Does the Law Require the Drug Czar To Lie About Legalization?

The Office of National Drug Control Policy is required to fight marijuana legalization by any means necessary, even if it is working out well so far.


Sen. Michael Bennet (D–Colo.) says the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has assured him that an upcoming report on marijuana legalization "will be completely objective and dispassionate." That claim is hard to take seriously, since it contradicts the ONDCP's statutory mandate to oppose marijuana legalization by any means necessary.

BuzzFeed reported in August that the office was coordinating the collection of "data demonstrating the most significant negative trends" that have followed marijuana legalization in states such as Colorado, with an eye toward illustrating the "threats" posed by that policy. The effort, which reportedly involved the Drug Enforcement Administration and 14 other federal agencies, seemed to be aimed at encouraging President Donald Trump to reconsider his promise to let states go their own way on marijuana.

In an August 30 letter to ONDCP Acting Director James Carroll, Bennet expressed concern that the Trump administration was "cherry-picking data to support pre-ordained and misinformed conclusions on marijuana."

"I assure you that the ONDCP seeks all perspectives, positive or negative, when formulating Administration policy," Carroll responded, according to Bennet. "You have my full and firm commitment that ONDCP will be completely objective and dispassionate in collecting all relevant facts and peer-reviewed scientific research on all drugs, including marijuana."

Such evenhandedness would be hard to reconcile with a requirement imposed by the ONDCP Reauthorization Act of 1998, which Congress passed two years after California became the first state to legalize marijuana for medical use. The provision says the director of that office shall "take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance" that is listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act—as marijuana is—unless the Food and Drug Administration has approved it for medical purposes.

Suppose the ONDCP's research finds that marijuana legalization is working out pretty well. On the face of it, the agency would be legally obliged to obscure that fact.

The product of the office's current efforts probably will resemble the annual reports from the ONDCP-supported Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force. That group poses as a dispassionate collector of facts but is committed to the position that legalization was a huge mistake, and every piece of information it presents is aimed at supporting that predetermined conclusion. Even when the task force does not simply make stuff up, it filters and slants the evidence to play up the purported costs of legalization while ignoring the benefits. We should expect nothing less from the ONDCP, which is legally required to mislead the public.

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  1. Look, no one loves science more than the federal government. I’m sure we’ll get the straight dope.

    1. The straight dope? Is that some sort of sly reference to Bennett’s sexuality or to Carroll’s?

      1. I thought it was a sly reference to their intelligence.

    2. You could even say they love fucking science…

  2. Isn’t whoever does such things now legally required to reschedule marijuana now that the FDA has approved it for medical use? I know, I know, FYTW.

    1. Has the FDA approved marijuana for medical use? I know they have approved some pill(s) derived from marijuana but in government speak that may not mean the same as the plant itself.

    2. Well, yes, actually they are.
      So what? It’s the feds.

      Just for the record, schedule one items are supposed to share these characteristics:
      The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
      The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
      There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.[37]

      Nothing about FDA in there.
      My research shows the first item does not apply to marijuana because the potential for abuse is low to moderate
      The second does not apply because there are multiple medical uses
      The third is bureaucratic BS; if it means anything, it would not apply because under medical supervision (to avoid overuse / addiction), marijuana would not qualify.

      So actually, the feds are breaking the law by NOT removing marijuana from schedule one.

      1. Judging by several countries which have legalized (decriminalized?) heroin, for instance, and judging by how almost all its bad effects are terribly magnified and exaggerated by government making drugs illegal, a logical person would think it required by law to legalize all drugs.

        1. True.
          But our friend Marijuana has a better chance because of widespread state ‘legalization’.
          (My quotes because to me “medical use” only, and “OK you can have it, but you can’t buy it, sell it, or grow it” is not legalization)

  3. Does the Law Require the Drug Czar To Lie About Legalization?

    Drug czars don’t need permission or a law to lie through their very teeth about drug legalization. That’s what they do.

    BuzzFeed reported in August that the office was coordinating the collection of “data demonstrating the most significant negative trends” that have followed marijuana legalization in states such as Colorado

    Just like the collection of criminal activity data that overstates the criminal participation of immigrants, who normally would not feel safe to commit crimes, over people who feel safer to commit crimes –the native-born, by counting the same immigrant’s arrests as different immigrants.

