Admirable Obama Administration statement on marijuana legalization

There’s a big gap between what the Administration said and what it should have said.

When the Obama Administration decided to invite petitions from the public, it no doubt anticipated that there would be one or more about legalizing cannabis, a proposal that now has roughly 50% public support. Of course, the Administration isn’t ready to go there, but it had a perfectly sensible response:

Marijuana is the most widely used of the illicit drugs, and clearly not as risky for users or others as cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine. Of course it is not benign: about 10% of those who start to use it come to meet clinical criteria for abuse or dependency. Use by juveniles – the median first user is now in the 11th grade – is especially hazardous, just as youthful drinking is especially hazardous.

Marijuana prohibition is also not benign: it generates an illicit market measured in the tens of billions of dollars, leads to three-quarters of a million possession arrests each year, and keeps tens of thousands of people behind bars for dealing. Marijuana-smuggling revenues contribute their bit to drug-related violence in Mexico.

If it were possible to end the prohibition – to legalize marijuana – without greatly increasing the number of people who wind up dependent on the drug or the number of young people damaged by early exposure to it, that course of action would have strong arguments in its favor. But no one has actually proposed a detailed plan for legalization that would not lead to a large upsurge in use, including use by minors. Certainly, “regulating marijuana like alcohol” does not describe such a policy, since alcohol has many more abusers, and many more youthful users, than marijuana, in part due to history but in part due to the fact that alcohol is legal and heavily marketed.

The President would like to encourage those who favor changes in marijuana policy to develop concrete proposals for a post-prohibition policy. Perhaps it would be possible to have legal access without mass commerce. Until such a proposal is on the table, any move toward legalization would be premature.

The question of the medical utility of the cannabis plant or of the chemicals it contains is separate from the question of its availability for recreational use. “Marijuana” does not name a medicine: there is too much variability in the chemical composition of different cannabis preparations for a physician to prescribe it with any assurance about its likely effects on a patient. If someone figures out a way to produce either plant material or extracts with a known and reproducible pharmaceutical profile, and performs clinical studies with that material demonstrating safety and efficacy for the treatment of some condition, that product can and will be approved, in the normal process, by the Food and Drug Administration, and will then be available as a prescription medicine. But that work has yet to be carried out; the Federal government has some responsibility for that, because regulations have obstructed the process of research. Today I am instructing the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to work together to eliminate the administrative barriers that currently impede the necessary research, and to consider what financial or other help the government could provide to the effort to develop specific cannabis preparations or extracts for medical use.

That’s the good news: the Administration had a good response available.

The bad news is that the actual response was this appalling bit of flannelmouth:

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.

The first test of honest policy analysis is that it must reflect the potential disadvantages of the proposed course of action. The statement above fails that test, in that it doesn’t acknowledge that cannabis prohibition carries heavy costs. The second test is that it not say anything obviously false. Unless “cognitive impairment” refers to intoxicated behavior, I’m not aware of any research that shows that cannabis use damages cognitive functioning (as heavy alcohol use clearly does).

You needn’t disagree with the Administration’s decision not to open yet another front in the culture wars by proposing marijuana legalization to be grossly disappointed that the Administration couldn’t come up with a reasoned defense of that decision.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

25 thoughts on “Admirable Obama Administration statement on marijuana legalization”

  1. Mark, I’m even going to call BS on your so-called “reasonable” response. I’d like to hear what you have to say about the following:

    “about 10% of those who start to use it come to meet clinical criteria for abuse or dependency” OK so let’s say that’s true. But absent actual harm beyond the bare facts of “abuse or dependency,” *so what*? Seriously, lots of people are, by any measure, “addicted” to caffeine, but it doesn’t actually hurt anyone beyond maybe some insomnia, so nobody cares. It’s really not too different with pot. You could be a hopeless pothead, but if it doesn’t cause serious health problems or prevent normal functioning, why does the government have any business butting in? Many, many of my good friends are big-time potheads who I’m sure would “meet clinical criteria for abuse or dependency” who are healthy, happy and productive citizens.

