White House required by law to oppose marijuana legalization

The White House recently responded to a petition on marijuana legalization with a statement that amounted to "go away and don't bother us, pot will turn you into a depraved junkie." Turns out that the legislation that established America's drug czar requires the office-holder to oppose all drug legalization efforts.


  1. I live in MA.

    If I were to be ‘caught’ in posession of an ounce of this “marijuana” substance, I would be written a ticket with no enforcement mechanism, and have the substance removed from my posession.

    Is that substance truly “illicit”? Illicit means forbidden. That stuff is less illegal than going 65 in a 55, and I’ve seen hundreds of US Govt vehicles doing over 65 in a 55 in MA, so what gives?

    1. perhaps speed governors on all government vehicles are called for, so that other gov’t personnel are prohibited from going against the letter of the law…. or thinking about doing so.

      No Wiggle Room.

      1. or cuban cigars. Uh huh. We get that. Did you have anything to add to reality, or just offering a reality check?

    2. Is that substance truly “illicit”? Illicit means forbidden. That stuff is less illegal than going 65 in a 55, and I’ve seen hundreds of US Govt vehicles doing over 65 in a 55 in MA, so what gives?

      I’m glad things are working out well for you and all living in MA, but you shouldn’t let that turn into general complacency. 100,000’s of people are still being arrested every year for MJ possession. People – including innocent ones – are still being killed every day by paramilitary SWAT teams, etc.
      You know, there’s a guy who lives in the town I live in who is the husband of a friend of my wife. He recently came down with cancer and the chemo was tearing him up. In order to try to get food down he decided to get some MJ, and as my state doesn’t have provisions for medical MJ, he had to “get it off the streets.”
      He got caught, and he lost his job because of it.
      So now he has cancer, no job, no benefits, and no way to pay for treatment. His wife and two small children are probably going to be without him soon.
      These things tend not to happen for driving 65 in a 55 zone.

      1. Sucks for your friend. My mother died of cancer in January. Boo hoo, this is the internet. I don;t expect you to care.

        But as responses go, I can’t tell if you agree with me, or disagree, or are jealous, or just want to cut someone down a peg? Do you want the world to change? Or do you want more fodder for complaint? Choose a side. I’m all for a droll takedown, but what’s your point, exactly? You’re rather Ambiguous.

        And I rather suspect we’re on the same team, except the team is winning here. Also, why is it “working out for me”? Did I say I smoke? I was actually mentioning that in at least one state it is not an illicit substance, as a direct response to the notion that is is an illicit substance.

        You can huff and puff and blow your strawman down all day, it won’t help your friend. or my mother, or the scheduling of the drug unreasonably under federal law. Which of those CAN we change?

        1. But as responses go, I can’t tell if you agree with me, or disagree, or are jealous, or just want to cut someone down a peg? Do you want the world to change? Or do you want more fodder for complaint? Choose a side. I’m all for a droll takedown, but what’s your point, exactly? You’re rather Ambiguous

          My point, I thought, was pretty straight-forward. MJ is sill very illegal, and many lives are chewed up and spit out owing to this illegality. The fact that in one place you’ll get a slap on the wrist doesn’t mean that in other places there are assult rifles being held to people’s heads.
          People who live in fairly liberal areas tend to think the situation “isn’t so bad,” because for them it isn’t. But in many places it is very bad, which is why we need the Fedral government to end its insanity.

  2. Not only oppose legalization, but to do so with lies if necessary.  The GAO found that this provision took precedence over some anti-propaganda rule in another law.  It’s fucked up, and legalization advocates have known about it for nearly a decade, thanks to (god I hate saying this) Ron Paul, who requested a ruling on it.  

  3. This is so incredibly depressing. How many people were imprisoned due to fascist marijuana laws in the time it took this monkey to write this letter?

  4. When I received the reply to the petition (I wasn’t expecting anything to come of it, it is an online petition after all) I wasn’t expecting the BS-meter to go quite so high. I would have preferred if the reply was a giant, 32 point “NO”. Would have made more sense and matched reality.

  5. The Drug Czar !== The White House.

    The White House is not “required by law to oppose marijuana legislation.” But in this case, they chose to have the Drug Czar respond to the petition, and that man is required to oppose marijuana legislation.

    The Obama Administration is still free to advocate for changes to the drug laws. By passing the buck to the Drug Czar, they are signaling that they aren’t ready to do this yet (or ever).

    1. Drug Czar is appointed by the White House to execute federal law.  Yes, the Drug Czar == The White House.

    2. The drug czar is a cabinet level position in the executive branch.  Which is to say, a part of the White House.  

      Even if technically Obama could come out in support of legalization (and I’m not entirely sure he could legally), but even if he could, do you know how screwed up it would be to have the President and one of his cabinet members advocating two separate policies?  

