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Medical Marijuana Debate: MPP vs. ONDCP

This evening, Georgetown Law School’s chapter of SSDP hosted a debate on medical marijuana between MPP’s Assistant Communications Director Dan Bernath and ONDCP’s Chief Counsel Ed Jurith. Since the drug czar’s minions seldom subject themselves to public scrutiny, and only do so in D.C., it was my duty to document the dialogue.    

Bernath began with a reference to the recent discovery of a 2,700-year-old marijuana stash in the tomb of a Chinese shaman, establishing the extensive history of the medical use of marijuana. He described the dimensions of the current medical marijuana debate, including the support of the medical community, the benefits for a growing population of users, and the evolution of public opinion in support of protecting patients through ballot initiatives and state legislatures.

Jurith framed his argument from a legal perspective, providing a chronology of caselaw upholding federal authority to enforce marijuana and other drug laws. He emphasized the FDA approval process, insisting that reformers seek to bypass the traditional pathways through which medicines are deemed safe and effective. He focused heavily on dismissing the notion of a "fundamental right" to use medical marijuana, although Bernath hadn’t presented his position in those terms.

As the discussion proceeded, I was struck by Jurith’s continued preference for defending the legality rather than the efficacy of the federal war on marijuana. He just wouldn’t go there. In Q&A, I pointed out that the Raich ruling certainly doesn’t mandate a campaign against medical marijuana providers and that DEA demonstrates their discretion every day by declining to prosecute the majority of dispensary operators. Will he defend the raids in a practical sense? What determines who gets raided and who doesn’t? He responded with the notorious Scott Imler quote about medical marijuana profiteers, but never really answered the question.

So basically, the head lawyer at the drug czar’s office came forward to assure us that what they’re doing is technically legal, while failing in large part to actually help us understand why they do it. In turn, Bernath easily and convincingly depicted how ONDCP’s role in the medical marijuana debate consists entirely of opposing/interfering with state level reforms and blocking the exact research they claim is necessary.

I’d like to think that Jurith’s one dimensional presentation is indicative of the shrinking box from which his office draws its talking points on medical marijuana. Is the growing body of medical research and the solidification of popular support beginning to suck wind from the pipeholes of the proud protagonists in the war on pot? Jurith never compared marijuana to hard drugs, never employed the formerly obligatory "Trojan-horse-to-legalization" line, and generally declined to completely lie his face off when cornered. Maybe he’s just nicer than, say, this guy. But it’s also true that ONDCP as we know it is about to be dismantled and it may be that nobody over there currently gives a crap if the mild-mannered Ed Jurith is kind enough to put himself on the spot for the educational benefit of some law students.

Either way, by ONDCP standards, this was a fairly defanged defense of the war on medical marijuana. Jurith is absolutely correct that the federal government maintains considerable authority over the enforcement of our drug laws and it will be fascinating to see what happens when that power changes hands.
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What bunk.

If ONDCP, DEA and PDFA continue to claim that cannabis is more dangerous than FDA approved, deadly and defective drugs and delivery devices, should their officials not all be charged with felony violations of the False Claims Act, by continuing to collect and disburse federal funds based on lies? Why, since it is treason to wage war against US in Article III, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution should those who participate in such violence and mayhem not be brought up on charges and imprisoned? How is it possible that ANYONE thinks pot laws were legally enacted when the Congressional Record repeatedly shows that lies and therefore PERJURY is how those laws were enacted, and court records across the country show that the routine suppression of exculpatory evidence is how said laws are enforced?

Shall we continue to accept the words of an official that the actions of his office are legal when our laws indicate otherwise? Well over 600,000 Americans die every year from the use of approved, legal intoxicants and medications. That's a Holocaust each and EVERY decade. Under color of law, gun toting thugs use the "illegal drugs" excuse to raid private homes, search and round us up to what can accurately be called Civilian Labor Inmate Camps. Google that last phrase if you are skeptical on this point.

Meanwhile, the biggest producers of pharmaceuticals and of the chemical precursors required to turn coca into cocaine and poppies into heroin are free to conduct billions of dollars in commerce, and are still on the PDFA sponsorship list. As a result of Partnership for a Drug Free America contracts, millions of federal dollars are spent on the resulting ONDCP commercials that are are at least demonstrably false, and have been shown to be ineffective to the point of possibly increasing youth marijuana use. The very same participants that were involved in Iran Contra are involved in Afghanistan, which increased poppy production and now supplies well over 90 percent of the world's heroin. The very same contractors continue to spray poisons in Latin America, with the result that cocaine production has increased in the region.

