A recent multi-part editorial series by The New York Times argued forcibly for full national legalization of marijuana. Late in July, the articles drew a response from the Obama administration.

Drug Czar SealThe White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, which is led by the country’s “drug czar,” issued a statement July 28 attacking the idea that weed should be legal.

Anyone who pays attention to marijuana politics knows this statement means nothing. Not only is the drug czar’s office woefully behind the times on marijuana policy – it is literally required by law to oppose any attempt to legalize any illicit drug.

Specifically, federal anti-drug statutes require the drug czar to “take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance” listed under schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act.

Schedule 1 includes the most dangerous, least effective, and most addictive drugs, including heroin, ecstasy – and weed. Numerous attempts to remove marijuana from the list have failed again and again as the DEA and the rest of the federal government vigorously fight legalization.

Not only must the drug czar’s office fight legalization, it must also oppose any attempt to change the law that requires it to fight legalization. The office must also prevent any federal study that might show marijuana is medically useful.

“It’s a complete Catch-22,” said Rep. Steve Cohen, Democrat of Tennessee, who has authored a bill to end that mandate. “They should be giving Congress and the American people the benefit of the latest research, and yet by statute, they’re prohibited from doing so. They have no choice but to say they’re against it. Joseph Heller should be working there.”

This is the state of the drug war in America: Even an administration that doesn’t believe in it must continue the fight by law.

The requirement has evolved since the Nixon Administration, with lawmakers passing a law in 1988 that created the drug czar’s office. That law contained language demonstrating just how ridiculous the drug war has always been.

Marijuana.jpg“The Congress finds that legalization of illegal drugs, on the Federal or State level, is an unconscionable surrender in a war in which, for the future of our country and the lives of our children, there can be no substitute for total victory,” the law states.

Cohen recently introduced a new bill that would strip the opposition requirement and make it easier to conduct research on the issue. It doesn’t have much chance of passing in the House, but at least the congressman is trying.

“This president has been so good on the science of climate change, but he’s not allowed to look at the science of drug policy,” Cohen said. “Why wouldn’t a politician be reluctant to put their head out on a limb on marijuana policy?”

About the Author: Matt Brooks

Matt is a journalist from San Francisco who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than six years.

Leave A Comment

Recent Posts