    And “Use by juveniles…is especially hazardous” Um, OK, how so? Seriously, on what basis is that glib statement offered? What are the hazards? What are the long-term harms? As your mock statement says, median use is 11th grade, and lots and lots of 11th graders are in that sample. Seems to me that the vast majority of those median users smoke pot for awhile, then move on. And many of those kids who keep smoking become people like my friends, who are hard-core potheads who are nonetheless educated, successful professionals and, in many cases, parents.

    I’d like to know what evidence there is for the harmful effects of this plant, even in your proposed “reasonable” statement. What harm is caused by pot, other than the harms caused by its prohibition?

    1. A minor point, but the geriatrician behind livingto100.com advises that cutting coffee consumption (i.e. caffeine) can increase your life expectancy by a short perid (I seem to recall 6 months). A trivial effect compared to alcohol or tobacco or junk food, but non-zero. So I decided not to buy a fancy grinding espresso machine, which would have driven my consumption up.

  2. Mark, I’m a bit puzzled as to why you continue to suggest that it’s not possible to legalize marijuana “without greatly increasing the number of people who wind up dependent on the drug or the number of young people damaged by early exposure to it.”

    You are aware of the situation in California, right? Marijuana is legal with a physician’s recommendation and anyone with $100 can obtain said recommendation. This has been the case for over a decade now, and we have yet to see a great increase in the number of people dependent on pot.

    According to the 1999 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, 6% of Californians reported past-month use of marijuana. The figure for 2009 was 7.68%. Even if we ascribe the entire increase to the proliferation of pot docs and medical marijuana dispensaries (highly unlikely), this means that our government is arresting hundreds of thousands of its citizens every year in order to lower marijuana use by a percentage point or two.

    Can you seriously claim that this is an acceptable tradeoff?

    (NHSDA/NSDUH Data here:
    http://oas.samhsa.gov/NHSDA/99StateTabs/tables2.htm
    http://oas.samhsa.gov/2k9State/AppB.htm#TabB.3)

  3. California’s quasi-legalization, like that of The Netherlands, has increased availability without much reducing price. The dispensaries charge just about what the rest of the dope dealers charge: $10-15/gm. for high-potency weed. Truly legal pot would sell for a small fraction of that price: with a $50/ounce tax as proposed in the Ammiano bill, the retail price of sinsemilla would be about $3/gm., most of it tax. With the 15% tax proposed in Colorado, the price might be $1/gm. Lower prices are likely to translate into higher consumption.

    1. ‘California’s quasi-legalization, like that of The Netherlands, has increased availability without much reducing price”
      Marijuana was available before 215, you just had to know a high school student, rather than a doctor. Myself, I prefer to have it sold in dispensaries (or coffee shops, if you happen to be in the Netherlands), rather than the hallways of our schools.

      1. I think Prof. Kleiman is wrong about a lot of things about drug policy, but he’s right that true legalization will increase use. It happened after prohibition, it happened after legalized gambling, etc. The fact that a lot of people don’t follow the law doesn’t mean that nobody follows it.

        The better arguments for legalization center on the fact that those who want to enjoy themselves shouldn’t be punished because someone else might get addicted. You could justify a ban on fornication on the same principle.

        1. I think Prof. Kleiman is wrong about a lot of things about drug policy, but he’s right that true legalization will increase use. It happened after prohibition, it happened after legalized gambling, etc.

          Point well made. My arguments that increased usage would be minimal could be as far off as I think Mark’s arguments that usage would be greatly increased are.

    2. For the past two years, there has been a glut in the market. As a result, many a connected individual is getting the rope for about $5.50 a gram (for top top quality). pfroehlich2004, above, sheds a thoughtful observation on California’s experience.

      Concern for the health of every member of our society is a noble sentiment, but humans find the darnedest things to abuse. Marijuana is not one as benign as coffee, but it hasn’t deserved the crime or stigma that continues today!

