There are plenty of politicians acting foolishly last week, from Rep. Michele Bachmann’s hunt for Muslims in the federal government to Rep. Louie Gohmert’s attempts to score political points from tragedy. However, an official who maintains the continuation of a 40-year policy against drugs that has cost billions and billions of dollars while destroying lives stands apart.
Last week, Gil Kerlikowske, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, responded to a White House website petition. The petition was started last September 25 and has received over 8,000 signatures. The petition asked disabled military veterans to have access to medical marijuana for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Drug Czar Kerlikowske rejected the appeal, suggesting that marijuana is dangerous and science has found no medical use for it.
When the President took office, he directed all of his policymakers to develop policies based on science and research, not ideology or politics. So our concern about marijuana is based on what the science tells us about the drug’s effects.
According to scientists at the National Institutes of Health- the world’s largest source of drug abuse research – marijuana use is associated with addiction, respiratory disease, and cognitive impairment. We know from an array of treatment admission information and Federal data that marijuana use is a significant source for voluntary drug treatment admissions and visits to emergency rooms. Studies also reveal that marijuana potency has almost tripled over the past 20 years, raising serious concerns about what this means for public health – especially among young people who use the drug because research shows their brains continue to develop well into their 20′s. Simply put, it is not a benign drug.
Of course, all these criticisms by Kerlikowske towards marijuana also apply to tobacco and alcohol but even more so.
The greatest absurdity is how Kerlikowske claims that he wants marijuana policy based on what “science tells us about the drug’s effects” but the federal government makes that research nearly impossible.
Marijuana is classified as a schedule 1 drug, which is for substances that “have no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.”
Those who might do research to provide the evidence that marijuana should not be a schedule 1 must get the marijuana from the federal government because it has a monopoly on legally growing it.
Kerlikowske can make the disarming statement supporting “research into determining what components of the marijuana plant can be used as medicine” because he knows that by holding a grower monopoly on a drug classified as one of the most dangerous around, the government can burden researchers with regulations or deny the research arbitrarily.
Kerlikowske and every administration since Nixon started the war on drugs have pretended to back science. Yet, as with those who oppose evolution or climate change, he is simply playing politics with science.