Is the Drug Czar Legally Required to Lie?

A few weeks ago, drug czar Gil Kerlikowske falsely asserted that marijuana "has no medicinal benefit." As I said at the time, one can argue that smoking (or vaporizing) a plant is not an appropriate way to take medicine, that better alternatives are available, or that no one should use any medicine that has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. But it is beyond serious dispute that THC, and therefore cannabis, is effective at relieving nausea, restoring appetite, and reducing pain. Instead of revising Kerlikowske's blatantly inaccurate claim, the Marijuana Policy Project notes, the Office of National Drug Control Policy is insisting he was right, citing a 2006 press release in which the FDA addressed "claims that smoked marijuana is a medicine." Unsurprisingly, the FDA rejected the consumption of raw plant matter in favor of FDA-approved drugs. But as the ONDCP acknowledges, these drugs already include a synthetic THC capsule (Marinol) and may soon include a cannabis extract sprayed beneath the tongue (Sativex). In other words, the FDA's own regulatory judgments show Kerlikowske is lying when he says marijuana "has no medicinal benefit."

As for why Kerlikowske, supposedly a more-enlightened-than-usual drug warrior, feels compelled to lie about such well-established facts, perhaps it's because he is legally required to do so. A couple of years ago at DrugWarRant, Pete Guither highlighted a statutory provision that arguably prohibits the head of the ONDCP from acknowledging the truth about marijuana or any other currently illegal drug. The Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 1998 says the drug czar shall "take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a [Schedule I] substance" that "has not been approved for use for medical purposes by the Food and Drug Administration." If the drug czar admitted that marijuana has medical utility, Guither argues, he would be conceding that it does not meet the criteria for Schedule I (completely prohibited) substances and thereby violating his statutory responsibilities.

I think Kerlikowske may have a bit more leeway to tell the truth on this subject. The relevant criterion for a Schedule I drug is that it has "no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States." Depending on how he defines "accepted," Kerlikowske could concede the undeniable fact that cannabinoids are therapeutically effective without necessarily implying that marijuana should be reclassified. If "accepted" means "accepted by the FDA," for example, any Schedule I substance meets this criterion by definition; the decision to put a drug in that category prevents it from being an accepted medicine.

Still, Guither's general point is worth keeping in mind the next time a whopper passes Kerlikowske's lips or he disappoints reformers in some other way. The statute defining his duties demands that he do whatever is necessary, including lying, to maintain the status quo.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • hmm||

    He was going to tell the truf, but then he got high.

  • ||

    The Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 1998 says the drug czar shall "take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a [Schedule I] substance"

    Interesting.

    If this was contract language, then it would not and could not be applied to require him to lie. A court will not enforce a contract to engage in illegal activities, after all.

  • hmm||

    He's just towing the dead horse. One of the few things I hoped Obama would actually stick to since it doesn't seem to be an absolute political land mine with the left side and the people that would go batshit aren't going to vote for him anyway. Oh well. Le Fail as usual. At least I only drank some of the unicorn pee tainted cool aid.



    If this was contract language, then it would not and could not be applied to require him to lie. A court will not enforce a contract to engage in illegal activities, after all.


    Unfortunately the people making the rules probably understand the 6 or was it 7 basics of contract law. They seem to forget a lot of the other stuff.

  • ||

    Why do I feel like the only American that's outraged by the fact that the head of a government department, is required by the terms of his office to advocate for a specified political agenda.

  • ||

    Is the Drug Czar Legally Required to Lie?

    Congress requiring the drug czar to lie is akin to legally requiring the sun to rise in the East. It's gonna happen regardless.

  • Fluffy||

    The Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 1998 says the drug czar shall "take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a [Schedule I] substance" that "has not been approved for use for medical purposes by the Food and Drug Administration."

    Whoa whoa whoa whoa. Hold on a second.

    The majority in Congress is using taxpayer funds to pay someone to lobby against the minority in Congress?

    This is about as offensive as using taxpayer funds to open a state church. Can the Democrats in Congress now vote for billions of taxpayer dollars to be used to oppose Republican candidates for Congress? If not, why not? It's not even just analogous - it's exactly the same thing.

  • ¢||

    the people that would go batshit aren't going to vote for him anyway

    Right. Except for about half of them.

    He definitely does know that pro-legalization voters don't really care if he does what they want or not. They'll vote for him anyway, then say "Oh well."

  • ||

    I seriously want to be President just to light one up at my inauguration.