    3. In the Pacific NW, pot is readily available and of high quality. As a regular smoker myself, I have not actually had to pay anything for my herb for over a year. I don’t grow, but I know growers, and for all practical purposes, I have access to unlimited quantities.
      That said, my rate of consumption doesn’t vary much between times of plenty & times of famine. It takes X amount to put me in the headspace I enjoy, and having more than X means only that I have more to share. Smoking beyond my comfort level is wasteful and stupid, so I don’t believe that increased availability or lower prices are going to change much in overall consumption statistics.

    4. The dispensaries charge just about what the rest of the dope dealers charge: $10-15/gm. for high-potency weed. Truly legal pot would sell for a small fraction of that price: with a $50/ounce tax as proposed in the Ammiano bill, the retail price of sinsemilla would be about $3/gm., most of it tax. With the 15% tax proposed in Colorado, the price might be $1/gm.

      Why do you say that? Dispensaries are legal enough (when they’re not being hassled by the feds), not heavily taxed, numerous enough for healthy price competition between them, and yet as you say they’re charging the full price the market will bear (far above the marginal costs of production and distribution) even in the face of regulations requiring non-profit operation. What makes you think legal for-profit operations would routinely sell at prices that far below market valuation just because they could still make a (tiny by your numbers) profit any more than say, the music recording, movie, video game, or computer software industries do? (Hint: They could but they don’t).

      Lower prices are likely to translate into higher consumption.

      At least this is presented as the speculation (necessarily so, of course) that it is. I’m still with ResumeMan on this one. To the extent that higher consumption does no significant harm, why should we care? To the extent it does do harm, as no doubt you’re aware, price is hardly the primary concern for substance abusers, and has little effect on their consumption. Also, like much substance abuse, marijuana consumption becomes self-limiting at some point — you can only smoke so much before you either fall asleep or become too lethargic to roll another one. Given this, and the commonality of spending roughly 1/3 of our time sleeping and 1/3 working, I just don’t see enough time left in the day for all that much higher consumption you seem to want us to worry about without giving any reason to, even in the case of heavy abusers. Though not the higher-potency stuff, reasonable-quality marijuana acceptable to a great many regular users can routinely be found today at the $2-3/gm. price range, right in your range of prices low enough to worry about. Today’s price isn’t keeping anyone away who would otherwise wish to consume pot, and I see no reason to believe price would be a significant deciding factor if it were legal. Like many of your stated objections to legalization, the conditions that you speculate would happen in a legalized scenario already exist, so I find your projections with regard to significant increases in the magnitude and/or severity of any effects of those conditions quite unconvincing.

    5. I highly doubt that the current price of marijuana is dissuading substantial numbers of potential users. Even at $10-$15/gm., the cost of a single high is only a few dollars -well within the spending range of anyone making at least the minimum wage.

      Remember, price elasticity of demand is not constant. If marijuana were selling for $100/gm. and dropped to $50/gm., then yes, we would likely see a significant rise in use. However, at its current price range, all or nearly all users are able to fully satisfy their demand. Lowering the price further would allow them to do so for less money, but would not increase their desire to smoke pot.

  4. Strictly speaking, wouldn’t pot legalization constitute closing a front in the culture wars?

      1. They are not analogous. No one considers pot prohibition, like abortion prohibition, a religious or moral cause. If pot were legalized, there would be no movement to prohibit it again, any more than there is a movement to prohibit alcohol again.

        Pot prohibition is also not a particularly political issue. Although, overall, more liberals than conservatives probably favor legalization, plenty of people on both sides use it and understand the irrationality of prohibition.

        1. Henry, here in far Northern California there are plenty of prohibitionists who, if we succeed in reforming cannabis law, will surely attempt to regulate it out of existence. They are already doing it with medical marijuana, pretending they are respecting state law but just injecting a little “control” into the mix, even as their goal appears to be to do every single thing to make access more difficult, with the goal of eliminating it entirely if possible.

          Opinions on cannabis law reform may not break entirely along party lines, but have you looked at the breakdown of the latest Gallup poll? There are Republicans for reform and Democrats against, but really the issue has about twice the level of support among Dems that Repubs.