      1.  Uhm…. Tim Geithner is a cabinet member. Just pointing that out to you as an example of the sort of absurdity you’re seeking.

      2. The Drug Czar is part of the executive branch (not actually a cabinet level position, but whatever), yes, but that’s not identical to “the White House.” When people say “the White House’s position is X,” they generally mean the president’s own position. The president can certainly disagree with a cabinate member or a secretary. A cabinet member can disagree with the president. We don’t live in a totalitarian state.

        Indeed, the constitution explicitly states that the president can “require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments” — and this is pretty much all it says about the role of cabinets — and there’s not much point in soliciting advice if their advice is required to be your previously-stated position.

        No where does it say that the opinion of a cabinet member is the opinion of the executive branch, and no where does it say that rules that apply to cabinets or their secretaries apply to the executive branch as a whole.

        The point of all this is to say that neither President Obama nor anyone else in his administration, apart from Gil Kerlikowske, is required to oppose drug legalization. By passing the buck to Kerlikowske, Obama made a choice.

  6. The “Executive Branch’s” job is to execute what the Legislative Branch enacts.  This is how our government works.  It is a GOOD thing when our government follows it’s own rules.  We need need to attack drug prohibition at the legislature or by encouraging other states to also pass laws that violate the Control Substances Act.

  7. There is always some reason, some smarmy weasel words that allows the US Government to side-step away from any action that the voters want.



  8. Ya know, if they legalized it, they could charge taxes on it, just like they do for tobacco and alcohol.
    Less people in jail, smaller government, probably close a big chunk of the deficit.  So why isn’t the Tea Party pushing that idea?

    Just sayin’

    1. So why isn’t the Tea Party pushing that idea?

      Well, the unserious answer is “Because only dirty hippies smoke pot.”

      The serious answer is that Ron Paul and many of his fans have been supporting various substance decriminalization schemes for a while now.

  9. I agree with SamSam, to my knowledge there is no law requiring the entire executive branch to be in agreement on anything. If Obama was willing to take the political risk there is nothing to legally prohibit him from advocating legalization, even over the (official) objections of his own cabinet. A more accurate headline for this post would have been “Drug Czar required by law to oppose marijuana legalization,” which is crazy enough in itself.

  10. I support legalization, but your article’s dismissive caricature of the white house response does little to advance meaningful debate on the topic.  Suggesting that the other side are idiots, or ignoring us, doesn’t help.  I read the response, which basically said “we support research into medical benefits of marijuana, but have lots of evidence that marijuana usage can be harmful”.  The proper response to that is to refute  the evidence they bring.  In fact I believe the evidence that marijuana does damage health, just like tobacco.  But I also believe that it is inconsistent to ban marijuana while legalizing equally-dangerous tobacco and alchohol.

    1. The proper response to that is to refute the evidence they bring.

      The evidence is irrelevant. The point is that it’s not the government’s business. Refuting their evidence is like getting into a scripture discussion with a religious nut; you waste a lot of time adhering to their parameters for how the discussion should take place.

      1. I think that’s taking it a little too far. The general welfare is the government’s concern, and evidence is an important part of that.

        It’s the evidence that better sanitation in food-packaging factories leads to fewer outbreaks of food poisoning that leads to new rules from the FDA. This is a good thing.

        Whether the government ought to control adult’s own potentially-destructive behaviors is a political question, but if they do then I think we can all agree that their policies should be based on evidence, if only to decide which behaviors are actually destructive.

  11. Wasn’t the administration also “required by law” to enforce DADT while it was still in effect? 

  12. DADT contained a provision in Section 654 part b that allowed expulsion to be suspended if the Secretary of Defense found that the forced separation “would not be in the best interest of the armed forces.” Such a decision was not not reviewable in court, Congress, or anywhere else.

    It is standard for white house administrations to defend laws they may not agree with in court, through the solicitor general’s office. It is more telling, though, that this administration had the effective power to stop DADT  discharges from the very moment they took control of the executive, but instead did nothing at all. Obama deserves no credit for the end of DADT apart from merely signing the bill.

    1. Right, but that would have been a suspension, and a later administration would have been able to turn it back on. Staking that bill out in the sun and killing it properly is the only way to be sure that it wouldn’t come back to life ten years down the road. DADT was a fiasco from the beginning, and destroyed a lot of careers.

      The big problem with changing drug laws is that politicians need to get elected, and it”s really easy to go after any incumbent who supports sane drug laws with “and my opponent supports letting depraved violent drug freaks out of jail where they can steal YOUR car and rape YOUR daughter”. The stuff writes itself – and it’ll work, because parents are afraid of EXACTLY that. So, there’s no way we can make sane drug laws, when no politician wants to lose their job over it.

