Interesting news reactions to new federal medical marijuana policy.

The Obama administration’s new guidelines discouraging federal prosecution of marijuana in states where it is medically legal was widely reported this week by the major networks. This writer, while using the treadmill of course, was able to catch the NBC, CBS and ABC coverage between 5:30 and 6pm Monday evening.

The news of the new federal policy is one of the biggest events in the last several decades of drug policy reform and important actual news to tens of millions of Americans. But this switch in medical marijuana policy was not the first story at either network. CBS lead off its newscast with, again, coverage of the Balloon Boy hoax, which, by this time, was over 72 hours old.

The second CBS story finally got to the new policy sent by the Obama justice department to prosecutors across the country and to the head of the DEA, essentially telling them not to waste resources on prosecuting medical cannabis where it is state legal.

All three of the traditional networks played the story cautiously. Prohibitionists were interviewed for their reactions and allowed to recite their tired talking points. The LA City Attorney Cooley was given face time to call alarm about the high number of dispensaries in LA. He did not mention that the crime rate is down.

Surprisingly, by far the most intelligent reporting on cannabis issues is this week coming from Fox Business News. As flagged by Norml’s Radical Russ, the Fox stories have been matter-of-fact, adult and intelligent. Tuesday’s interview with Denver hedge fund manager and cannabis seed developer Ben Holmes was as positive and intelligent as the Colorado cannabis entrepreneur himself. It was followed Wednesday with a prohibitionist LA official.

The next day, ONDCP Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske showed himself to be a dullard. The Fox Business news team seemed exasperated in trying to pull any intelligent responses to the changes underway on the ground in California and other states with medical exemptions. On hearing the L word, legalization, the drug czar lapsed into his lame, “legalization is not in our vocabulary” rant.

A surprising discussion was found, oddly, on the CNN show of drug war reactionary, Lou Dobbs.  His panel addressing the new medical marijuana guidelines included Clinton Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, Cato Institute scholar Tim Lynch and from LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, ex-cop and criminal justice professor Peter Moskos. Moskos did an excellent job explaining the LEAP position.

McCaffrey fumed, then blatantly lied when he said providers and consumers of medical cannabis had never been targeted by the Feds. Over a decade ago, McCaffrey himself (along with, regrettably, Rahm Emanuel) threated physicians in California with even mentioning medical uses of cannabis to patients, after California voters demanded change in 1996’s Proposition 215. This was too much for Cato Institute scholar Tim Lynch who pointed out that McCaffrey’s anti free speech actions had ended in a circuit court ruling against him. It was good to see such assertive and competent anti-prohibitionists pitted against the sputtering drug war lies of years gone by.

New York Times recycles Bush drug czar cannabis lies.

Supposedly one of America’s great newspapers, The New York Times fails its readers on a key issue of individual liberty and personal health.

This NY Times lapse occurs on-line at “Times Topics,” linked here.  Although Times articles linked at the this page are not terribly skewed in favor of continued prohibition of cannabis, the great error lies in the section below, the –

The czar these right wingers should be worried about is the drug czar.

Apparently a few well placed words from Karl Rove has provoked right wingers into new tactic for those attacking the White House and its non-white occupant. As Jason Linkins reports in Anti-Czar Bill Gets 100 Cosponsors In House, the House of Representatives, apparently spurred by George W. Bush’s chief adviser hinting darkly that the numerous czars, appointed by Barack Obama, represent “a giant expansion of presidential power.” Although this group was not troubled by Bush and Cheney’s power grabs, they seek to investigate the czar’s influence and power. Linkins points out that Rove himself was domestic policy czar after 2004, and that some of these current czars were Bush appointees.

There is one czar, however, whom all freedom-loving Americans should fear and despise in part because he is required to lie to us. The job description of the drug czar mandates that he or she deceive the American public, and lie most specifically on the subject of medical cannabis. The demand for dishonesty comes from the very legislation creating that office in 1988, tragically, much of it written by vice-president Joe Biden. The mandatory deception is well documented at Pete Guither’s Drug WarRant. Americans paying the salary of the drug czar should rightly and righteously expect he be fired from his propaganda job and that the ONDPC office should be closed in disgrace.

Few Americans realize the true c of the drug czar office. How many people realize, for example, that in the 1990s the ONDCP made direct payments to television production studios for including drug war propaganda into the programming? After airing, programs such as 90210 and many others were graded for adherence to drug czar-approved content in programs. Taxpayer funds were paid out to Hollywood studios depending upon content adherence to the ONDCP party line. No other government media program has intruded so insidiously into the psyche of the American people.

The drug czar TV programming served to quash interest in marijuana by those with medical needs that might be helped by medical cannabis. It also helped provide cover for the greatest incarceration binge in American history (world history) and allowed for the passage of ever more draconian drug war legislation.

Unfortunately, Barack Obama’s drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, seems to be following his written instructions,  and lying to us about medical cannabis. So, right wingers, here you actually have an issue of freedom and honesty in government.  Help end the lying reign of the drug czar.

Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske: “We’re not at war with people in this country.”

Barack Obama’s new Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske just spoke in a way never heard in any of his zealous predecessors. In an interview, WSJ reporter Gary Field elicited some eye-popping comments from the new head of the White House Office of National Drug Control in his provocatively titled, White House Czar Calls for End to ‘War on Drugs’ . These include:

  • “Regardless of how you try to explain to people it’s a ‘war on drugs’ or a ‘war on a product,’ people see a war as a war on them.
  • We’re not at war with people in this country.

These are the sweetest, most sensible words issuing from American anti-drug apparatus in decades! What a great patriotic sentiment, recognizing that hard line drug enforcement is war against our own people.

Sadly they are among the few sensible statements ever issued from the Office of National Drug Policy Control, ONDCP, and its head, the drug czar.

Such sensible, harm-reduction oriented comments are hugely welcome after the last 8 years of scorched earth drug war zealotry of John Walters. In fact, every drug czar had clung to, even relished, the hard line drug war metaphor.

But actually, Gil, you saying we are not at war with people in the country does not make it so.

  • Simply flip your TV remote and find a broadcasta of “COPS” running. Quickly you will find a drug war on the people in this country. Highly trained cops routinely search cars and find marijuana, each new arrest adding to over 800,00 each year for cannabis alone. I bet these 800,000 people feel a war is being made upon them by their country.
  • Better yet, turn on SPIKE TV.  There you will quickly find the DEA making war on the people of this country, in the gize of ridding “bad guys.” Squads of 4 or 5 vehicles, including a loaded van disgorge over 20 screaming, cursing thugs shod in 40 jack boots. They descend on a couple of guys with a little cannabis. Great job team! Oh, of course air cover is being provided by $1,000/hr. helicopter. What a pathetic waste of money and lives!

Gil Kerlikowske, you could take 2 actions to jump start your new way of business:

  1. Help get in a great DEA head. Norm Stamper would be the best.
  2. Make all effort to reschedule cannabis from draconian Schedule I to more reasonable Schedule V. Much of the mandatory evil associated with cannabis prosecution would quickly cease.