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The Kinder, Gentler Drug Czar Still Wants to Lock You Up for Pot

Sure, we all worry about the meth tweekers stealing cable off bridges, the coke fiends committing petty crimes, the heroin junkies trespassing and loitering, and the alcoholics crashing their cars and getting into fights, but does anybody really think smoking weed is leading people to harm others?
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Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske has a new article on The Huffington Post where he once again attempts to fulfill his statutory duty to scare the bejeezus out of Americans who might be considering the legalization of marijuana in three states and the medicalization of marijuana in a dozen others. This time he cites stats from something called ADAM, warning that over half of arrestees in ten surveyed metro areas tested positive for drugs! You need to be afraid, very afraid, of the crime-seeking drug junkies!

He opens by setting the "Kinder Gentler Drug Warrior" frame established by his former adviser, Kevin Sabet, Ph.D. -- the idea that both legalization and prohibition are ideological extremes. Gateway Gil has even begun using our terminology ("we can't arrest our way out of this problem") to pretend that the Obama Administration presents a rational, compassionate third approach:

One month ago today, we released the Obama Administration's 2012 National Drug Control Strategy, a drug policy grounded in sound research from the world's preeminent drug abuse researchers. This policy marks a departure from the debate I've seen develop during the past few years, which has lurched between two extreme views. On one side are those who suggest that drug legalization is the "silver bullet" solution to our nation's drug problem. On the other are those who still believe that the "War on Drugs," law-enforcement-only strategy is the way forward. Our policies reject both these extremes in favor of a "third way" to approach drug control.

How does that "third way" work? Well, instead of busting you for smoking pot and putting you in a cage, the kinder gentler drug warrior will bust you for smoking pot and put you before a judge in a drug court who lets you "choose" between rehab and a cage. Then in rehab, they'll force you to swallow and regurgitate lies about your "problem" marijuana use, require you to pee in a cup and, should that turn up positive, put you in a cage for smoking pot for a longer time than if you'd just chosen the cage in the first place. See, in the old "War on Drugs" paradigm, we only created jobs and revenue for cops, judges, lawyers, and prison guards. With the "Kinder Gentler War on Drugs," we add jobs for rehabs, pee testers, and probation officers, too.

They say if you want to understand an organization's priorities, don't look at their mission statement, look at their budgets. Here are the budgets for the "War on Drugs", divided between "war" (or "supply reduction" -- busting druggies, seizing drugs, paying other countries to bust druggies and seize drugs) and "drugs" (or "demand reduction" -- preventing drug us, treating drug addiction):

The Obama Administration has, indeed, increased funding for treatment and prevention over the Bush Administration's budgets. But Obama has increased funding for law enforcement, interdiction, and international funding, too. In overall terms, Obama has devoted $102 billion in his first term to the War on Drugs, while in Bush's last four years, the figure is $91 billion. The percentage of the War on Drugs that is still dedicated to the "war" side averages at 59.3 percent throughout the first four years of Obama, when it averaged 59.0 percent in the last four years of Bush.

The latest survey numbers he twists into a pretzel to find a way to scare you are from something called ADAM -- the 2011 Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Annual Report. In his essay, Gateway Gil warns:

This study found a majority of adult males arrested for crimes tested positive for an illegal drug at the time of their arrest. In fact, positive drug tests among arrestees ranged from 64 percent in Atlanta, GA, to 81 percent in Sacramento, CA.

These data were obtained from individuals booked for all types of crimes, from misdemeanors to felonies, and not just those arrested on drug charges. The ADAM program tests only for drugs marijuana, cocaine, opiates (including heroin and prescription pain relievers), amphetamines/methamphetamine, Darvon, PCP, benzodiazepines, methadone, and barbiturates -- not alcohol.

Real quick, let's just knock these points down with simple common sense, then I'll dig deeper into the numbers and tell you what they really mean. The basic premise is that these scary stats are padded by including marijuana users, whose most likely crime is possessing or growing or trafficking marijuana. Sure, we all worry about the meth tweekers stealing cable off bridges, the coke fiends committing petty crimes, the heroin junkies trespassing and loitering, and the alcoholics crashing their cars and getting into fights, but does anybody really think smoking weed is leading people to harm others?

  1. Testing positive for marijuana tells you nothing about whether a person is under the influence of marijuana. Since marijuana can test positive for weeks after use, and since (at minimum) 17.4 million Americans ages 12 and up use marijuana monthly, all we're discovering is that some criminals might have smoked pot this month, not that smoking pot made them criminals.

  • "... not just those arrested on drug charges" tells us they are including people who are busted on drug charges, doesn't it? So you found that people busted for having, growing, or selling pot have some pot in their systems? Great work, Inspector Holmes!
  • Oh, we're not including alcohol, the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind? Why is that? Could it be the crime stats about drugs you'd scare people with would be much worse if we were talking about booze?
  • For more statistics underlying the Drug Czar's deception on these three points, with full size charts, visit

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