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Awww. The Narcs Don’t Like Obama Telling the Truth

President Obama came out recently and made the entirely accurate statement that smoking pot is no more dangerous than drinking alcohol and the people who spend their lives trying to destroy the lives of people who smoke pot are very upset about it, including the head of the DEA:

DEA chief Michele M. Leonhart slammed President Obama’s recent comments comparing smoking marijuana to drinking alcohol at an annual meeting of the nation’s sheriffs this week, according to two sheriffs who said her remarks drew a standing ovation.

Bristol County Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson said he was thrilled to hear the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration take her boss to task.

“She’s frustrated for the same reasons we are,” Hodgson said. “She said she felt the administration didn’t understand the science enough to make those statements. She was particularly frustrated with the fact that, according to her, the White House participated in a softball game with a pro-legalization group. … But she said her lowest point in 33 years in the DEA was when she learned they’d flown a hemp flag over the Capitol on July 4. The sheriffs were all shocked. This is the first time in 28 years I’ve ever heard anyone in her position be this candid.”

The American flag made of hemp was reportedly flown over the Capitol on Independence Day with the backing of a Colorado congressman.

DEA spokeswoman Dawn Deardon said she was not in the room and couldn’t discuss Leonhart’s comments to the sheriffs.

“It is not a surprise that the DEA is against the legalization of marijuana,” Deardon said. “As Jay Carney pointed out, the administration is not for legalization of marijuana. … I would just tell you that legalization is not a good idea.”

Yeah, that’s a terrible idea. Why, if they legalized marijuana it would reduce the DEA’s budget and reduce the gravy train of federal money going to local law enforcement. How would they be able to afford more unnecessary military equipment to make them feel really manly? Why, that would cut down on the number of people whose lives they can ruin by making them ineligible for public assistance and student aid. It would mean fewer families being broken up and hundreds of thousands fewer people being put in jail. This is a huge threat to the way of life of law enforcement officers who get to harass people who’ve done nothing to hurt other people and it clearly must be stopped.

Comments

  1. D. C. Sessions says

    I checked with Sheriff Joe and he confirmed that drug busts are the most important thing that the MCSO does, second only to keeping the pressure on immigrants — which is funded by the proceeds from drug busts.

  2. Trebuchet says

    I find myself surprised that this apparently isn’t Joe Arpaio’s fake Sheriff’s organisation. But the sheriff pictured in the article has a crucifix on his office wall.

  3. wscott says

    I know a lot of cops, and the vast majority of them truly believe the DARE/Reefer Madness/gateway drug line. Not surprising that people who have spent their whole careers fighting against ____ have internalized the belief that ____ must be bad.

  4. Michael Heath says

    Boston Herald:

    “[DEA chief Michele M. Leonhart's] frustrated for the same reasons we are,” [Bristol County, MA Sheriff Thomas M.] Hodgson said. “She said she felt the administration didn’t understand the science enough to make those statements. She was particularly frustrated with the fact that, according to her, the White House participated in a softball game with a pro-legalization group. … But she said her lowest point in 33 years in the DEA was when she learned they’d flown a hemp flag over the Capitol on July 4. The sheriffs were all shocked. This is the first time in 28 years I’ve ever heard anyone in her position be this candid.”

    This is very poor journalism. This article defectively conflates rhetoric and associations by the President with an independent action by Congress, who supposedly flew a hemp flag last July 4. If Chief Leonhart’s ire was directed at both Congress and the president this framing would be fine, but instead the article has her directing her ire on the president, who doesn’t control what flags the Capitol flies.

  5. D. C. Sessions says

    Can Obama actually do things against the DEA?

    Not really. Talk is about it, and even that much is surprising.

    Keep in mind that the “war on drugs” is the #1 functional application of the surveillance state. Take away that justification and the institutional support for it gets much, much weaker.

  6. John Kruger says

    It seems like it would be fairly straightforward for the POTUS to appoint a surgeon general that could reclassify marijuana out of its ludicrous Schedule 1 status. Why not actually take legal steps to put alcohol on the same playing field as pot instead of just using it as a talking point? When is that common sense measure going to happen?

  7. stevendorst says

    Obama’s statement shows how extremely absurd it is to keep marijuana on Schedule I. Once thing he could do immediately by executive order to to direct the FDA to move marijuana to a less restrictive Schedule.

    However, I doubt he’ll do it.

  8. Randomfactor says

    John Kruger #7, as I understand it it’s not a medical decision (FDA), it’s a law-enforcement one (DEA). Hence it doesn’t have to conform to reality.

  9. karmacat says

    What I really wish the US would do is put more money into treatment. Obviously, they haven’t been able to stop supply side of drugs so why not focus on demand. We don’t arrest alcoholics for drinking (unless they are driving and drinking). I always hesitate about legalizing drugs, because they are addictive. But then so is alcohol and cigarettes. But we should definitely decriminalize drug use

  10. cheesynougats says

    @7,

    I agree with your point; we should make alcohol illegal, with an emphasis on ruining the lives of the people who use alcohol to excess. Wait, that would mean… corporate executives with their 5-martini lunches. Never mind.

    Seriously, why not make alcohol illegal? From personal experience, I would much rather deal with people high on weed than booze; boozehounds threaten me a lot more. Plus, if people saw what happened when white people had the drug war turned against them, maybe we could make some changes.

  11. gingerbaker says

    The sheriff claims it’s about the science.

    Which means, I guess, that it is NOT about bolstering your crime stats by arresting and successfully prosecuting pot users, to the extent that roughly half of the largest inmate population of any country on the planet are there for pot use.

    All those black pot felons, who coincidentally will find it nearly impossible to regain their voting rights. The reason for “tough on crime” Republicans, who loves them some law enforcement, love the pot laws: It helps Republicans win elections.

    But remember, kids – it about The Science!

  12. Michael Heath says

    cheesynougats writes:

    Seriously, why not make alcohol illegal?

    So, not a student of history. I suggest boning up on the prohibition era and the legacy of organized crime that lived on after we repealed the prohibition amendment.

    And how’s the current criminalization of recreational drugs working out for the U.S. and Mexico? Not a student of current events either, eh?

  13. haitied says

    There is only one constructive way forward and that’s you legalize MJ at least. I just don’t buy the scare tactics that day if we legalized all drugs we would instantly become a nation of addicts. When heroin and coke came to be people were told they were miracle elixers, there was literally no control over what claims were being made. With no education of the effects of those drugs and the absurdly misleading advertising is it any wonder things got so bad?

  14. Scientismist says

    Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, speaking of DEA chief Michele M. Leonhart:

    She said she felt the administration didn’t understand the science enough to make those statements. She was particularly frustrated with the fact that, according to her, the White House participated in a softball game with a pro-legalization group. … But she said her lowest point in 33 years in the DEA was when she learned they’d flown a hemp flag over the Capitol on July 4. The sheriffs were all shocked.

    And then DEA spokeswoman Dawn Deardon:

    I would just tell you that legalization is not a good idea.

    Until I read the original article, I thought they were saying that the White House was actually flying a marijuana-leaf flag. But no, the fainting couch is required for the presence of a flag made from a plant that is merely related to marijuana!

    So these people talk vaguely about science while they obsess over the choice of fiber used in a flag, and what lobbyists the White House staff play softball with, and then justify their petty nonsense with the standard “trust me, we know better than you do.” With their unquestionable dogma and sacred taboos, these folks seem to have a really nice religion going here. If for no other reason, the DEA should be dismantled just as a violation of the first amendment.

    “lowest point in 33 years..” She can eat my favorite hemp shorts.