    Because that is what authoritatian regimes do.

    1. Sorry Old Mexican Liar,

      The crime commission rate for illegal aliens, (in addition to crime of coming into the US illegally) is more than double that of citizens … and that rate is generally considered lower than it actually would be if the illegals were not afraid to report crimes. (many of the crimes are against other illegal aliens.

      As for the rest of your post, the credibility is damaged because you chose to include the misrepresentations about illegal alien crime rates.

      1. No, study after study has shown illegal immigrants commit fewer crimes than citizens. Your own credibility exists only in your own mind.

        In fact, no one gives a shit about studies. Xenophobes hate immigrants, legal or otherwise. Individualists despise government control of travel and work.

        Cited or uncited, biased or not, studies are meaningless, and so is your comment.

        1. The inconvenient truth is that 100% of illegal border crossers have committed a crime. You are referencing statistics about them committing ANOTHER crime.
          Unless they have followed the legal process for immigration, they are not immigrants. Regardless of color.

          1. That’s one way to make make statistics lie for you.

        2. If studies are meaningless then why do you cite them. What information provides the basis for your argument or is it all about your feeeeeelings.

          How about you stand on a stool and put your head in a fitted noose while pontificating about the uselessness of stools.

      2. P.S.

        Your xenophobia is well-illustrated by your mangling of O.P.’s name. You really ought to try and hide your hatred of brown people if you want to appear as rational and unbiased.

        1. You really ought to try and hide your stupidity by not employing the same lame rules of disinformation and exposing how limited you are.

          So, only brown people cross illegally, huh? Good to know if not for it being factually inaccurate. Do you have a bias problem that causes you to disregard persons of other races?

          How about you attack LTBF’s reasoned argument and your smack down.

          “Individualists despise government control of travel and work as well as the gubermints failure to repel invasions which results in depressed wages and other factors harmful to the health and welfare of those individuals lawfully present in the country.” FTFY

          1. Oh no, not “other factors!”

          2. I mean, this is just so stupid. Imagine if a law was passed that made the presence of people with odd-dated birthdays illegal. Would wages shoot up? Would would the ‘health and welfare’ of those remaining increase? Immediately or in the long term?

            If so, why not outlaw more people? Surely the more people outlawed the better off everyone else will be! Maybe I could even petition government to outlaw my competitors. Maybe with my newfound raised wages I’d be able to set up some quid pro quo… what a brilliant position to take.

  4. “the ONDCP seeks all perspectives, positive or negative, when formulating Administration policy, [and] will be completely objective and dispassionate in collecting all relevant facts and peer-reviewed scientific research on all drugs”

    Emphases added. This “assurance” is not at odds with taking “such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance”.

  5. Interesting. How is that clause of the ONDCP Reauthorization Act even remotely constitutional? Yes, the government can control its own speech. But that’s also usually a branch-specific right. How can the Legislature assert a right to bind the speech of the Executive?

    Maybe you could ask Prof Volokh to weigh in?

  6. One of the consequences of our system’s structural amplification of small-time, backward voices is the vestigial Congressional appetite for the war on doobies. This battle of the culture war will be nonetheless be over soon enough, with a relatively predictable result.

  7. True but the situation is much worse in France, where even the public is forbidden from portraying illegal substances in a ‘positive light’. So I think we should be grateful for what we have and not criticize the ONDCP.

  8. ONDCP’s statutory mandate to oppose marijuana legalization

    So Congress directed an Executive agency to oppose certain changes in the law – one Congress attempted to control future Congresses by creating an Executive agency that is required to oppose the repeal of certain laws? How is that possibly Constitutional?

    1. What has the constitution got to do with it? This is politics.

  9. what kind of Czar is subject to silly rules?

  10. here’s a thought…. the FDA HAS approved 2 cannabis based medicines. Maybe this opens the door (even if it’s a loophole) for them to ignore that statutory requirement?

  11. More to the point, isn’t it a First Amendment violation for the government to run political campaigns against legalization measures using taxpayer money? As far as I’m concerned someone should be in prison for that, whether Congress authorized it or not. Including the members who voted yes if they did.

  12. You know your country is doomed when the executive branch is obligated to attempt to obstruct the duties of the legislative branch.

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