Deputy Drug Czar Admits Marijuana Is Safer Than Alcohol

ONDCPONDCPDuring a congressional hearing today, The Raw Story's Eric Dolan reports, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) got deputy drug czar Michael Botticelli to admit that marijuana is safer than alcohol. But it was not easy:

"How many people die from marijuana overdoses every year?" Connolly asked.

"I don't know that I know. It is very rare," Botticelli replied.

"Very rare. Now just contrast that with prescription drugs, unintentional deaths from prescription drugs, one American dies every 19 minutes," Connolly said. "Nothing comparable to marijuana. Is that correct?"

Botticelli admitted that was true.

"Alcohol—hundreds of thousands of people die every year from alcohol-related deaths: automobile [accidents], liver disease, esophageal cancer, blood poisoning," Connolly continued. "Is that incorrect?"

But Botticelli refused to answer. Guessing where the line of questioning was headed, he said the "totality of harm" associated with marijuana indicated it was a dangerous drug, even though it was not associated with deaths.

"I guess I'm sticking with the president—the head of your administration—who is making a different point," Connolly fired back. "He is making a point that is empirically true. That isn’t a normative statement, that marijuana is good or bad, but he was contrasting it with alcohol and empirically he is correct, is he not?"

Botticelli again tried to dodge the question, but Connolly interrupted him and told him to answer.

"Is it not a scientific fact that there is nothing comparable with marijuana?" Connolly asked. "And I'm not saying it is good or bad, but when we look at deaths and illnesses, alcohol, other hard drugs are certainly—even prescription drugs—are a threat to public health in a way that just isolated marijuana is not. Isn't that a scientific fact? Or do you dispute that fact?"

"I don't dispute that fact," Botticelli said.

The head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, by contrast, refuses to admit that marijuana is safer than anything. At a a recent meeting of county sheriffs, DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart reportedly criticized President Obama for speaking candidly about the relative hazards of alcohol and marijuana. It's not clear whether Leonhart thinks Obama's statement was incorrect or merely inconvenient. But either way, the outrage generated by Obama's remarks shows drug warriors believe he conceded a point crucial to their cause. I hope they are right.

[Thanks to Marc Sandhaus for the tip.]

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  • sarcasmic||

    "I don't dispute that fact," Botticelli said.

    Job opening!

  • Rich||

    "alcohol, other hard drugs are certainly—even prescription drugs—are a threat to public health in a way that just isolated marijuana is not."

    Emphasis added. Botticelli hasn't conceded a damned thing.

  • R C Dean||

    No, I can't read that any other way than as an admission that, compared to alcohol and other drugs, marijuana is not a public health threat.

  • prolefeed||

    You're not used to legal evasions. "I don't dispute that fact" is not the same as "those facts are true." He could later weasel out of it by saying he felt it wasn't a productive use of his time to spend time arguing those "assertions", kind of retroactively changing it from "fact".

    Or similar bullshit.

  • ||

    That's why he's a Deputy Drug Czar.

  • Hugh Akston||

    To be fair though, you are much more likely to be shot during a home invasion due to marijuana that to alcohol. Even if you've never touched the stuff.

  • sarcasmic||

    "I've never had a problem with drugs. I've had problems with the police."
    -Keith Richards

  • ||

    Good point! Use of marijuana, or indeed any tolerance whatsoever for its use, is clearly willful and malicious public endangerment.

  • ||

    Oh, he absolutely did. It is the first non-shitweasely thing he has said.

    Now if only he was smart enough to realize that ending the WOD could be his real chance at a lasting and worthy legacy. All of the stupid socialist bullshit he has been flailing about with will only earn him infamy.

  • ||

    "But either way, the outrage generated by Obama's remarks shows drug warriors believe he conceded a point crucial to their cause. I hope they are right."

    Oops, left the quote out.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    "Oh, he absolutely did. It is the first non-shitweasely thing he has said."

    I'm afraid I will not give him even this credit. He made this off hand comment to a journalist, the next day the head person in his administration in regards to this area of policy disavowed it. This perfectly fits his M.O. of giving some half-hearted comment to one audience without taking any kind of stand on the issue that will stick to him if the comment generated any real backlash.