We need to sue these federal officials and their wealthy mass murderer partners in every possible venue with the threat of prison AND restitution. With a new administration appointing hard core drug warriors, a flood of drug war lawsuits are exactly what is needed. Judging from the talking points described in the above article, it is exactly what ONDCP and DEA officials fear and deserve.


What he said ^^

-Richard P Steeb
San Jose, California


Thanks! There is hope. I wish we all could have a grasp on this stupidity that you have.

Perfectly said!!

Holy shit... good job

I have never seen such a thorough address of everything that is so wrong with the war on drugs in such a small amount of words. If only there was someone in the government with power to do something who would actually listen to this.


Alcohol Prohibition required an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Alcohol is a drug, scientifically speaking.

Why does Drug Prohibition not require an amendment to the U.S. Constitution?

The prohibitionist answer seems to be if one uses certain drugs, one is having a substantial affect on commerce.

In 1937, out of nowhere, came an extreme change in the judicial interpretation of the Commerce Clause in the U.S. Constitution.

This extreme change, still supported by the U.S. today, gives congress the authority to regulate anything having a substantial affect on commerce.

Human thought, which determines what we buy, when we buy, where we buy, etc. (and what we sell, etc.) always has a substantial affect on commerce.

This extreme change from out of nowhere gives congress the authority to regulate human thought.

This undeniably evil truth should encourage "We the people", the true leaders of the U.S., to strongly act in opposition against this unjust change to restore the original interpretation.

There is a brilliant reason why the U.S. Declaration of Independence clearly states that we naturally have an unalienable Right to Liberty. Sadly, Drug Prohibition is a "brilliant" example of this reason, and its multi-decade existence serves to remind us how separated "We the people" are from the written American foundation.

Please stop ignoring the written American foundation that exists to oppose the worst form of abuse; power abuse.

Until our case is firmly entrenched in the mainstream to gain public majority support, Drug Prohibition will continue. We must find a proper way to shine a bright light on this massive corruption. "Preaching to the choir" isn't going to cut it anytime soon.


Certainly, "Preaching to the choir" isn't going to cut it. Since this page is currently at the top of a search for "ondcp", more than the choir sees these comments.

Those with inside information on ONDCP and DEA crimes need to contact a Qui Tam attorney and perhaps even collect a percentage of any recovered proceeds! Here's a big firm that specializes in such cases:

Regardless, suing these killers, if only in small claims courts across the country would make the news, and such publicity is far less expensive and more credible than advertising. Taking on Monsanto and Chevron and all of the members of the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America in court will make the our case to the public at a very low cost, if only because court records are a free source of timely information for news organizations.

Those who are or ever have been behind attacked and or placed in harm's way for supposed drug "crimes" can and should band together and bring some sort of class action suit. It worked in Goose Creek:

The Bowers' family deserves their day in court for the cover up of the murders of Roni and Charity Bowers. See:

Other lawsuits are in process, see: and
You can support the efforts of groups like and or even get legal help from and

Stand up. Be heard. At least boycott the products of every company on the PDFA sponsorship list, from Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association to The Hershey Company, Merrill Lynch & Co., Morgan Stanley, MetLife, Northwest Airlines, Sony and Yum! Brands. Here is the 2007 list in pdf format:

Drug war IS crime. Stop paying for it.

Too Optimistic

I think you're being way too optimistic here, Scott. I think the only reason he restricted himself to talking about the legal technicalities is that he was talking to a group of law students. He probably thought it would be easier to just ignore the SSDP aspect of the audience. The ONDCP is still willing to lie their faces (I normally use a different word) off, and I am not optimistic about Obama making any major changes to the office. They still have the megaphone, the funding, and the guns. I think cutting the raids on medical dispensaries is the absolute best we can hope for, but, since power begets power, even that may be a long shot.


You could easily, easily be completely right about all of this. But permit me the indulgence of exploring other angles. I didn't state it as fact, just a thought.

If you wanna find me sounding super negative and pessimistic about these issues, you won't have to look very hard. But sometimes I'm going to look for the silver lining, even at the risk of being wrong.

US. D.H.H.S got a 2003 patent on "cannabinoids as antioxidants..

Did you know the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services got a patent for "cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants" in 2003? See:

Another reason for NATIONAL ballot initiatives

A national medical marijuana initiative would pass in a heartbeat: Voters are known for far larger hearts than politicians. is the place to make it happen...

Voters are known for far

Voters are known for far larger hearts than politicians.

Uh, does Proposition 8 mean anything to you?

National initiatives would be horrible. It is best to keep as much power away from the Federal government as possible.

