The White House's Head-Scratching Defense of Pot Prohibition



Did you know that the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) issued an official response to Sunday's New York Times editorial urging Congress to repeal the federal ban on marijuana? You did not miss much. The ONDCP says marijuana must remain illegal because "marijuana is addictive," because "drugged driving is a threat to our roadways," because "marijuana use affects the developing brain," and because "substance use in school age children has a detrimental effect on their academic achievement." Washington Post blogger Christopher Ingraham judges this response "surprisingly weak," noting that "it's built on half-truths and radically decontextualized facts." NORML's Paul Armentano calls it "utterly pathetic," while New York Times editorial writer David Firestone points out that the ONDCP is statutorily obligated to oppose legalization, regardless of the facts. That provision applies only to Schedule I drugs, so one benefit of moving marijuana to a less restrictive category might be smarter, more nuanced arguments from the beleaguered pot prohibitionists at the ONDCP—a possibility they are not allowed to discuss.

Or maybe this is about as smart as the case for prohibition gets. The ONDCP statement exhibits two classic flaws of prohibitionist arguments: 1) the failure to justify the legal distinction between alcohol and other drugs, and 2) the failure to justify (or even acknowledge) the use of force to stop people from consuming psychoactive substances that politicians do not like. As Ingraham notes, all of the administration's concerns about marijuana apply with equal or greater force to alcohol, which President Obama himself admits is more dangerous than marijuana. If these concerns do not justify the prohibition of alcohol, how can they justify the prohibition of marijuana?

As usual, the White House glosses over what that policy means in practice. "The Obama Administration approaches substance use as a public health issue," the ONDCP says, "not merely a criminal justice problem." But no amount of quasi-medical rhetoric can make up for the violence inherent in this system. As long as the government tries to forcibly prevent consensual transactions, it will be locking people up (and occasionally killing them) for things that should not be crimes.

"We agree that the criminal justice system is in need of reform and that disproportionality exists throughout the system," the ONDCP says. "However, marijuana legalization is not the silver bullet solution to the issue." For the record, the ONDCP also rejects the idea that legalization is a "panacea." The ONDCP is right on both counts: Marijuana legalization is neither a silver bullet nor a panacea. It nevertheless would be better than prohibition, which is the issue I thought we were discussing.

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  1. 1) the failure to justify the legal distinction between alcohol and other drugs

    Why even bother? We have a natural right to consume whatever we desire, whether it’s detrimental to our health or not.

    The question is really why are you (quite literally) destroying someone’s life for committing an action that has no consequences on anyone else?

    1. The War on Drugs is good for the State. It gives the State more power over us. The State makes a tremendous amount of money waging this war. The War also allows politicians to take rights and liberties away from Americans. The political class is excellent at convincing much of America that taking away your rights and liberties is good for you. In fact, it’s patriotic.

    2. becuz of the Childrenzzzzz TM.!!!!!omgggggg!!!1111111

    3. That is the real question, and it is depressing that it is not the question that gets addressed in policy debates.
      But sadly we live in a world where the best we can realistically expect is some kind of weak-assed legalization/regulation of pot. The problem politically with the “it’s no ones business what I put in my body” argument is that it applies just as well to all prohibited drugs and legalizing pretty much anything besides pot is just not going to happen any time soon.

    4. Drugz are bad, m’kay?

  2. “Washington Post blogger Christopher Ingraham judges this response “surprisingly weak,””

    He is entirely too kind; it’s actually abysmally stupid.

  3. “marijuana use affects the developing brain”

    Well, yes. Probably pretty much *everything* affects the developing brain.

    1. yes but the newer studies have shown this isn’t a damaging effect, in fact it has shown a lot of evidence that it supports developing brains in children with epilepsy or RAS seizures

  4. What Jeffrey said.

    I wonder, when MJ is no longer prohibited and we have driverless cars, what will happen to 70% of the cops? Bread lines?

    1. Going after hate crimes, like the one you just committed.

    2. guess they will just have to get real jobs

    3. They’ll join actual gangs?

  5. because “substance use in school age children has a detrimental effect on their academic achievement.”

    In my experience, I’ve noticed that all the laws in the world have not stopped school-aged children from being able to acquire a little weed.

    1. Prohibition doesn’t stop usage. If people want to use it then they will. All prohibition does is make it more expense and more dangerous (cops and drug dealers).

      We have people being killed by police making drug raids, unannounced, killing people who are not even involved with the drugs at all, and the police act as if it’s justified when you get shot. After all, they are only doing their job in trying to get the drug dealer and/or addict/user. If you get killed in the crossfire then it’s no big deal. Merely collateral damage.