    I mean, if he truly believes in what he says and has allowed treating marijuana differently than alcohol in a way that has damaged thousands of lives when he could have changed that, then he strikes me as more of a monster, not less.

  • Sevo||

    "I mean, if he truly believes in what he says and has allowed treating marijuana differently than alcohol in a way that has damaged thousands of lives when he could have changed that, then he strikes me as more of a monster, not less."

    +1 kilo

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    I mean, if he truly believes in what he says and has allowed treating marijuana differently than alcohol in a way that has damaged thousands of lives when he could have changed that, then he strikes me as more of a monster, not less.

    Exactly my sentiment.

  • Paul.||

    At a a recent meeting of county sheriffs, DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart reportedly criticized President Obama for speaking candidly about the relative hazards of alcohol and marijuana.

    I'm thoroughly convinced that this is purely a jobs issue. I know it's been said before by hundreds before, and I've said it too, but been somewhat cynical when I say it.

    I really, truly now do believe that this is no different from any industry.

  • Agile Cyborg||

    Leonhart is a dictator who considers prohibition a success ( http://www.republicreport.org/.....on-worked/ ). She and her ilk infect the federal bureaucracies like a cancer. It's little wonder the once freest country on earth is now becoming a jackboot farm.

  • R C Dean||

    And Leonhart still has her job, why?

    Who calls out their boss, the head of the organization, in a public forum, and keeps their job?

  • ||

    Anyone in the Obama Admin.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    "Who calls out their boss, the head of the organization, in a public forum, and keeps their job?"

    Someone who was told to say what she said by that very boss because he wants to be able to sell himself as 'cool on weed' to the younger voters while reassuring the law and order crowd he does not mean anything by it.

  • BiMonSciFiCon||

    I think this is spot on.

  • SIV||

    Don't forget the public health crowd.

  • Sevo||

    None of this is a secret and hasn't been for forty years, but we've continued to stick black and brown kids in jail anyhow.
    I'm glad it's finally being admitted, but I'm pissed it's taken until now to do so.
    And that lying Obo hasn't done a damn thing about it.

  • Dweebston||

    Yeah, admitting it when the tide of public sentiment is already well on its way out is just cowardice until they do something about it. Holder's missive on mandatory minimums was a perfectly crafted sop to civil libertarians: effectively it does nothing to constrain the feds, but on paper it looks timely and compassionate.

  • Sevo||

    ..."Holder's missive on mandatory minimums was a perfectly crafted sop to civil libertarians"...

    Outside of any PR value, does it have ANY effect at all? Did it cause one prison sentence to be reduced?

  • Square||

    No effect at all - like the reassurance that banks can go ahead and start taking deposits from dispensaries. No real practical impact on actual prosecutors whatsoever, who can still absolutely seize those funds.

    I'm still encouraged by the trend and the precedent that they need to make some sort of attempt/gesture, though.

  • Dweebston||

    I honestly hope so, but (as reasonpointed out almost immediately) whatever Holder's intentions, even if his memo is followed by well-intentioned prosecutors it leaves them far too much discretion in shaking down defendants and gaming the charges to elicit plea bargains. Some might put principle over convenience, but I doubt most or even many will. Just consider the culture in which guilty verdicts determine career advancement, and it should be obvious that mandatory minimums only exacerbate an awful legal environment.

    Fuck your minimums, fuck your policy, fuck your utterly insincere compassion. Decriminalize or sit the fuck down.

  • Dweebston||

    Fucking HTML tags, how do they work?

  • Sevo||

    I sure as hell don't know.

  • kinnath||

    Ask Bo

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Just because marijuana isn't a 100 megaton bomb - and I'm not saying it isn't - it's still a 50 megaton bomb.

  • playa manhattan||

    You're in quite a mood today.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    There better not be another new The Independents tonight. I don't think I can take it.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    Taco bell routinely causes me to expel 50 megaton bombs.

  • playa manhattan||

    Totally worth it, though.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    Totally worth it before I eat it.. but after downing my 5th taco I decide maybe it wasn't a great idea.