    2. Obama deserves no credit for the end of DADT apart from merely signing the bill.

      That notion is easily disproved by stating the obvious, which is that DADT wouldn’t have been repealed if McCain were president, just as it wasn’t under Bush. Ergo, Obama had a necessary, if not sufficient, role to play in ending DADT.

  13. Being required by law to oppose law change is of course not very democratic or nice, but if anyone here truly believe that marijuana legalization wouldn’t produce an insane number of junkies, you simply haven’t thought this through properly. Sure, some can use the substance in small amounts, without letting things get out of hand, but there’re so many who cannot. I know americans like to think it’s everyone for himself, but having a shitload of junkies in a society affects everyone. Prohibition does inhibit drug use. Of course it’s possible for laws to be excessive. I don’t know the particulars of american drug laws. But in general strict drug laws have a great positive effect on the society. Here in Sweden we used to have quite strict rules concerning alcohol, but as members of the European Union we’ve had to change them, and now we see dramatic increases in health issues as a result of increased alcohol use. If you don’t look at the numbers, it may seem that drugs are a minor issue in general, but if you study them, you realizy how insanely costly they are to the society. No recreational drug use should be accepted, ever. And I do include alcohol.

    1. Well, it will be costly either in addicts destroying themselves, or a huge prison population. Prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s in the US failed spectacularly, and caused a huge upswing in crime, while not stopping alcoholics at all. This is established historical fact.

      It’s easier for kids to get pot than alcohol or tobacco. It was true for me 20 years ago, and is true today. Because it is an unregulated marketplace, there is no restrictions on selling to teenagers – when they are most likely to suffer adverse effects. Granted, I grew up in a rough area and started drinking alcohol at 16, but it took far more effort to get alcohol.

      Self-destructive behavior will take place no matter what laws you pass. Food addicts, gaining hundreds of pounds? Should we issue ration cards, to ensure that we don’t bear the costs of treating the obese? Adrenaline junkies, addicted to extreme sports and danger? Should we put fences around every cliff face, to keep from treating their injuries?

      The law is a blunt instrument, and it does not work for any kind of substance prohibition. Especially ones like alcohol or marijuana which can be manufactured in the home. The effects of prohibition are far worse – take it from someone who grew up in the War On Drugs™.

      1. The idea that people will get their drugs if they want them, no matter what the laws are, is as widespread as it is incorrect. SOME people will get the drug no matter the inconvenience, but in general demand is linked to cost. If you legalize marijuana, it will be available anywhere at low cost, and the “social cost” of using marijuana will decrease. People who otherwise would be very hesitant to use it or who just don’t think it’s worth the hassle today will be more inclined to use it after such a law change. The laws does in some ways reflect the moral values of the society, and for most people such values do influence behaviour. If people would be able to smoke pot publicly without negative effects, people would be influenced in the direction of smoking pot.

        There are many ways to implement drug restrictions and drug prohibition. I’m not saying that America’s current laws (whatever they are) necessarily are the best conceivable, but making recreational marijuana use legal would cause severe damages on the society.

        Having a serious discussion about prohibition of alcohol is impossible in practice, because everyone’s seen to many gangster movies to even take the idea seriously. Here in the real world, the success of such legislation would be dependant on many factors, like popular support, degree of corruption, punishment for use, etc.

        The biggest problem with attempts to combat alcohol is the long tradition of alcohol use and how entwined it is with our culture. Here in Europe I’d say alcohol is the biggest social problem, period, yet most people just push away the very thought that maybe it isn’t such a good idea to drink it. As a result every new generation gets trained to drink alcohol and to consider it an important part of the cultural life, with gigantic health issues, violence, accidents and plain human suffering as the unavoidable consequence. It would be a tragedy if marijuana also got the same kind of acceptance as alcohol. Don’t let it!

        1. It would be a tragedy if marijuana also got the same kind of acceptance as alcohol. Don’t let it!

          Thanks for your input, but I’d prefer a world where people are high or tripping to one where everybody’s worried about what everybody else is doing all the time.

          1. If drug use only affected the drug user himself, the mind-your-own-business-argument might have some validity. But that’s not the case anywhere in reality. Children to drug users do not get to choose their parents. Anyone may get run down by a drunk or tripping driver. Violence is highly drug-related. And taxpayers usually get to pay for the economic damages in the end.

            So thanks for your input, mr Moderator. Personally I’d prefer some real world connection to hiding behind rocks.

          2. Violence is highly drug-related.

            Will you ban soccer, too, since that seems to be the cause of most of the violence in the UK? How about all the other sports that cause injuries and run up medical costs.

            If you’re that risk averse, maybe life isn’t the right choice for you.

