#241 Drug Czar Ignores IOM Report, Record Of Failure

Date: Wed, 01 May 2002
Subject: Drug Czar Ignores IOM Report, Record Of Failure


DrugSense FOCUS Alert #241 Wed, 1 May 2002

Drug Czar Ignores IOM Report, Record of Failure

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Taking a break from blaming drug users for September 11th, Drug Czar
John Walters has published yet another misleading op-ed. This time
the subject is marijuana and the Washington Post is the messenger.
Walters pretends to be rational and even goes so far as to acknowledge
the existence of prohibition-related violence.

Unfortunately, in Walters’ mind gangland killings are acceptable
collateral damage providing the price of marijuana remains high. The
near-record levels of drug use cited by Walters suggest that the price
of pot has not kept kids from smoking it. Walters’ most glaring
offense is his lies about medical marijuana. In claiming a lack of
available research on a plant that has been used medicinally for
thousands of years, Walters’ ignores the recommendations of the 1999
Institute of Medicine Report, commissioned by the very same White
House Office of National Drug Policy he works for.

Potential LTE talking points:

* There is no evidence that marijuana use would “soar” if legal. If anything
tough drug laws increase use. A majority of European Union countries have
decriminalized pot. Despite marijuana prohibition, lifetime use of
marijuana in
the U.S. is higher than any European country. See:

* The anti-tobacco campaign Walters mentions succeeded at reducing
tobacco use without relying on a punitive criminal-justice system. If
social marketing works for addictive tobacco, why is the threat of
criminal records necessary to deter marijuana use?

* Drug policy dictated by federal bureaucrats with “drug-free”
backgrounds gives rise to policy based on ignorance. Key stakeholders
(actual drug users) are not only ignored, but persecuted and

* The increased marijuana potency cited by Walters, if true, is not
necessarily a bad thing. Potent pot requires less smoke inhalation
and incurs fewer health risks to the user.

* The ONDCP needs to stop pretending there is no scientific basis for medical
marijuana and read the recommendations of its own report. See:

Thanks for your effort and support.


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URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v02/n832/a02.html

Webpage: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A11915-2002Apr30.html
Pubdate: Wed, 01 May 2002
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Page: A25
Copyright: 2002 The Washington Post Company
Contact: letters@washpost.com
Website: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/491
Author: John P. Walters
Note: The writer is director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.


Last December the University of Michigan released its annual survey
“Monitoring the Future,” which measures drug use among American youth.
Very little had changed from the previous year’s report; most
indicators were flat. The report generated little in the way of public

Yet what it brought to light was deeply disturbing. Drug use among our
nation’s teens remains stable, but at near-record levels, with some 49
percent of high school seniors experimenting with marijuana at least
once prior to graduation — and 22 percent smoking marijuana at least
once a month.

After years of giggling at quaintly outdated marijuana scare stories
like the 1936 movie “Reefer Madness,” we’ve become almost conditioned
to think that any warnings about the true dangers of marijuana are
overblown. But marijuana is far from “harmless” — it is pernicious.
Parents are often unaware that today’s marijuana is different from
that of a generation ago, with potency levels 10 to 20 times stronger
than the marijuana with which they were familiar.

Marijuana directly affects the brain. Researchers have learned that it
impairs the ability of young people to concentrate and retain
information during their peak learning years, and when their brains
are still developing. The THC in marijuana attaches itself to
receptors in the hippocampal region of the brain, weakening short-term
memory and interfering with the mechanisms that form long-term memory.
Do our struggling schools really need another obstacle to student

Marijuana smoking can hurt more than just grades. According to the
Department of Health and Human Services, every year more than 2,500
admissions to the District of Columbia’s overtaxed emergency rooms —
some 300 of them for patients under age 18 — are linked to marijuana
smoking, and the number of marijuana-related emergencies is growing.
Each year, for example, marijuana use is linked to tens of thousands
of serious traffic accidents.

Research has now established that marijuana is in fact addictive. Of
the 4.3 million Americans who meet the diagnostic criteria for needing
drug treatment ( criteria developed by the American Psychiatric
Association, not police departments or prosecutors ) two-thirds are
dependent on marijuana, according to HHS. These are not occasional pot
smokers but people with real problems directly traceable to their use
of marijuana, including significant health problems, emotional
problems and difficulty in cutting down on use. Sixty percent of teens
in drug treatment have a primary marijuana diagnosis.