          In my view, it is a classic example of using the notion of “public health” to legislate morality. Grinspoon and Bakalar have a nice discussion, based largely on their reading of JS Mill, in their book Drug Control in a Free Society. To me the main broken link I am seeing is that claims of “public health,” especially related to the smell of cannabis plants in neighborhoods, are going largely unscrutinized because many officials share the moral concerns that are standing behind that particular curtain.

          So I’m finding it is political, it’s moral, and it’s about both nationalism and religion.

  5. Well put and well said.

    The argument against medicinal use in herbal form isn’t accurate though. I know for a fact that the two lead growers in Europe, GW and Bedrocan, can produce buds with consistent cannabinoid content and vaporizing or using extracts is a perfectly safe and reproducible method of ingestion.

    CLEAR, the UK Cannabis Law Reform party recently put forward detailed regulation proposals based on an in-depth consultation with all interested parties.

    http://clear-uk.org/tax-regulate/

    1. Thanks for the link. Haven’t read the full pdf yet but the summary looks right on the money.
      I find this analysis of real-world data to be an interesting rebuttal to Mark’s assertions about speculated increases in usage under legalization:
      * The downgrading of cannabis to class C in 2004 led to a decline in consumption but a dramatic increase in police action with seizures up 50% between 2004 and 2005.
      * The upgrading of cannabis back to class B in 2009 led to an increase in consumption.
      Similar results were reported after Portugal decriminalized. However, as Mark correctly points out, there are important differences between decriminalization and full-on legalization. In that regard, I think the US’s history with alcohol prohibition is instructive, though we’re sadly left to speculation on many of the specifics of how marijuana legalization might turn out. Ironically, it seems feasible that the country the USA once won it’s independence from under charges of government tyranny could be the first of the two to liberate it’s citizens from the tyrannies of marijuana prohibition.

  6. I read this response as an insult first off the petition was addressed to Mr.Obama, not to the Department of Propaganda and Misinformation on the subject of drugs. That The President would hand our petition to a Bureaucrat show just how little our continued victimization really means to President Obama. I guess when Candidate Obama needed my vote he was willing to promise an end to the war on our own people. Now that President Obama doesn’t need my vote he’s willing to turn his back on us. I blame myself for allowing myself to believe that you were anything more then a Politician.

  7. I am reminded of the phrase “only Nixon could go to China”. So too only a conservative Republican would have the political capital to legalize marijuana. Any attempt by Obama to legalize would be met with fierce partisan attacks which would dwarf anything we’ve seen yet from the right.

    Ron Paul, on the other hand, has the conservative bona fides to get the job done. Which is why so many campus hippies love him. They don’t care about the gold standard at all (why should some who works so closely in the black market care?). They want to end the wars and free the weed and he is their man.

    1. Obama could cure cancer, balance the budget, and walk on water and Republicans would still attack him relentlessly. His endorsement of Prohibition is cowardly. The American people deserve better than a feckless administrator pretending to be a leader.

  8. It makes people fear marijuana because their government says it is so dangerous it must be prohibited­.

    According to Title VII Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthoriz­ation Act of 1998: H11225:

    Responsibi­lities. –The Director– […]

    (12) shall ensure that no Federal funds appropriat­ed to the Office of National Drug Control Policy shall be expended for any study or contract relating to the legalization (for a medical use or any other use) of a substance listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812) and take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance (in any form) that–

    is listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812); and has not been approved for use for medical purposes by the Food and Drug Administration;

    It makes people fear their government when marijuana is considered so dangerous that even testing it for medical efficacy is prohibited­.

    What government of the people,for the people,by the people would have a bureaucracy that is required to lie,buy false science and create propaganda against it’s own people?

    Only a government that is owned by corporate entities that want their agenda followed, regardless of science,practical experience and history.

  9. First of all, what ResumeMan said. Absolutely spot-on.

    Of course it is not benign: about 10% of those who start to use it come to meet clinical criteria for abuse or dependency. Use by juveniles – the median first user is now in the 11th grade – is especially hazardous…

    So this is the big downside to pot legalization? As RM put so well, the same could be said about caffeine use. While it is reasonable and proper to restrict the use of any drug (including caffeine) by juveniles, reference to youthful Marijuana use as “especially hazardous” assumes facts not in evidence. Given the history of widespread juvenile marijuana use in this country over the last half-century, there should be plenty of evidence any expert on drug policy could point to which would back up this claim if this has been causing the kind of problems that truly warrant an “especially hazardous” warning.

