes earlier, because I'd just left rather a caustic comment in reply to one of your more usual efforts. I wish you'd do more like this than you do like that. And drop the silly spellings already! What is it: clever, clever or cutsy, wutsy? WhateverTF it is, pack it in for Christ's sake! You'd be amazed how much better you could make your writing if you did.


That's a big MEH. What, you couldn't predict what they were going to say. Pffftttt. Think, "Drug Free America." A tax on a drug from these peoples point of view is only to decrease consumption. They are ideologically opposed to getting high. This means that getting high is bad for you and everyone else even if it is actually good for you and everyone else, not saying that it necessarily is though.

The idea that risking life and limb to avoid a tax which cannot amount to more then 10-20% of production/distribution costs is ludicrous. The idea that government is out to make a profit and their job is to control consumption rates is also absurd. We (the government) only need to collect enough currency to enforce a reasonable regulatory structure for quality assurance, infrastructure maintenance, necessary age limits, and appropiate propaganda restrictions; well, granted we don't institute a sane monetary policy where we (the government) spend our own currency instead of giving it to banks which loan it to us (the public and the government) at a profit.


Stop calling it legalization. It's regulation. Kthx.

Legalization: Means any hippy can just grow a field of weed and marijuana would be worth $25 an ounce.


Regulation: Means any businessman with capital can buy a plantation, a restaurant, a bar, a shop, patent hybridized genetics, create a brand, trademark said brand, get a .com, engage in interstate commerce, etc.


I found this article posted on http://yeson19.com/node/137 by Paul Armentano on August 31 2010.


"Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, along with five previous drug czars (including former 'high roller' William Bennett), recently penned an op/ed in the Los Angeles Times condemning California’s Proposition 19, The Regulate, Control & Tax Cannabis Initiative of 2010. It is no surprise that America's present and former drug czars oppose the passage of Prop. 19. After all, the drug czar is required by law "to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance that is listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act." In other words, it would actually be illegal for President Obama's drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, to voice an opinion that didn't publicly condemn the measure. Predictably, the czars' opposition is out of step with voter sentiment on the issue -- which according to the latest polltracker.com data shows Californians supporting the measure 51 percent to 37 percent."


It's no wonder why the Czars oppose Prop 19 because it would be illegal for them to do otherwise. Their credibility is completely biased. What Phillip Smith is asking for when he says, "We're waiting for a drug czar to come out for pot legalization, not oppose it. Now, that would be real news." will never happen because it is illegal for them to do so.

I say disregard these opinions of the Czars because for one, they do not address all of the aspects of prop 19 but only pick a two arguments and give a cheap, vague and dimwitted rebuttal and also they are not allowed to give their real opinion, completely ridiculous. 

Drug Czars Know Best

It's wonderful to see our politicians keeping the work of Harry Anslinger alive.  Clearly they agree with Mr. Anslinger's findings about the dangers and pit falls of marijuana.  It's a shame that so many "educated" people seem to be simply closing their eyes to the marijuana problem and forget about the millions of lives that hang in the balance.

Until I visited www.opposeprop19.com I really had no real appreciation of just how evil marijuana really is.  I can't believe that I've used marijuana for more than 40 years with no real concept of just how much danger I was in and how much I put other people in danger.  Wow, I guess I'm just lucky that I never keilled or raped anyone.

Legalization and Taxes

Yes, of course there would be a requirement to hire more people to enforce taxes on the crop and that people would be tempted to grow it themselves. But....isn't the freedom to grow it and share it ourselves what we are really after? Why should taxation of it be a pre-text for legalization?

Makes one wonder.

As I look at how many "drug czars" we have had with no perceptible effect on the quantity of illegal drugs used or sold in the US, I only see a lot of money that could be saved in retirement checks going to drug czars for no clearly useful purpose.  If we had merit pay in government, these guys wouldn't deserve their cushy retirement plans.

The argument that because people can grow it, people won't pay taxes on it is absurd, especially in California.  It is not illegal to grow vegetables, yet so many find it so convenient not to do so that California actually has a multi-billion dollar industry in growing vegetables for others. Why would it be any different for marijuana?    Although it may come as a shock to republicans, many people don't mind paying taxes, if it perceived that the tax money is being well spent.  

However, the purpose of this legislation isn't really to create tax revenue as much as it is an effort to end the black market created by criminalization of marijuana, which only works to the extent it is successful at al, at just driving up profits for the drug cartels and street gangs.  The situation has gotten so bad that unless the DEA is prepared to advocate decriminalization, it might as well simply advocate for increasing crime and violence in our society, because that it all that it is accomplishing.  No schools or businesses are safer for all the billions spent and wasted in this failed effort.  

There are more gangs now, more violent deaths, more usage and more problems than just about anytime in the past.  The only reason this madness continues is through sociological inertia.  People continue to try the same failed approaches again and again and again, unable to learn anything from the problems they actually cause.  Lets get off the criminalization approach and begin to advocate for treatment and prevention that can only come when the substance is no longer illegal.  That can only happen when we move away from criminalization that forces users into the hands of dealers and pushers rather than medical professionals.

In this case the war on drugs is a failure and the new "drug czar" as as much admitted it in public.  Its time to stop pretending America or California needs to be spending a lot of money enforcing laws that only benefit drug gangs and foreign cartels.  Even if there were no taxes paid, legalizing Cannabis sales would make sense, since it would lower the cost of useless enforcement that only benefits the gangs and cartels by creating a market for them, just as prohibiting alcohol sales in the 20's fueled  the business of Al Capone and other like-minded thugs. 

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