  • ||

    I seriously want to be President just to light one up at my inauguration.

    The ensuing firefight between the DEA and the Secret Service would be beyond awesome.

  • hmm||

    The ensuing firefight between the DEA and the Secret Service would be beyond awesome.

    I'll take the SS in that one.

  • ||

    The ensuing firefight between the DEA and the Secret Service would be beyond awesome.

    Wouldn't it though?! Not to mention I'd be packing as a general rule. Me and the SS vs DEA. I want royalties from the video game sales.

  • hmm||

    I'm a wimp I'd hide and pray. I have no desire to take on a SAW or Rem. 700s with elevation and a clear view.

    Of all the public authorities or officers the SS are the group I don't think I would fuck with. After watching them prepare a venue for Clinton where I worked the level of thoroughness and straight up serious ass kicking attitude was impressive. They were pretty nice as well, to the point, but nice.

  • Amber Waves||

    "I worked the level of thoroughness and straight up serious ass kicking attitude was impressive."

    I inadvertantly stepped into a SS secured area for then VP Al Gore at a state fair (had no idea he was there. I just wanted to get from point A to point B). I've never been more scared in my life. I kept waiting for the bullits to start hitting me.

  • NeonCat||

    So the only way to tell if the Drug Czar is lying (as opposed to being a true believer) is to watch him talk about cannabis, then see if he ostentatiously winks at the audience.

  • Spartacus||

    I think that what Fluffy (and Warren) said cannot be overemphasized. This act is an absolute abomination. An executive agency using taxpayer dollars to lobby against (or for) proposed legislation should completely outrage everyone who still believes in separation of powers or who still retains any notion of a limited government. Everyone who voted for this piece of shit Act should be lined up and shot.

  • ||

    I feel like this point would get traction if people started showing up with "The Drug Czar is required to lie" signs at his public speaking engagements. Not teabagger style, but just quietly pointing out the statutory provision.

  • ||

    PS It seems to be getting a little traction in cyberspace... if you type "drug czar r" into google the autofill gives you "drug czar required to lie"

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    So the only way to tell if the Drug Czar is lying (as opposed to being a true believer) is to watch him talk about cannabis, then see if he ostentatiously winks at the audience see if he opens his mouth.



    FTFY.

  • lunchstealer||

    I have to admit that I can't quite figure out how this is explicitly unconstitutional, but it's certainly antidemocratic.

    And I'd like to think that someone had had the foresight to include something that would forbid the executive branch from explicitly interfering in matters of legislation beyond a strictly factual "we believe that the outcome of X policy would be Y" or "we believe that X legislation would be unconstitutional because of Y legal reasoning".

    And even if it only authorized such propaganda, that would still leave open the possibility of rational consideration of whether such propaganda was either necessary or wise. But to REQUIRE the issuance of propaganda...

    Ugh - scary.

  • ||

    I have to admit that I can't quite figure out how this is explicitly unconstitutional, but it's certainly antidemocratic.

    Do you see an enumerated power that authorizes this?

    Me neither.

    Its unconstitutional.

  • Fluffy||

    And I'd like to think that someone had had the foresight to include something that would forbid the executive branch from explicitly interfering in matters of legislation beyond a strictly factual "we believe that the outcome of X policy would be Y" or "we believe that X legislation would be unconstitutional because of Y legal reasoning".

    I don't even see it as an executive branch vs. legislative branch thing.

    This is about the majority in the legislative branch using taxpayer funds to hire someone and pay them a salary to "take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a [Schedule I] substance" - i.e. to take such actions as necessary to oppose a legislative effort favored by the minority.

    If they can do this, there is absolutely no reason the majority party in Congress can't spend taxpayer dollars to hire millions of people to work to defeat the legislative priorities of the minority. None.

    Would it pass judicial review if the Democrat majority passed legislation hiring people with taxpayer dollars and directing them, by law, to "take such actions as necessary to advance Democrat legislation"? Could they use taxpayer dollars to hire 100,000 people and put them on the phone to call people to talk them into voting for Democrats and supporting Democrat favored legislation? Could they hire people to picket the offices of GOP lawmakers?

    A minority of the Congress supports marijuana legalization. The majority in Congress just used taxpayer dollars to hire someone who they directed by law to work to frustrate the aims of the minority.

  • ||

    Would it pass judicial review if the Democrat majority passed legislation hiring people with taxpayer dollars and directing them, by law, to "take such actions as necessary to advance Democrat legislation"?