Despite this and other strong scientific evidence of marijuana’s
destructive effects, a cynical campaign is underway, in the District
and elsewhere, to proclaim the virtues of “medical” marijuana. By now
most Americans realize that the push to “normalize” marijuana for
medical use is part of the drug legalization agenda. Its chief
funders, George Soros, John Sperling and Peter Lewis, have spent
millions to help pay for referendums and ballot initiatives in states
from Alaska to Maine. Now it appears that a medical marijuana campaign
may be on the horizon for the District.

Why? Is the American health care system — the most sophisticated in the
world —
really being hobbled by a lack of smoked medicines? The University of
Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research is currently conducting scientific
to determine the efficacy of marijuana in treating various ailments. Until that
research is concluded, however, most of what the public hears from marijuana
activists is little more than a compilation of anecdotes. Many questions remain
unanswered, but the science is clear on a few things. Example: Marijuana
hundreds of carcinogens.

Moreover, anti-smoking efforts aimed at youth have been remarkably
effective by building on a campaign to erode the social acceptability
of tobacco. Should we undermine those efforts by promoting smoked
marijuana as though it were a medicine?

While medical marijuana initiatives are based on pseudo-science, their
effects on the criminal justice system are anything but imaginary. By
opening up legal loopholes, existing medical marijuana laws have
caused police and prosecutors to stay away from marijuana

Giving marijuana dealers a free pass is a terrible idea. In fact,
thanks in part to excellent reporting in The Post, District residents
are increasingly aware that marijuana dealers are dangerous criminals.
The recent life-without-parole convictions of leaders of Washington’s
K Street Crew are only the latest evidence of this.

As reported in The Post, the K Street Crew was a vicious group of
marijuana dealers whose decade-long reign of terror was brought to an
end only this year after a massive prosecution effort by Michael
Volkov, chief gang prosecutor for the U.S. attorney’s office. The K
Street Crew is credited with at least 17 murders, including systematic
killings of potential witnesses. ( It should not be confused with the
L Street Crew, a D.C. marijuana gang that killed eight people in the
course of doing business. )

Says prosecutor Volkov: “The experience in D.C. shows that marijuana
dealers are no
less violent than cocaine and heroin traffickers. They have just as much
money to
lose, just as much turf to lose, and just as many reasons to kill as any drug

Skeptics will charge that this kind of violence is just one more
reason to legalize marijuana. A review of the nation’s history with
drug use suggests otherwise: When marijuana is inexpensive, as it
would be if legal, use soars — bad news for the District’s schools,
streets and emergency rooms.



To the Editor:

Drug czar John Walters is confused if he thinks that the principal
argument for marijuana legalization is that the plant is relatively
harmless. Like any drug, marijuana can be harmful if abused. It is
not the effects of marijuana that necessitate drug law reform, but
rather the effects of marijuana prohibition.

Walters notes near-record levels of marijuana smoking among teenagers,
yet fails to consider that drug dealers don’t ID for age. Apparently
Walters thinks leaving marijuana distribution in the hands of
organized crime is a good thing providing pot remains expensive.

Walters goes so far as to suggest the 17 murders committed by the K
Street Crew, one of two “marijuana gangs” cited by Walters, are
acceptable collateral damage. I for one do not approve of my tax
dollars subsidizing organized crime and violence. The marijuana plant
has never killed anyone. The same cannot be said of marijuana

Finally, we have the effects of drug laws on the individual. A heavy
marijuana smoker will no doubt experience some negative consequences,
but short-term memory problems are inconsequential compared to
long-term criminal records. The government does not actively try and
destroy the lives of alcoholics. I fail to see why marijuana smokers
should be singled out for punishment.

Robert Sharpe

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Please note: If you choose to use this letter as a model please modify
it at least somewhat so that the paper does not receive numerous
copies of the same letter and so that the original author receives
credit for his/her work.



The Washington Post has over 1.5 million readers daily, 2.1 million
readers on Sunday. While the Post has a nationwide audience, it most
effectively reaches the people, and those who work for the federal
government, inside the beltway.

Reviewing previously published letters at http://www.mapinc.org/mapcgi/ltedex.pl?SOURCE=Washington+Post
it is clear that the Post selects fairly short – three or four
paragraph – letters to the editor to print. The body of the average
printed letter is 146 words. The range of published letters is between
104 and 210 words in length.


The John P. Walters, U.S. Drug Czar’s OPED “The Myth of ‘Harmless’
Marijuana” which was printed in the Washington Post also appeared in the
following two newspapers Thursday, 2 May

Source: St. Petersburg Times (FL)
Contact: letters@sptimes.com

Source: Tampa Tribune (FL)
Contact: tribletters@tampatrib.com


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Writer’s Resources http://www.mapinc.org/resource/


Prepared by Robert Sharpe, Focus Alert Specialist