  15. says

    stevendorst “Obama’s statement shows how extremely absurd it is to keep marijuana on Schedule I. Once thing he could do immediately by executive order to to direct the FDA to move marijuana to a less restrictive Schedule.”
    It’s been a while since I looked this up, but if memory serves it takes an Act of congress to change Schedules. In addition, there are some treaties that will have to be changed.

    If you made it past “it takes an Act of congress” you’ve already made it farther than congress will.

  16. Pierce R. Butler says

    Bristol County Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson said he was thrilled to hear the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration take her boss to task.

    How does Hodgson react if any of his own deputies publicly criticizes his policies, actions, and words?

  17. khms says

    Well, they’re right in one point’ people claiming MJ is exactly as bad as alcohol don’t understand the science.

    Alcoholk is significantly worse.

  18. JustaTech says

    cheesynougats @ 11: Just to pile on about making alcohol illegal: may I strongly suggest Ken Burn’s 3-part documentary “Prohibition”? Very well made, shorter than some of his other stuff, and really explains why all of Prohibition, from idea to repeal, was such an American thing. The accompanying book “Last Call: The rise and fall of Prohibition” by Daniel Okrent goes into even more detail, and explains how the fight against illegal alcohol during Prohibition lead to our current warrent-less wiretapping.

    I’m pretty sure the documentary is on the PBS website.

  19. cheesynougats says

    Apologies to Michael and JustaTech; I was trying to be sarcastic there (and obviously failing). Legalization is the only solution, but if the people in power were subject to the same state-sanctioned harassment maybe we could finally move past our fascination with drugs.

  20. smrnda says

    A person who makes fat cash ruining the lives of non-violent drug users is opposed to having their cushy federal job taken away, mumbles incoherently about ‘science’ without providing any evidence.

  21. says

    Legalization is the only solution, but if the people in power were subject to the same state-sanctioned harassment maybe we could finally move past our fascination with drugs.

    You wouldn’t accomplish that by outlawing alcohol. You would simply make alcohol possession/production bans yet one more area of the law that government officials and their friends can break with relative impunity.

    Well, they’re right in one point’ people claiming MJ is exactly as bad as alcohol don’t understand the science.

    Alcohol is significantly worse.

    I have observed people acting under the influence of many different drugs, legal and illegal. The only drug whose influence I have observed to cause violent and/or destructive behavior is alcohol.

    Unfortunately, the U.S. criminal justice system does not seem to rank violence and destruction as the behaviors most worthy of punishing, for reasons I have never really understood.

  22. says

    I used to work at the DEA. I could tell you stories. :)

    For most people working at the DEA, they really do care about preventing people from suffering the negative effects of drug addiction. Overdoses, shattered lives and shattered dreams, the impact it has on society. I had a nephew addicted to heroin. I know first hand the impact that has on families. The impact it had on my nephew, including jail time, time in rehab, relapses back into addiction and ultimately him taking his own life. Preventing that, is a good thing.

    The problem is that many people believe, that marijuana is a gateway drug to other harder drugs. But one could say the same thing about alcohol. There is nothing inherent about pot that makes someone more or less likely to engage in other drug use, except for the fact that under current law, we force people engaging in pot use to hang out with drug dealers and other criminal types in order to acquire their pot. If you legalize it, you will take it out of the hands of criminals and allow it to be regulated. This could be more effective at stopping it as a gateway drug than cracking down on enforcement.

  23. eric says

    Can Obama actually do things against the DEA?

    I disagree with @7 – there is quite a lot he could do against them, if he were sufficiently motivated. But doing stuff against them would come at a high political cost and this (rolling back the war on drugs) is, IMO, not a high priority for him. It may be worth some sound bytes, but not a lot of political capital. Not worth, for example, ticking off his own party’s Senators or Representatives by submitting a budget with significantly reduced funds for DEA.

  24. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    For most people working at the DEA, they really do care about preventing people from suffering the negative effects of drug addiction. Overdoses, shattered lives and shattered dreams, the impact it has on society. I had a nephew addicted to heroin. I know first hand the impact that has on families. The impact it had on my nephew, including jail time, time in rehab, relapses back into addiction and ultimately him taking his own life. Preventing that, is a good thing.