    Would it? Almost certainly.

    Should it? Hell, no.

  • ||

    Great. I think I feel an ulcer. What the fuck is wrong with these people?

    FWIW, a buddy just got a perscription for ativan. He took two the first night. He called the next day to say "I watched myself opening and closing my hand for half an hour. I can't believe pot is illegal and I have 90 of these things with plenty o' refills."

    OTOH, a agent of the government lies? The horror, the horror... it must be the first time. Ever.

    Fucking Prick.

    What's left? Salvia? That shit is fucked up.

  • ||

    The Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 1998 says the drug czar shall "take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a [Schedule I] substance"

    It might as wells say, "take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to REGULATE the use of a [Schedule I] substance"

    Controlled substances my a**!

    You can't control what you prohibit.

  • ||

    The implications of a government official not only empowered officially to lie, but to use taxpayer's dollars and the resources purchased by them to disseminate those lies as a justification to override the Hatch Act (preventing government officials from politicking in favor of legislation that directly benefits themselves at the expense of the public) should be obvious.

    For that is precisely what was done when ONDCP personnel have jetted hither and yon to oppose local referendums and legislation at the State level with the intent of blocking any changing of the cannabis laws. Such actions actually benefit the professional DrugWarriors themselves far more than it does the general public, in whose name they claim to be acting. Gotta have that 6 figure salary and pay for that pension, now don't they?

    This is a direct challenge to democracy, for it uses the vast resources provided by the taxpayers in order to throttle popular democratically derived means of changing the drug laws. It also serves as a springboard to have public offices politicized and used for partisan purposes.

    That's why this is so important.

  • Hacha Cha||

    yeah I saw this discussed on the comments a couple weeks ago. theres an article on salon.com called The Drug Czar is required by law to lie (http://blogs.salon.com/0002762/stories/2007/10/09/theDrugCzarIsRequiredByLaw.html)
    nice to see sativex get mentioned. when sativex is approved cannabis MUST be rescheduled, theres no getting around it. otherwise sativex will NEED to be reformulated with synthetics and have to go through the regulatory hoops again.

  • Hacha Cha||

    oops, didn't realize the link to the salon.com article is already in this article, sorry.

  • ||

    The Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 1998 says the drug czar shall "take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a [Schedule I] substance"

    This appears to be a blatant violation of the 1st amendment. By selecting a particular viewpoint to oppose with the full power of the federal government, they are restricting the ability of those of that viewpoint to persuade the population.

  • Redford Givens||

    Drug crusaders have been lying since cocaine was added to the Harrison Narcotics Act (1914) based on phony tales that cocaine made blacks into homicidal never-miss marksmen, who were practically bulletproof. The New York Times carried a scurrilous editorial condemning mythical "cocaine niggers" committing mass murders in the South. However, modern research can find no records of cocaine using blacks in the South publicly assaulting white women or shooting down strangers in the streets. Such behavior would have resulted in an instant lynching in the South in 1914! (See "NEGRO COCAINE "FIENDS" NEW SOUTHERN MENACE" New York Times, Sunday February 8, 1914 http://www.druglibrary.org/SCHAFFER/HISTORY/negro_cocaine_fiends.htm)

    Marijuana was outlawed using racist fictions to justify throwing people in prison for a "marijuana crime."

    "Marihuana influences Negroes to look at white people in the eye, step on white men's shadows and look at a white woman twice." (Hearst newspapers nationwide, 1934)

    "There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana can cause white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others."

    "...the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races"
    - Federal Bureau of Narcotics Director Harry J. Anslinger, 1930

    "Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality and death."

    "Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind."

    "[Smoking] one [marihuana] cigarette might develop a homicidal mania, probably to kill his brother." (see US Government Propaganda To Outlaw Marijuana - http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/hemp/taxact/t3.htm)

    The ENTIRE drug crusade is a huge LIE!

  • ||

    "Marihuana influences Negroes to look at white people in the eye, step on white men's shadows and look at a white woman twice."

    Step on white men's shadows? WTF?

    -jcr

  • ||

    I have a problem with this statement:

    "As I said at the time, one can argue that smoking (or vaporizing) a plant is not an appropriate way to take medicine"

    Vaporizing is completely safe. You should have said: "One can argue that smoking a plant is not an appropriate way to take medicine, but there are other ways of taking it that are completely safe, such as ingesting or vaporizing it"

  • ||

    Is the Drug Czar Legally Required to Lie? Of course - by definition.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement