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ONDCP Publicly Debates Drug Reform Leaders for the First (and Probably Last) Time Ever

Last night I attended the D.C. premiere of Jed Riffe’s film Waiting to Inhale, which was followed by a debate that pitted Special Assistant to the Drug Czar David Murray against MPP’s Rob Kampia, and DPA’s Ethan Nadelmann (Former ONDCP staffer Andrea Barthwell didn’t show).

The film takes a compelling look at the history of medical cannabis and gives us a glimpse into the lives of several patients who depend on it. For those of us who’ve been following the issue, the plight of the patients depicted is all too familiar. I’d bet that many people who’ve formed snap judgments about medical marijuana would be stunned to see the faces behind this controversy.

Knowing that David Murray was in the room gave it an extra bite. Would he really stick around to defend these atrocities? He looked villainous in the film, and for all the nonsense to which we’ve become accustomed from him, I was somehow still surprised that his head didn’t explode halfway through.

But Murray is a professional, and with no choice but to fight, he faced two of his most articulate critics with as much grace as you might expect from a man who gets paid to excuse the inexcusable.

  • When Murray read the FDA’s absurd statement on MMJ, Kampia waved a pair of handcuffs and asked why patients were being arrested for taking their doctors advice.
  • When Murray claimed that these guys just want to legalize drugs, Nadelmann acknowledged that he advocates a variety of reforms but considers the persecution of sick people to be the drug war’s greatest injustice.
  • When Murray claimed that medical groups don’t support MMJ, Kampia enumerated the rambling list of medical groups that do in fact support MMJ.
  • When Murray claimed that DEA doesn’t target doctors, Nadelmann pointed out that DPA had to win a significant court battle to prevent exactly that.
  • When Kampia claimed that youth marijuana use in California has dropped significantly since the passage of Proposition 215, Murray claimed that it would take too long to explain why that was misleading.
  • When Murray claimed that medicines must be approved through the rigorous FDA approval process, Nadelmann noted that the Federal Government routinely blocks MMJ research.

And so it went, each point disputed on its face with no concessions made by either side. At times, it sounded like they weren't talking about the same drug. Or the same laws, the same patients, the same research, or for that matter the same country.

But I applaud David Murray for being there. He told lies in front of people who know the truth, and that takes guts. He said the film “felt like a cartoon” to him, demonstrating the detachment such a man must summon when confronted with the consequences of his deceit.

That this event even took place is testament to the relentless and growing pressure our movement has brought to bear against those who persecute the sick and dying. David Murray might be able to view Waiting to Inhale in the comfort of arrogant indifference, but the film could prove a bitter pill for less-entrenched adherents to the drug war doctrine.

This is no cartoon, Mr. Murray. It’s real, it’s the truth, and it will never go away.

Sidenote: Tom Angell and I spotted David Murray drinking a beer before the film. I guess even shameless drug warriors gotta take the edge off.

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Thanks for the recap of this Scott. I can't believe David Murray actually debated both of them at once. Actually engaging in a dialogue with reforms has to break some kind of Executive Order or somthing.

I wonder if he is getting hell from other ONDCP staff today.

I doubt it.

Murray surely had permission to do this. The question is, why?

I don't understand what they got out of it. Perhaps they broke into all our offices and planted bugs while we were busy watching the debate.

Of course, our agenda is available in full all over the web, so monitoring us is kinda pointless.

"Medical Marijuana"

I've been strongly in favor of abolition of Prohibition Laws for many years; until recently, I didn't support the "medical marijuana" issue distinctly from the myriad other manifest iniquities the "Drug Warrior" Prohibitionists perpetrate on Citizens of the Land of the Free-to-do-as-we're-told.
Here's why I changed my mind. The Prohibitionists say MMJ is just a back-door way to accomplish "legalization", by which they mean "abolition of the Prohibition Laws that butter their bread". However, that argument can be turned on its head, and in fact is at least as stabile: All their "gateway drug" claims, all their claims that we'll be pushing dimebags in schoolyards when we take time off from robbing 7-11's, every risible claim made by the Prohibitionists will be clearly shown to be spurious. If, on the other hand, I were to disclose when most recently I committed the "Sin" of "Recreation" by "inhaling" and refusing to be ashamed of it, my very liberty would be jeopardized.
I say, let the MMJ folks smoke responsibly, let the Sheepublicans and Lemmingcrats observe the absence of "haaaarm to sociiiiety", then let Murray excuse Prohibition.
-John Ray

Murray tries again

Murray is the administration's attack dog on MMJ. He didn't sway you guys and he didn't sway the NM State Senate. He is likely trying to build up his credentials on being able to fight MMJ and its proponents.

The Bush administration got involved in New Mexico’s medical marijuana issue Friday, sending a top drug-policy administrator to testify against SB258.

But David W. Murray, a special assistant to national drug czar John Walters, had little or no effect on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which gave the measure a do-pass with bipartisan support.

And some senators said Murray’s presentation was heavy-handed.

As to the question of why

As to the question of why someone from the DrugWar apparatus would deign to 'lower themselves' by participating in a debate, keep in mind that for all his efforts, Mr. Murray is still a low-level functionary. You don't expect the headman on the sled to be pitched to the wolves, do you? Of course not; Mr. Murray was expendable. If our side made significantly damning scores against his, the higher ups in their chain of command can claim that 'face' is still 'saved' because the bossman didn't leave with his bureaucratic hide publicly humiliated. But one thing is sure: a precedent has been set. The opposition has been forced into acknowledging, not only our presence, but our point. Up to now, they have refused to admit reformers had points worthy of debating. Now they have. There's no going back. Refusal to debate further opens them to charges of intellectual and moral cowardice. - kaptinemo

aye kap'n... The demand for

aye kap'n...

The demand for debate, for public discussions (beyond the Hager/Stutman travelling show) has to get louder.

As far as intellectual and moral cowardice... call 'em what they are. They have no public face, no blogs with public commenting, no spontaneous talks with the press. If their position were so firm they should be out slaying us at every meeting.

Theirs is an enterprise now in trouble for the first time in 30 years. With funding cuts threatened, failures abroad and at home, a growing, educated and vocal opposition is now standing wherever they appear.

Unless they can absolutely keep their calendars and appointments secret they will find themselves dealing with us.

Props to the SSDP on bringing bodies and minds and to all who attended and brought their coverage of the event to us.

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