In what can only be described as a WTF moment, the White House issued a couple of formal responses to the many petitions regarding everything from removing federal restrictions to legalizing for medicinal purposes. It seems insane that we the people, can generate these petitions, sign them above and beyond what is required, and still be rejected by whatever they feel passes for science. You know – the good thing about actual science is that it doesn’t leave much room for real argument. The bad thing about it is that just like any other realm of humankind, it can be used and wielded by the ignorant addressing the uninformed. Here are three official White House petitions and their scoff-worthy responses.
Federally Legalize Marijuana
In response to this petition that gained 44,049 signatures, the Official Office of National Drug Control Policy responded to this petition by sharing an excerpt of an interview with Barbara Walters and President Obama.
Do you think that marijuana should be legalized?
Well, I wouldn’t go that far. But what I think is that, at this point, Washington and Colorado, you’ve seen the voters speak on this issue. And as it is, the federal government has a lot to do when it comes to criminal prosecutions. It does not make sense from a prioritization point of view for us to focus on recreational drug users in a state that has already said that under state law that’s legal.
…this is a tough problem because Congress has not yet changed the law. I head up the executive branch; we’re supposed to be carrying out laws. And so what we’re going to need to have is a conversation about how do you reconcile a federal law that still says marijuana is a federal offense and state laws that say that it’s legal.
When you’re talking about drug kingpins, folks involved with violence, people are who are peddling hard drugs to our kids in our neighborhoods that are devastated, there is no doubt that we need to go after those folks hard… it makes sense for us to look at how we can make sure that our kids are discouraged from using drugs and engaging in substance abuse generally. There is more work we can do on the public health side and the treatment side.
Way to not answer the question, at all.
The legalization of marijuana on a federal level would have little impact. It would still boil down to state level legislation to determine where cannabis would be legal for medicinal, recreation or not at all. It would only mean that we couldn’t raid growers and dispensaries. It would mean that those caught with marijuana would not suffer criminal charges, but would very likely still pay civil penalties if they were carrying outside what their state level laws allow.
So what do we do with that? Create another petition, worded differently and sign away. Let’s see what happens with this one.
Legalize and Regulate Marijuana in a Manner Similar to Alcohol
In a petition named “Legalize and Regulate Marijuana in a Manner Similar to Alcohol” with 74,169 signatures, as well as 7 other similar petitions;
- Legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana – 20,072 signatures
- Stop Interfering With State Marijuana Legalization Efforts – 17,026 signatures
- Give States the Freedom to Establish Their Own Marijuana Laws – 12,458 signatures
- Remove Marijuana from the Schedule 1 list of drugs in the Controlled Substances Act – 8,950 signatures
- Repeal any and all laws pertaining to the illegalization of the Cannabis plant and all of its uses – 6,649 signatures
- Demand an Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to End Marijuana, Marihuana, Cannabis and Hemp Prohibition – 6,240 signatures
- Stop denying the medical value of cannabis (marijuana.) Remove it from schedule one of the controlled substances act – 5,836 signatures
While I am quick to admit that some of these petitions could have been worded more properly, the answer seems mind-bendingly dumb. Just dumb, there’s no other way to say it. The claims made have long been batted down by research and peer reviewed resources.
Here is what the U.S. Government has to say about their “No” response to all of the above petitions.
What We Have to Say About Legalizing Marijuana
By Gil Kerlikowske
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.
Like many, we are interested in the potential marijuana may have in providing relief to individuals diagnosed with certain serious illnesses. That is why we ardently support ongoing research into determining what components of the marijuana plant can be used as medicine. To date, however, neither the FDA nor the Institute of Medicine have found smoked marijuana to meet the modern standard for safe or effective medicine for any condition.
As a former police chief, I recognize we are not going to arrest our way out of the problem. We also recognize that legalizing marijuana would not provide the answer to any of the health, social, youth education, criminal justice, and community quality of life challenges associated with drug use.
That is why the President’s National Drug Control Strategy is balanced and comprehensive, emphasizing prevention and treatment while at the same time supporting innovative law enforcement efforts that protect public safety and disrupt the supply of drugs entering our communities. Preventing drug use is the most cost-effective way to reduce drug use and its consequences in America. And, as we’ve seen in our work through community coalitions across the country, this approach works in making communities healthier and safer. We’re also focused on expanding access to drug treatment for addicts. Treatment works. In fact, millions of Americans are in successful recovery for drug and alcoholism today. And through our work with innovative drug courts across the Nation, we are improving our criminal justice system to divert non-violent offenders into treatment.
Our commitment to a balanced approach to drug control is real. This last fiscal year alone, the Federal Government spent over $10 billion on drug education and treatment programs compared to just over $9 billion on drug related law enforcement in the U.S.
Thank you for making your voice heard. I encourage you to take a moment to read about the President’s approach to drug control to learn more.
- National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
- Marijuana Facts (ONDCP)
- Drug Abuse Warning Network (HHS)
- Treatment Episode Data Set (HHS)
- National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS)
- Monitoring the Future Survey, University of Michigan
Gil Kerlikowske is Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy
Which of these bunk claims have you seen debunked?