Friday, April 26, 2013







Refusal To Distinguish


The White House website has announced

On April 24, 2013, National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske released the President’s national blueprint for drug policy, the 2013 National Drug Control Strategy. This document builds on drug policy reform achieved during the past three years, beginning with the Administration’s inaugural Strategy, released in 2010. This Strategy calls for drug policy reform rooted in scientific research on addiction, evidence-based prevention programs, increased access to treatment, a historic emphasis on recovery, and criminal justice reform.

It's hard to argue with that outline, unless you're a conservative hostile to scientific research and evidence- which probably would be most conservatives.

Still, the details were (understandably) sketchy.  Under the announcement's subsection "Drug Policy 101," we are told

While law enforcement will always play a vital role in protecting our communities from drug-related crime and violence, we simply cannot incarcerate our way out of the drug problem. Put simply, an enforcement-centric “war on drugs” approach to drug policy is counterproductive, inefficient, and costly. At the other extreme, drug legalization also runs counter to a public health and safety approach to drug policy. The more Americans use drugs, the higher the health, safety, productivity, and criminal justice costs we all have to bear.

Put simply, an enforcement-centric “war on drugs” approach to drug policy is counterproductive, inefficient, and costly. At the other extreme, drug legalization also runs counter to a public health and safety approach to drug policy.   

Sorry, but the White House here has it rear end-backward, with no acknowledgement- not even a hint of an acknowledgement- that marijuana is different than, say, cocaine or heroine.

That's not surprising.  In October, 2009 the Department of Justice issued a memorandum suggesting an acceptance of medical marijuana. Nonetheless

the Department of Justice has cracked down hard on medical marijuana, raiding hundreds of dispensaries, while the IRS and other federal law enforcement officials have gone after banks and landlords who do business with them. Fours years after promising not to make medical marijuana a priority, the government continues to target it aggressively.

From roughly the mid 1980s through the mid 1990s, cocaine- and more notably, crack cocaine- dominated the drug landscape.  Partly as a result, street crime surged and, with the decline of cocaine use (and other factors) has since declined.

Marijuana is to the "War on Drugs" as Iraq is to Afghanistan.   The Bush Administration poured into a war in Iraq tremendous resources better expended in Afghanistan, in which the Taliban gave shelter to Al Qaeda, and in which much of the planning for the horrific events of 9/11 took place.   Obsessed with Sadaam Hussein, the federal government pushed a war in Iraq to the detriment of an effort against terrorism, a scourge centered in Afghanistan.

For many years, Washington has insufficiently distinguished between "hard" drugs and marijuana, and dispensaries established to dispense marijuana in accord with state law are being enthusiastically raided.  But though de-emphasizing the War on Drugs (which, in deference to real wars, should be renamed), the Administration restates its opposition to the legalization of marijuana, even for personal use.

Elements of the new approach, such as increased funds for drug treatment, are wise.  But there seems to be little acknowledgement that, like conflating Afghanistan with the less consequential Iraq, there is a dramatic difference upon society between drugs which characteristically destroy the mind and body, and those which typically don't.




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