U.S.: Oregon Congressman Blasts Drug Official For Marijuana Cluelessness
By Steve Elliott
An Oregon Congressman on Tuesday blasted the deputy director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy after failing to get a straight answer to his question about the supposed dangers of marijuana.
When Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), a friend to the cannabis community for more than 40 years, asked chief deputy drug czar Michael Botticelli for the number of fatal cannabis overdoses for the past five years, Botticelli replied, "To my knowledge, I don't know if there have been instances of specific overdose-related deaths."
Rep. Blumenauer continued pressing Botticelli in the House Oversight Committee hearing, asking him whether marijuana is more dangerous and addictive than cocaine or methamphetamine, reports Travis Gettys at The Raw Story.
"I don't think that anyone would dispute the fact that there's relative toxicity related to those drugs," Botticelli said in a classical political non-answer. Understandably, Rep. Blumenauer -- who voted to make Oregon the first state to decriminalize marijuana, back in 1973, when he was a state representative in Salem -- wasn't satisfied.
He asked Botticelli, again, whether cannabis is more dangerous than the other two illegal drugs, both of which are officially Schedule II controlled substances, officially considered safer, by the United States federal government, than the drugs on Schedule I, including marijuana.
"I think the conversation minimizes the harm," an uncomfortable Botticelli replied.
"I'm not trying to minimize the harm," Rep. Blumenauer said. "I just want to know what's more dangerous and addictive. You don't know?"
"As a public health person, one of the things that we look at is not the relative risk of one drug against another," Botticelli claimed.
Rep. Blumenauer, looking very unhappy, then said, "Let me just say that your equivocation right there -- being unable to answer something clearly and definitively when there is unquestioned evidence to the contrary -- is why young people don't believe the propaganda, why they think it's benign."
“If a professional like you can’t answer clearly that meth is more dangerous than marijuana — which every kid on the street knows, which every parent knows — if you can’t answer that, maybe that’s why we’re failing to educate people about the dangers,” Blumenauer said. “I don’t want kids smoking marijuana; I agree with the chairman. But if the deputy director of the office of drug policy can’t answer that question, how do you expect high school kids to take you seriously?”
Botticelli tried to assure the Congressman that he hadn't meant to be disrespectful, or to suggest there was no difference in toxicity between the three drugs, but Rep. Blumenauer threw up his hands.
"I asked what was more dangerous; you couldn't answer it," the Congressman declared. "And I just want to say that you, sir, represent what's part of the problem."
"We've been able to drop tobacco use without being coercive; we've been using fact-based advertising and we focused our efforts on things that matter rather than things that don't work," Blumenauer said. "I'd respectfully suggest that you and the department take a step back if you're concerned that somehow people think marijuana is benign; part of the reason is that drug professionals can't communicate in ways the rest of America does."
For those who have not yet seen the full video of the hearing on federal marijuana policy held by the House Oversight Committee's Subcommittee on Government Operations on Tuesday, it is a must-watch, according to Paul Stanford, publisher of Hemp News and director of its parent organization, the Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp (CRRH).
"None of the news reports do it justice," Stanford said. "CBS ignored the bulk of the hearing, including especially the statements and questioning by Reps. Blumenauer and Cohen, about which the reform world has been abuzz."