We Need to Hold the Media, Politicians & Liars More Accountable

For the most part, the ONDCP, the media and our politicians can say just about anything about Medical Cannabis, with absolutely no consequence (I recently read a classic "Reefer Madness" editorial in Michigan that said Medical Cannabis patients will kill in order to get their medicine).

We have far-right media outlets that print blatant lies -- with reckless abandon -- with absolutely no consequence. And they consistently omit covering any news that might contradict their ignorant stances.

Somebody with $$ should create a slick web site that tracks politicians' and the media's stances on Medical Cannabis -- like RealClearPolitics covers polls, with charts and all -- to help ensure some level of accountability.

If we begin to EFFECTIVELY PUBLICIZE ignorant positions and statements made by ignorant/complicit media and politicians, the lies will at least slow down.

Oh, and all the people who contribute here should be making sure there voice is heard -- out there with the media and politicians. For instance, sharing the medical truth -- backed up with credible sources -- in discussion forums is a great grass-roots PR-strategy to leave a written record of truth for many to see, for free!

Let's make it harder for the liars, fools, cowards and crooks to lie and get away with it. DWC is doing a great job, but we need more help!!

Safe Haven

Maybe Jurith is being careful about what he says because he doesn’t want to be quoted five years from now for saying something so incredibly stupid as to harm his career.  Better he alter his approach now than never.

Also, falling back on the all-too-obvious illegality ploy is the only true thing Mr. Jurith can say about drug war issues that won’t get him into trouble with his bosses back at the ONDCP.

Good work, Jurith.  You earned your parachute.  Time to bail.

a national debate!

go to if obama is going to change america, he should listen to americans. it does take we the people to make a change, but most of you won't get in the faces of your elected representatives and tell them. go to change .gov, go to norml, norml has messages that are sent directly to whoever you need to contact in your state. personally i think it's unconstitutional for our government to dictate my not being able to grow a plant that has so many uses for medicines, not to mention pleasure, and from a practical standpoint commerce. anyone can grow it, just about anywhere, and that's the point, it cannot be controlled. i'll say it again, it cannot be controlled. that's why big alcohol, tobacco, pharmacy, and big brother keep it illegal, they cannot compete with it,or control it.

cover-up exposed

Here is a documentary that exposes collusion between federal officials and the source of the same poisons that are not only allowed into the food chain for human consumption, but are also utilized as defoliants against drug plant crops.

It shows how Monsanto AND the FDA covered up information proving that their products are unsafe and how they ignored, attempted to bribe and fired scientists that spoke up about health risks:

state attorney generals have conspired with the DEA

When a state enacts a law accepting the medical use of something in Schedule I of the federal drug law, federal law requires the DEA to move that substance out of schedule I. 21 U.S.C. 812(a). It's not optional. If the DEA does obey that statute, the state Attorney General should demand that the DEA explain why. That hasn't been done by any of the 13 state attorneys general. I've filed a civil complaint here in federal court, Carl Olsen v. Michael Mukasey, No. 4:08-cv-370, United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, demanding that the Attorney General immediately reclassify marijuana as required by 21 U.S.C. 812(b)(1)(B).

Carl Olsen
Iowans for Medical Marijuana
Post Office Box 4091
Des Moines, Iowa 50333
Donations are Welcome!

Not just MJ!

"heroin" is actaully diacetyl-morphine, a pain medication! So much for the class one drug! (no medicinal value) It is still useful as a medicine, yet they have lied from day one! I guess the government could say that about all of the narcotics--hydromorphone, hydrocodone, oxycodone, (The list is huge!) according to these standards. Good for you at calling the government down!

sure enough, on


Thursday, December 11, 2008 05:50pm EST / Posted by Dan McSwain

"Since its launch yesterday, the Open for Questions tool has processed over 600,000 votes from more than 10,000 people on more than 7,300 questions. Voting will come to a close Friday, December 12th, at 12:00 a.m. EST, so that we can prepare answers to some of the most popular questions. (Note: All of the questions submitted so far will be archived here: -

Currently in the lead:
"Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?"'s Open for Questions : legalizing marijuana

Not to be picky -- I completely support decriminalizing marijuana and more -- but I spent 20 years as an opinion pollster and this quoting this kind of stuff depresses me.

1) The 'legalizing marijuana' question is hideously biased and completely useless except perhaps for building an e-mail list of legalization supporters. It certainly doesn't measure anything.

2) The people who respond to the question are obviously self-selected. They do not constitute a representative sample of anything except people who will answer the legalize marijuana question. No useful or significant conclusion can be drawn from the responses.