    …just as youthful drinking is especially hazardous.

    No, it is not “just as”. There is no known fatal overdose level for cannabis. Alcohol consumption is “especially hazardous” to anybody who might abuse, adult and juvenile alike, because it only takes about four times the “buzz dose” level to get to the potentially fatal overdose level, if for no other reason. Beyond that, motor-skill impairment and it’s effects on driving has been shown to be far worse for alcohol, and then there’s the tendency to violent behavior observed to be far greater among alcohol abusers, just to name a few more. As RM pointed out, the “hazards” of Marijuana use are closer to those of caffeine than to those of alcohol.

    Marijuana prohibition is also not benign: it generates an illicit market measured in the tens of billions of dollars, leads to three-quarters of a million possession arrests each year, and keeps tens of thousands of people behind bars for dealing. Marijuana-smuggling revenues contribute their bit to drug-related violence in Mexico.

    And this is the downside to prohibition which affords your position the passing of the “first test of honest policy analysis”. But how honest is a policy analysis that advocates continued prohibition while simultaneously acknowledging that the problems of prohibition far outweigh the problems of legalization? The only way this is honest is if one truly believes that the problems associated with a 10% abuse/dependency rate among adults and (arguably — every report I’ve seen on the subject says it is easier for minors to get pot than booze) increased access and use by juveniles are significantly worse than those associated with a multi-billion dollar black market, hundreds of thousands of annual arrests and tens of thousands of annual incarcerations for non-violent “crime”, and drug lord (and street punk) turf-war violence. I don’t see how one can truly believe this and take your position without also arguing for re-prohibition of alcohol (as it is a MUCH bigger problem), if those are honestly the criteria for deciding between legalization and prohibition, given alcohol’s well-known hazards, abysmal record of abuse, and widespread societal costs. But one can only imagine the horrors an alcohol black market and heavy-handed attempts at enforcement of prohibition would wreak upon us today.

    If it were possible to end the prohibition – to legalize marijuana – without greatly increasing the number of people who wind up dependent on the drug or the number of young people damaged by early exposure to it, that course of action would have strong arguments in its favor.

    By the same logic, if it were possible to continue the prohibition of marijuana without the associated unregulated criminal profits, power, and violence, and somehow greatly decrease the number of people who wind up dead from turf-war violence or SWAT-team raids or wind up incarcerated or with a criminal record for non-violent “crime”, that course of action would have strong arguments in it’s favor.

    But no one has actually proposed a detailed plan for legalization that would not lead to a large upsurge in use, including use by minors.

    Again, assumes facts not in evidence. Pure speculation in spite of availability of evidence (Amsterdam, Portugal, California, etc.) as far as decriminalization / partial legalization with restrictions on commerce and advertising go. If it’s advertising (especially targeted toward minors) we’re worried about here, then here’s some speculation of my own: 1) I just don’t see a huge impact here. The effects of marijuana use are it’s own advertising to those who enjoy them (as well as it’s own discouragement to those who don’t), and black-market dealers have no qualms or effective regulation about espousing the attractiveness of their product to minors and adults alike via the grapevine, if not broadcast advertising. IMHO, advertisement of products already wildly popular among users of said products and well-known to everyone else is much more effective at brand differentiation than expansion of the market. Personally, I don’t smoke tobacco but I did as an adolescent and young adult. Tobacco advertising had nothing to do with my decision to start smoking (that was peer pressure) and does nothing to convince me to buy their products now, even though millions of other people find it quite enjoyable. I just don’t enjoy it, never really did. I’ve met countless people who once smoked pot and found they grew out of it and don’t smoke it any more, not because it’s illegal, but because they don’t enjoy it so much any more. There is advertising for any number of things that aren’t necessarily good for anybody besides the one doing the advertising (casinos anyone?), and it doesn’t make us all rabid abusers of those things (though some might), nor does it warrant an outright ban on those products. 2) I see far more potent and dangerous drugs advertised on TV by pharmaceutical and alcohol-product companies every day. Again, if this is such a problem that it’s a good argument against marijuana legalization, why the focus on the least of evils without advocating advertising bans on those much-more-widely-used-and-potentially-harmful products as well? In fact, broadcast advertising of those products have been banned before, so why wouldn’t it be possible to legalize marijuana while restricting advertisement for it?

