White House Pushes 'Drug Policy Reform,' a.k.a. Prohibition

ONDCPONDCPToday the Obama administration hosted the first-ever White House Conference on Drug Policy Reform. But don't be confused: Although "drug policy reform" usually means moving away from the use of violence to stop people from consuming arbitrarily proscribed psychoactive substances, that is not what President Obama has in mind.

"Drug policy reform should be rooted in neuroscience, not political science," says Obama's drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, in the email message announcing the conference. "It should be a public health issue, not just a criminal justice issue. That's what a 21st-century approach to drug policy looks like."  

In truth, this 21st-century approach to drug policy looks a lot like the 20th-century approach to drug policy. Kerlikowske, who is still upset that he does not get credit for ending the war on drugs when he took office in 2009, thinks enlightenment in this area means forcing drug users into "treatment" by threatening them with jail rather than sending them directly to jail. He needs the heavy hand of the state not only to impose treatment on recalcitrant drug users but to imprison people who supply them with the drugs they want. That is why Kerlikowske says drug policy is "not just a criminal justice issue"—because he cannot imagine a drug policy that does not entail locking people in cages for actions that violate no one's rights, whether those actions involve using politically disfavored intoxicants or helping people do so.

Patrick Kennedy, co-founder of the anti-pot group Project SAM, likewise tries to distract attention from the half a million Americans imprisoned for drug offenses. "For too long drug policy has been caught in between the false dichotomy of legalization versus incarceration," Kennedy says in a press release about the White House conference, where he co-chaired a panel. The alternative to legalization is continued prohibition, which requires incarceration. Prohibitionists like Kennedy and Kerlikowske should have the courage to defend stripping people of their liberty for doing nothing more than supplying a product to eager buyers. Instead they pretend this is not happening.

As for Kerlikowske's claim that he seeks to depoliticize drug policy, that is impossible as long as the government tries to dictate what people put into their bodies. How can such an endeavor be anything but political? The Obama administration, for example, is committed to defending the position that marijuana, which the Drug Enforcement Administration's chief administrative law judge once called "the safest therapeutically active substance known to man," has a high potential for abuse, lacks medical value, and cannot be used safely even under a doctor's supervision. This is Kerlikowske's idea of sound science.

Mason Tvert, director of communications at the Marijuana Policy Project, argues that Kerlikowske's avowed respect for neuroscience is also belied by his continued support for a policy that encourages people to use a more dangerous intoxicant instead of marijuana. “Every objective study on marijuana has concluded that it poses far less harm to the brain than alcohol," says Tvert, co-author of Marijuana Is Safer. "The ONDCP has long championed laws that steer adults toward using alcohol and away from making the safer choice to use marijuana. If the drug czar is truly committed to prioritizing neuroscience over political science, he should support efforts to make marijuana a legal alternative to alcohol for adults."

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  • Adam.||

    "Drug policy reform should be rooted in neuroscience, not political science,"

    "As long as we get to pick the scientists, the lab, the circumstances, and the result ahead of time, amirite?"

  • R C Dean||

    Howsabout rooting drug policy reform in the rights of free citizens under a government of limited enumerated powers?

  • Almanian!||

    HAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    *breath*

    HAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!

    Oh, dear - GOOD one, RC!

  • Dweebston||

    In other words,

    NO, FUCK YOU, DECRIMINALIZE IT

    ?

  • ||

    Or more importantly what the fuck business is it of the government that it needs a policy dictating what kind of neural activity is going on in my head

  • gaoxiaen||

    Right. They chose Gabriel Hahas, the guy who suffocated monkeys with smoke inhalation.

  • Sevo||

    Obama cares!

  • ||

    "It should be a public health issue, not just a criminal justice issue."

    What the heck does that even mean?

  • Hyperion||

    It means that taking all of your money in the name of helping you, might be better than locking you up, for crimes against the King.

  • R C Dean||

    Notice how the "just" in that sentence means they are talking about expanding government power, so that, for example, you can be punished, confined, treated against your will, etc., as "civil" public health matter, without even the fig leaf of criminal due process?

  • ||

    Well if you read the previous sentence you will see that this is about neurological science.

    In other words this is not for some stupid criminal justice issues but it is for the important issues of the government controlling what goes on in peoples minds.

  • ||

    Since I cannot see any way that ending federal drug prohibition will increase the administration's power, fill its coffers, benefit its cronies, or pay anyone off, I therefore cannot see any reason the administration would have for doing so. It's really that simple.

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    "the safest therapeutically active substance known to man."

    Keep in mind that Francis Young made that statement in 1988!

  • Andrew S.||

    The "bonus" to this kind of enforcement is, in arguing to keep marijuana illegal, they can point to "Look how many people are in treatment for marijuana addiction!", without having to mention how most of them were forced into it.

  • Hyperion||

    Without the ability to create problems to solve, thereby creating even more problems to solve, government would have no purpose outside of what our founders intended. Which would be about .001% of what they are doing now, with equivalent costs.

  • Dweebston||

    Marijuana addiction treatment, AKA confiscation.

  • Hugh Akston||

    As with any maligned federal policy, the only problem Obama sees is with messaging. If we do exactly the same thing that we were going to do anyway, but call it something else, the votewallets will stop questioning us and get back in line.

  • Rhywun||

    It should be a public health issue

    Stop right there.

  • ||

    Science. What is that about?

    Fucking magnets, how to they work?

  • ||

    ugh, that should be do

    Will donate for an edit button

  • Dave Krueger||

    Is there such a term as treatment industrial complex?

  • Dave Krueger||

    Maybe this is one of the promises Obama had to make to get the health care industry to go along with Obamacare.

    "Okay, look, in exchange for your support for the ACA, I promise to send you tons of new business in the form of mandatory drug treatment."

    It's not like he's going to be depriving the prison industrial complex of any business because any drug treatment program with a captive market is invariably going to fail the majority of the time, which means that those who are forced into treatment will eventually end up incarcerated anyway. It's a win-win situation. That Obama is one smart cookie.

  • SIV||

    "Drug policy reform should be rooted in neuroscience, not political science,"

    Fucking scum. Up against the wall with them, every last one.

  • Agile Cyborg||

    Society should be safer, Libertarians. If we remove the problem then kids will thrive, social justice reigns, and the function of family, work, giving, the circle of loving friends will organically occur with the energy of a 50's revival. Kittens with ribbons will play, pigs will squeal sweetly, grandma's pie steams deliciously in the soft breezes of drug free spring. Things are just better, Libertarians- you naughty, self-absorbed, idealistic collegiate kids and plump, white, rich men who live like individualist Somali wolves!

  • ||

    Cannabis prohibition is not a jobs program.
    Make treatment voluntary, not the only way to stay out of prison.

  • Agile Cyborg||

    You mean it shouldn't be a jobs program.

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