The White House has released a “plan to reduce drug use and its consequences” that it says is a “science based” drug enforcement scheme. The administration says its drug enforcement policy will be “smart on crime” instead of “tough on crime” by “emphasizing prevention” and medical interdiction to “break the cycle of drug use, crime, incarceration, and re-arrest.” Obama’s view is that “addiction is a disease of the brain” that can be treated medically and as a matter of law enforcement.
The Obama plan is formulated upon dual overarching assumptions; that if a substance has been outlawed federally, then it is a harmful and addictive substance the legality of which cannot be reconsidered; and, that the use of banned substances is a fiscal drag on the US economy. The website promoting the Obama administration enforcement scheme policy begins by reporting that, “illicit drug use cost our Nation more than $193 billion in lost productivity, healthcare, and criminal justice costs.”
The Obama administration asserts that the federal government cannot imprison every drug criminal in the United States because to do so, the policy paper states, is “counterproductive, inefficient, and costly.” The policy white paper goes on to state, however, that the Obama administration views the movements by citizens in the states to use the democratic process to legalize cannabis for medical and personal consumption are extremist and contradict “a public health and safety approach to drug policy.”
The Obama administration claims that its drug enforcement program is science based, but in the US and around the world scientists and researchers have come to different conclusions from reviewing the science that shows quite clearly that the banned in the US substance cannabis has the ability to provide medical relief to patients.
Researchers from the Psychopharmacology Unit of the University of Bristol in the UK created a scale of the relative addictive qualities of abused substances that was reported in their 2007 paper, “Development of a Rational Scale to Assess the Harm of Drugs of Potential Misuse”. The medical researchers found that cannabis scored as less addictive and less physically harmful than both heroin and cocaine, this is the case even though cannabis is classified by the federal government as more dangerous than both heroin and cocaine. The researchers also found that cannabis is less physically harmful and less addictive than tobacco and alcohol, both of which are legal in the US.
Furthermore, suggesting that cannabis is a dangerous and harmful drug is increasingly becoming disconnected from the broadly held medical opinion that cannabis is a helpful drug that is both pain relieving and curative. In fact, over 20 years ago in 1991, the American Society of Clinical Oncology surveyed 2,430 cancer doctors across the US to find that nearly half supported their patient’s use of cannabis. More recently, the California Medical Association, the state’s largest doctor group called for legalizing cannabis in the US for medical use in 2011. In April 2013, a broad based group of 250 doctors practicing in the state of Illinois called for legalizing cannabis for the treatment of diseases like Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and cancer.
And, this year the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press polled Americans to find that 77 percent of Americans think that cannabis should be made legal as a medicine to treat sick patients. The study also revealed that 72 percent of Americans think that the federal government spends too much money enforcing cannabis prohibition and that 54 percent of Americans support the full legalization of cannabis for use by American adults for recreational purposes. The poll also found that 60 percent of Americans do not agree with the US Justice Department’s attack on medical cannabis dispensaries that prevent the sick from obtaining prescriptions for medication.
As the Obama administration attempts to distract Americans by invoking the term “science based” it continues to threaten and pursue producers and distributors of medical cannabis. As recently as this week the Obama Justice Department sent letters to landlords who lease commercial space to state approved cannabis dispensaries in San Jose, California threatening forty-year jail sentences and forfeiture of the property of the landowners.
A letter received by one such dispensary in San Jose, as reported by the East Bay Express, made unambiguous threats to a landowner who leases property to a pharmacy, stating; “The office has been advised that there is a marijuana dispensary … operating at the real property located at …, which property you own or have under your management control. The dispensary is operating in violation of federal law, and persons and entities who operate or facilitate the operation of such dispensaries are subject to criminal prosecution and civil enforcement actions.”
The Obama administration’s determination that all illegal substances are addictive and can promote addictive disorders approaches enforcing drug laws with a broad-brush-stroke approach that lumps drastically different substances together for the purpose of streamlining enforcement determinations to save money and which is fundamentally a-scientific at its core. Moreover, the Obama administration’s effort to stamp out the sale and delivery of medicinal cannabis to patients reveals an amoral cynicism; one that holds out hope for the sick while moving to crush distribution networks for the medicine by imposing convoluted analysis of federal tax laws and employing aggressive enforcement to withhold medicine from those who need it.
cross posted at mLaw