The feds always cite that they're backed by federally mandated law. What they seem to always forget to tell their listeners is that that federally mandated law federally mandates that they lie to the public they serve and are not responsible for stepping on other laws, i.e., the Hatch Act.

Close the ONDCP! Issue street patrol uniforms to all DEA agents with letters to other LEO agencies, re-allow the USCG to return to their normal duties and allow life to return to the normalcy that was realized in the early 1900s before all this stupidity began. We didn't learn a thing from Alcohol Prohibition. It wasn't the thugs fault. It was the drinker's fault. Policy had no part to play, right? Save our children and millions of others by doing away with the Drug War and Prohibition III.

on Fraud violations.

Add to that malpractice class action suit in that, as a government agency, they exist at the top of the power differential in a professional role, so I'm guessing this establishes a fiduciary relationship.

As such, there is a great blog on craigslist about this, look under Best of Craigslist, that explains exactly how this is a valid argument. In a certain area of California, there is a whole county that basically founds itself on the cannabis culture. Yet, courtesy of your's and mine's taxes, the federal government spends about $80000 a year just on marijuana interdiction, instead of, if pot were legal, would provide the county in an additional $8 Million in tax revenues. Imagine ths in your county. You could fund an effective social services agency and thereby go a long way in preventative services to eliminate causes of people being on welfare and disability. With this arguement, the federal government is using its position of power to do harm to the very people whose care they are responsible for helping.

Another example, mentioned in the first post, is the notion of FDA approval for certain medications that are known to cause addiction and side effects that lead to long term chronic (and publicly EXPENSIVE) diseases such as diabetes and chronic fatigue and other immune diseases. I've been a psychotherapist now for 8 years and I've definitely seen a lot of people addicted to pain medications, or they've gained a ton of weight and now have diabetes and all the problems that go with that. Yet you don't see people in the emergency room for smoking too much pot or going through withdrawal from pot, nor do you see the significant health problems associated with long term use of serquil, effexor, and I might add the still-legal cigarettes and alcohol. If pot use caused any of the level of these legal substances, you can bet the media would have a field day. I'm not saying people don't run into trouble with pot, but it's funny how you never see a morning news segment on it.

IN so many ways our government is doing us, The American People, a disservice, whether you smoke pot or not. I think a good lawyer could probably establish a premise of prohibition being unconstitutional with valid arguments addressing discrimination, commerce, social welfare and privacy rights, to name a few.

Now where can I find a good lawyer?

I"m hoping Obama's carefully chosen phrase, "not in favor of," really means that not now, but I will be open to discussing it later.

Need to tone down the rhetoric

Finding was enormously heartening to me, but much of the rhetoric here seems damaging to the cause. It might be more politic if we toned it down a few decibels.

Personally, I agree that the War on Drugs is among the most wrong-headed, destructive and ineffective policies of the United States. It has not and will not significantly reduce either the importation or use of hard drugs. No level of law enforcement, however harsh, unjust or unconstitutional, can stop traffic in substances that generate 4,000 percent profits.

The real effects of the War on Drugs are well-documented on this site and elsewhere. It creates the 4,000 percent profit in hard drugs that is the real cause of drug-related crimes. It wastes a minimum of $40 billion each year. It causes the U.S. incarceration rate to be the highest in the developed world, mostly of minorities. It created the drug cartels that overpower and corrupt governments here and throughout Latin America. It is used to justify unconstitutional enforcement, surveillance and propaganda activities by federal, state and local authorities. It demonizes addicts, most of whom suffer from underlying psychiatric illnesses.

By designating marijuana as a hard drug like meth, crack and heroin, the War on Drugs made felons of millions of Americans who smoke medically or recreationally. Criminalization reduced the availability of marijuana from harmless neighborhood grower-dealers and forced smokers to seek out hard drug dealers who obviously would prefer to sell them other products.

I suspect most of us who visit this site agree with my comments above. But the American public emphatically does not, especially with respect to hard drugs. The public has been subjected to decades of incessant propaganda that has successfully convinced them that only harsh law enforcement can protect them and their children from the scourges of addiction and crime. They have been convinced that marijuana is a dangerous and addictive gateway drug to hopeless lives.

Changing these widely-held public misconceptions will take years of hard work, and it may be impossible. Fiery rhetoric probably will not move us toward that goal.


A lot of these idiots deserve benzo withdrawal.

Supporters of legalizing

Supporters of legalizing cannabis for medical use range from actors and musicians to politicians, writers, and scientists. Major activists include Steve Kubby, Ethan Nadelmann, Dennis Peron, Angel Raich, Robert Randall,

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