  • playa manhattan||

    Do they have Cinnabons at Taco Bells in Canada? Because that really gets the job done after 5 tacos.

  • ||

    Ya'll motherfuckers need stronger stomachs.

  • Alice Bowie||

    !!! KEEP DOPE ALIVE !!!

  • Dweebston||

    +1 Cheech and Chong Hope n' Change.

  • Dweebston||

    Off the record, Botticelli is reported to have said "I thought you guys play softball here."

  • LibertarianX||

    Who cares whether or not pot is more or less dangerous than alcohol? The question is who gets to weigh the risk and/or benefits and make the decision whether or not to use it. Does the government decide for everyone, or do adults decide for themselves?

    I will let individual adults decide for themselves everytime, so long as they are responsible for their choices.

  • Agile Cyborg||

    But... the children.

  • LibertarianX||

    Are the responsibility of their parents, not the government.

  • Duke Trshmnstr of Stench||

    Haaaaa, nice try! We ALL own the kids!

    /prog

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Mechanic:Somebody set up us the bomb.

    Operator: MSNBC turn on.

    HARRIS-PERRY: All your children are belong to us.

    HARRIS-PERRY: You have no chance to thrive make your time.

    Captain: Move 'KID'.

    Captain: For social justice!

  • Dweebston||

    /thread

  • Duke Trshmnstr of Stench||

    Haaaaa, nice try! We ALL own the kids!

    /prog

  • Homple||

    (signed) The Village

  • Duke Trshmnstr of Stench||

    Haaaaa, nice try! We ALL own the kids!

    /prog

  • Sevo||

    And the choir sings!

  • Sevo||

    Uh, oh. I'm out-numbered!

  • Robert||

    The gov't decides for everyone, which is why we have to convince the gov't.

  • mnarayan||

    I guess this is why he didn't get shot.

  • JeremyR||

    Meh. Once you start bringing in alcohol caused car accidents, it opens the door to silly stuff from the marijuana side, either

  • Sevo||

    Peripheral:
    Columnist in lefty rag surprised that laws lead to violence against offenders!

    "Let's get back to ho-hum in nudist arrests"
    http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/.....201373.php

    Now, I'm in no way supporting violence by the cops (and it has to be said that SF cops are notorious for NOT shooting dogs and random people), but this guy seems to think that laws are somewhat 'advisory', and the cops ought to ask people to do stuff.
    The imbecile Tony claims taxes aren't collected at gun-point and it looks like he's not alone.

  • LibertarianX||

    Laws which say what you must or must not do are always backed with violence. If you do not obey they will come with guns to imprison or shoot you.

  • playa manhattan||

    "Usually, what they want is a photo op when they are being arrested," Suhr said. "We try to work with that. We're like: How do you want to do this. Do you want a picture of yourself being handcuffed? We can do that. And usually they go with the program."

    I suspected as much.

  • Sevo||

    There is no doubt; Suhr's no dummy and is about as minimal a thug as you'll find in uniform.
    I'm guessing the columnist won't be getting a lot of interviews in the future.

  • c5c5||

    LMAO at the cop arrest nudist article linked! The city official who authorized the nudity ban is named Scott Weiner.

    LOLOLOLOL

    I do not personally know of any Wieners, but I sure hear about them when it concerns explicit pictures on Twitter or banning nudity.

  • Dweebston||

    Marijuana is absolutely dangerous: it can lead to fines, jail time, and in some cases, death by cop.

  • Square||

    It's maybe the most dangerous drug there is.

  • ||

    You gotta love the way the questions were posed and delivered to obtain the answers he did not want to give.

    Save for those still in a propaganda induced slumber. The facts are clear and concise. Marijuana is safer than alcohol.

    Those awake must take heed and support the legalization effort at every turn. Colorado and Washington have already done the heavy lifting by legalizing Marijuana.

  • RishJoMo||

    Dude makes a lot of sense man.

    www.Anon-Works.tk

  • minarchist||

    It doesn't matter whether marijuana is safe or not. It's not the business of government. It's a stupid argument.

  • thorax232||

    Bah, just politics. A tough line of questioning won't lead to anything.

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