    Perhaps it would be possible to have legal access without mass commerce. Until such a proposal is on the table, any move toward legalization would be premature.

    Oh, well then. Until the obviously impossible is possible, any move is “premature”? Despite the obvious fact demonstrated by recent history that it’s also impossible to have prohibition without “mass [black-market] commerce”? Why not just pre-qualify the statement with “I’m now going to rig the rules of ‘mature’ discussion such that my position is the only one possible”? How about this: “Perhaps it would be possible to have marijuana prohibition without incarceration and criminalization of non-violent ‘offenders’ and the existence of a powerful and violent black market. Until such a proposal is on the table, any position in favor of continued prohibition is misguided and far more detrimental to society as a whole as well as to individual abusers than regulated legalization.”? I’ll go with mine, thank you very much.

    “Marijuana” does not name a medicine: there is too much variability in the chemical composition of different cannabis preparations for a physician to prescribe it with any assurance about its likely effects on a patient.

    Uh-huh. Well then “Apple” does not name a pie ingredient: there is too much variability in the chemical composition and flavor of different apple varieties for a chef to specify it in a recipe with any assurance about it’s likely flavor when baked in a pie. What’s that you say — “Granny Smith” is sufficiently specific with respect to the particular strain of apple to prescribe for a tasty pie? The different medicinally-valuable effects of different cannabis strains are similar. Need to boost your appetite due to the devastatingly nauseating effects of chemotherapy? Almost any strain will do, and if it’s not potent enough, it’s not like a larger dose will put you in the hospital before the effects you are fighting with it will if left untreated effectively.

    If someone figures out a way to produce either plant material or extracts with a known and reproducible pharmaceutical profile, and performs clinical studies with that material demonstrating safety and efficacy for the treatment of some condition, that product can and will be approved, in the normal process, by the Food and Drug Administration, and will then be available as a prescription medicine. But that work has yet to be carried out; the Federal government has some responsibility for that, because regulations have obstructed the process of research. Today I am instructing the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to work together to eliminate the administrative barriers that currently impede the necessary research, and to consider what financial or other help the government could provide to the effort to develop specific cannabis preparations or extracts for medical use.

    First of all, marijuana need not necessarily be prescription medicine in order to be medicinally useful enough to be recommended by a physician, e.g. St. John’s Wort (recently recommended to her by my wife’s doctor), etc. Second, as acknowledged, this is a catch-22 because the government severely restricts any research in the field. Even if Obama did announce an intent to ease these restrictions, why should we believe him when he said similar things about enforcement in cases where state law was being adhered to and yet we’ve seen the opposite take place ever since?

    You needn’t disagree with the Administration’s decision not to open yet another front in the culture wars by proposing marijuana legalization to be grossly disappointed that the Administration couldn’t come up with a reasoned defense of that decision.

    Get real. That front was opened when the “war on drugs” was declared decades ago. And what’s to be disappointed about? The reason the Administration (or for that matter, you) couldn’t come up with a reasoned defense of continued marijuana prohibition is that, all things considered, there just doesn’t seem to be one. If there were, the government wouldn’t have found it necessary to lie so much (and so badly) about it in order to ban it in the first place and justify it’s prohibition ever since, and you would be able to come up with one that stands up to analysis of it’s ill effects vs. those of legalization.

  10. Mark, are you suggesting there’s anyone in Obama’s cabinet, or any federal agency, that would say anything (off the record) close to what you wrote? Or that there’s any behind-the-scenes movement or even desire to “eliminate the administrative barriers that currently impede the necessary research”?

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