    Preventing that is good but THE DRUG WAR DOES NOT HAVE THE EFFECT OF PREVENTING IT. Especially the jail time, which in fact it pretty directly caused.

    For the sake of his memory, if nothing else, be smarter.

  25. kangxi says

    There’s a distinction to be made here. The marijuana of 30 or 40 years ago was significantly different to that which is available today. What you buy now is much stronger, is addictive, and does cause damage. That said I prefer the legalisation of all drugs – one welcome side effect of having legal outlets and control of the supply chain would be a chance to reduce the potency of skunk, and to control the purity and strength of drugs in general. (Maybe. The only drug I take is alcohol, and over here in the UK I’ve noted the increase in strength of draught real ale from 3.5% or thereabouts to stuff in the 4.5 to 5% range, and stronger still in some cases…)

  26. marcus says

    kangxi @ 33 “The marijuana of 30 or 40 years ago was significantly different to that which is available today. What you buy now is much stronger, is addictive, and does cause damage.”
    Bullshit. Please go peddle that stupid-ass line of crap to a more credulous crowd of people that don’t know any better. That meme was created by the drug-czars (Shrub’s was the first IIRC) who needed a narrative to sell fear to people who may have smoked weed in 60s and wondered what all the fuss is about. (This is not your granddaddy’s weed!!!!11one eleventy!!) Just a new version of “reefer-madness”. Believe me no one is interested reducing the potency of “skunk”. There will probably be a market for some cultivars with different characteristics and potencies but that will be not be for the purpose of overall THC reduction. I am not really as annoyed with you as I am with this fucking ridiculous piece of bullshit that keeps rearing it’s stupid head. Please educate yourself.

  27. kangxi says

    My, my, Marcus, I do seem to have touched a nerve. A little defensive about this are we?
    I cheerfully admit to knowing next to nothing about the drug – never taken it, never will. My source for the info was a column in The [London] Times, by David Aaronovich. Reputable paper, reputable writer. If you could point me to a reputable source of your own, without vituperation if you please, I’ll certainly read it and amend my opinion if convinced.

  28. Michael Heath says

    kangxi writes:

    I cheerfully admit to knowing next to nothing about the drug – never taken it, never will. My source for the info was a column in The [London] Times, by David Aaronovich. Reputable paper, reputable writer.

    You’re doing it wrong. You need to link us to a peer-reviewed study from a credible relevant science journal where the article’s representative of what the relevant scientists conclude.

    I googled your columnist, whose name is spelled Aaronovitch and not the way you spelled it, and found no such assertions in relation to marijuana, let alone in his Times column. Now perhaps such a claim by Mr. Aaronovitch exists, he provided a credible citation in that column (my motivation for searching), and therefore my google skills are lacking; but you have the obligation to provide cites to your assertions, not us.

  29. dingojack says

    haitied (#17) – “When heroin and coke came to be people were told they were miracle elixers, there was literally no control over what claims were being made. With no education of the effects of those drugs and the absurdly misleading advertising is it any wonder things got so bad?”

    Yep. See here.* Or for one hell of a night – try this. Wheee!!!

    :) Dingo
    ——-
    * $4.85 an oz. in 1901, would be $315 an oz. (relative to household goods) or $599 (relative to unskilled wages) or $865 (relative to GDP/capita) in 2012 dollars

  30. says

    “We don’t arrest alcoholics for drinking (unless they are driving and drinking).”

    Or, if they’re “connected” also, too.

    Michael Phelps seems to have not become a heroin junkie, yet.