    2. Shit you could buy it from the Chemistry teacher where I went to HS, his justification for it was that hes a chemist and knows what it looks like so he knows we are getting stuff that’s not adulterated with other shit. too bad the powers that be aren’t concerned with how dangerous they make things when they arbitrarily declare them illegal

    3. It is a lot easier for a teenager to get a dime bag of pot than it is to get a pack of cigarettes. The person selling cigarettes runs a legal business and doesn’t want to risk losing it just to be able to sell a 16YO kid a pack of Marlboros. The pot dealer … not so much.

    4. Isn’t the real response this: no one is even suggesting making it legal to sell marijuana to school-aged children.

      The ONDCP has done nothing more then repeat the same old stale, tired and, in the case of marijuana being “addictive,” false talking points they dredge up anytime the subject of marijuana is raised.

  6. OK, let’s look at this realistically:
    Obo’s *admin* is now on record so the prison guards and cops know he’s keeping them in jobs.
    The only real question is whether Obo can maintain plausible deniability for the Obots to continue to claim he really wants to end the WODs, but BOOOOOOOOSH!
    All else is commentary.

    1. I’m a fairly intelligent man, but, I must admit, I don’t what the hell you are trying to say in your post.

      Is this some sort of ebonics?

      1. he said that O likes to keep his cake and eat it too
        his admin can say drugzz r bad and appease the Pig unions
        then he can say but the republicans wont let me and appease his o bots
        classic misdirection

      2. Jeffrey|8.1.14 @ 12:45PM|#
        “I’m a fairly intelligent man, but, I must admit, I don’t what the hell you are trying to say in your post.”

        Obo’s *admin* is doing the opposite of what Obo claims to be doing.
        So his supporters can still claim he wants to do right, but those other people are just making him do wrong.
        Is that clear?

      3. Or, what Vic said (tnx).

  7. At this point one can only conclude that resistance to decriminalizing pot is simply to resist. The message can’t be sent that the mundanes can make an impact. “Give’em and inch, they’ll take a mile” seems to be the attitude. The people in Power must show they wield Power or they are, in fact, not Powerful. It’s the very foundation of “fuck you, that’s why”. We’ve reached the point of choking people to death, and blowing off toddlers’ faces, to maintain form over function. Drink booze in the privacy of your own home, but smoke a leaf? One is “legal”, the other can get you killed. Drink a two liter bottle of caffeinated soda, fine, but snort a toot of coke? Again, legal versus potential death. It’s not the function, it’s the form – they have taken the power to protect life and property we’ve given them and now use it as a weapon to cave your head in. Arbitrary? You can’t a fully functioning, dyed in the wool tyranny off the ground without arbitrariness. Point it out as crazy? You’re an extremist.

    Is damage done when people change the function of their brain, even outside of themselves? Sure. But the “solutions” proffered the puritans are worse than the problems.

  8. repealing all Mallum Prohibitas laws is the real panacea.
    how can you enforce a law that seeks to restrict the voluntary interactions between anyone? the only way the crime is caught is if it is viewed by a 3rd party who is a dirty little pathetic snitch, or a disgusting pig, like your mama always said “no one likes a tattle tale”

    also “marijuana addiction” fear mongering is a good way to ensure your argument looks as stupid as you are.

  9. Forget alcohol. I am pretty sure all of their “arguments” apply to sleeping.

  10. Now we see the violence inherent in the system. Help, I’m being repressed!

    1. Bloody peasant!

  11. Among scientists on the front lines of the drug war, over 97% agree that marihuana is bad. It’s settled science. The time for debate ended in, what, 1973?

    Reefer madness is the inconvenient truth, you libertarian potheads, and all reasonable people trust the 97% consensus of scientists who confirm this fact.

    1. Anyone who thinks the world has not gained more knowledge in the last 40 years is living in the past! It is now well known that the original prohibition was a racist and politically charged action. The studies done before 1973 were full of one sided research. Funny thing is, the group that was assigned to study it in Nixon’s era, suggested that cannabis was not as much of a threat as alcohol. They suggested that it be declassified. Nixon ignored his own commission and did not act as they suggested. Later, a federal judge would also come to the same conclusions. Yet the DEA has continued to be in charge. They like the drug war. They are addicted to the money!

      Since then, there has been plenty of research that suggests the original research was skewed by fact that the politicians and the ONDCP were in charge of the research. The new research has been obtained because of the work in medical cannabis states. Much of it has, also, come from Israel! If you want to depend on research and procedures done before 1973, then you might as well throw out heart transplantation, laparoscopic surgery, peritoneal dialysis…The list goes on and on!

      No! The science was not determined before 1973!

  12. it will be locking people up (and occasionally often killing them)

  13. MJ will be removed from CSA scheduling in the near future and states will incrementally legalize it.

    This, to me, is made obvious by drug warriors’ frantic pleading to consider the children and safety. They’ve got nothing but recycled arguments that fewer and fewer even consider a valid argument at all.

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