  31. freehand says

    “Scholars estimate that consumption dropped to a low of about 60% of pre-prohibition levels around 1925, rising to almost 80% before the law was officially repealed.” (Wikipedia)

    When it ended, consumption stayed about the same. Criminal gangs became well-funded. Contempt for the law became widespread. Cops were supposed to arrest people for behavior which they had been indulging in for years; they couldn’t take it seriously and were easily corrupted on that particular issue. And once you’re taking money to look the other way regarding speakeasies, it’s easy to get in the habit of looking the other way… People developed bad alcohol practices – e.g., when it’s time to take your date home, might as well drink it all before going out to the car and driving, because it’s legally dangerous to carry booze with you (speakeasies often sold it by the bottle). Folks seeking treatment (not that it was very effective then) couldn’t approach their pastor or doctor without admitting to committing federal felonies on a regular basis.

    When Americans finally realized it was a stupid idea, we had well-established anti-drug agencies in operation. So we made marijuana and cocaine illegal. After all, nobody uses those except jazz musicians, Mexicans, and colored people, right?

    The science has generally been against recreational drug criminalization since the La Guardia Report in the 1930s.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Guardia_Committee

  32. marcus says

    kangxi @ 37 Not defensive, angry. Angry that this is a classic bait and switch tactic used to obfuscate the truth and to justify the extension and re-energize the “war on drugs’ that has destroyed so many lives and criminalized so many people whose only “crime” was getting high and trying to have a good time.
    Here’s one citation, I’m sure that you could find others that disagree but this one has the advantage of clearly stating my personal opinion as well.
    “There have always been high-THC content cigarettes around,” says Carl Hart, a neuroscientist at Columbia University who studies the physical effects of cannabis and other drugs. “The modest increases that we see today are not as concerning as has been made out to be.”
    Just as people drink hard liquor differently from beer, says Hart, they don’t smoke highly potent cannabis the way they use weaker stuff. In his lab, for example, study participants are given three minutes to smoke a marijuana cigarette. “If we give them a low dose, they suck down the whole thing. With stronger material, you’ll see them give back the other half.”

  33. says

    …the entirely accurate statement that smoking pot is no more dangerous than drinking alcohol…

    That’s gotta be the most trivial statement ever to inspire a wingnut backlash. Anyone with even the least experience with alcohol can tell you that calling something “no more dangerous than alcohol” is nowhere near calling it “safe.”

    If the drug-warriors had any brains, they’d be using Obama’s statement as an opportunity to remind everyone how dangerous alcohol is — and how not-bloody-much-better marijuana is.

  34. marcus says

    @44 ” — and how not-bloody-much-better marijuana is.”
    We’ll just have to agree to disagree. :)

  35. kangxi says

    Mea culpa, Mr Heath. I got David Aaronovitch’s name wrong. I’m sorry I failed to follow one of the fundamental laws of blogging: spell check, grammar check, fact check and style check each and every post before posting it. Maybe we should introduce peer review. Still, despite my deliberately leading you astray you managed, against insuperable odds, to locate the true spelling of Aaronovitch. Well done you. Perhaps you might care to go to Talk Classical and put the good folk right there about how to spell Shostakovi[t]ch & [Tch][Ch][Tsh]aiko[w][v]sk[y][i]. They’d welcome you with open arms.
    As to the meat of the subject. I searched The Times. I entered ‘Aaronovich’. The first thing that appeared in bold letters was ‘Do you mean ‘David Aaronovitch?” (So that’s how you did it, you clever rascal you!)
    Anyway, I can’t find the article which I distinctly ‘remembered’ reading. I certainly read something containing roughly what I wrote in my 1st post, but the who and the where and the when are now cast in doubt.
    So, until or unless the article re-surfaces in my memory with greater clarity than it currently possesses, allow me to (a) say sorry*, (b) beg forgiveness, (c) ask the good Mr Brayton to please withdraw/expunge/destroy/raze to the ground my previous posts and (d) announce to the world that I no longer have any interest whatsoever in Drugs or The War on Drugs. Or Skunks.
    Btw, where do you get the idea that a newspaper columnist cites sources & references?

    *An apology First time on the Webs, ever!

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