          3. In Sweden about 75% of all violent crimes are committed by intoxicated persons. More than half of the convicted murderers in our prisons are or have been alcoholics. I don’t know what numbers you’ve got in the UK, but considering the drinking patterns, I’d be a bit surprised if they’re lower than that. Alcohol is also a major cause when it concerns accidents in general, not just in traffic. Hundreds of thousands of children grow up with parents who are alcoholics or risk-users of alcohol. And that’s just in Sweden. Worldwide alcohol cause about 2 million deaths yearly. It contributes to the spread of HIV, pull people down into poverty and is a major weight pulling down economy.

            So, if you think I’m just lashing out at any risky activity in general, you’re fighting a strawman. I’m trying to fight our number one social problem. We’ve already got way more problems with alcohol than we need, and we definitely don’t need more drugs in our society.

            Now if you have any serious argument to lay forth, go ahead, but stop recommending suicide, okay? I know I’m being provocative. People tend to get offended when I attack their pet drugs. Offending you is not my purpose, though.

    2. Sweden’s experience after making making alcohol more freely available is in-line with what happened after America’s prohibition was repealed. However, it was not the results that were expected. There was a greater incidence of alcoholism after prohibition than before it was enacted.

      Sweden drinkers will even out. But it takes years to get over artificial strictures placed on behavior.

      You should investigate Portugal’s drug policy to see a winning strategy, not America’s failed drug war.  The United States has the greatest per capita prison population in the world. There are more American’s in prison right now than live in Stockholm. 2.4 MILLION people in American prisons. Of course, not all are there for drug-related offenses. Only about half.

      1. I’m not familiar with the drug policy in Portugal, so I cannot comment that. (But I’ll investigate.) And I’m not familiar with the specifics of American drug policies, so I’m not defending or attacking it either. What I’m saying is that if a drug is legal, use of it will be much higher than if it’s illegal, and that marijuana and alcohol are very harmful to individuals as well as the society. Exactly what kind of enforcement of the rules and what kind of punishment that should be used can be debated. But prohibition in itself have an effect in sending the message that the drug is not socially acceptable.

        In Sweden use of alcohol has been very much connected to what kind of restrictions are in use. Increased restrictions have led to decreased use. Decreased restrictions have led to increased use. The same effect is observed when looking at rules within families and alcohol use among minors: If the parents forbid use of alcohol, the child’s consumtion of alcohol will be smaller than if the parents allow it. The effect is even bigger than the effect of the parents own alcohol use. Children to parents who drink alcohol themselves, but forbid use of it, drink less than children to parents who do not drink alcohol, but allow use of it.

        Despite this evidence, the misconception that restrictions will increase the attractiveness of a drug is incredibly common. In Sweden many parents give their children alcohol while trying to teach them to “drink responsibly”, instead of simply forbidding the use of the drug, and the effect is increased rather than decreased alcohol use.

        Social acceptance of drug use (or social expectation of drug use, as is often the case with alcohol) is a huge factor in drug use. Formal regulations are only part of that. The effective way to fight use of drugs is by fighting social acceptance, partly by influencing regulation and partly by rejecting drug use on a personal level. That’s what I’m trying to do. You can’t have recreational drug use without the negative effects that heavy use of the substance brings. Marijuana use will create junkies, and alcohol use will create alcoholics. And there will be health issues, violence, accidents and economic damage to the society along the way.

        1. The reason I suggested that you examine Portugal’s experience is because it refutes every point you raised. In fact, Switzerland and Holland also fly in the face of your statements.

          No one has ever died from a “marijuana overdose.”

          The “Gateway Drug” theory has been disproven multiple times, even by government studies.

          Do your own research.

  14. re: “… requires the office-holder to oppose all drug legalization efforts.”

    What does that matter? Just do what everyone politician does and lie to get the job.

  15. Arguably, the use that is being increased by alcohol being legal is the casual use – the occasional drink now and then, not the hardcore addicted use.

    Also, in the US, there are plenty of kids that use alcohol BECAUSE their parents forbid them to, and they use other drugs BECAUSE they’re forbidden.

    1. Very few people suddenly decide to become hardcore alcohol addicts. Usually they start out as casual users. Casual use leads to excessive use. Not for all people, obviously, but for a substantial percentage of the users. If casual use were to disappear, excessive use would also disappear. And even though hardcore alcohol addicts are heavily overrepresented when it comes to havoc caused, casual users of alcohol still cause a very large percentage of the trouble. Even mild intoxication increases the risk for bad decision-making and accidents, and it adds up.

      In Sweden there is no evidence supporting the idea that forbidding children to use alcohol or other drugs increases the use. On the contrary, all research done suggests that the opposite is true. Unless you have some very convincing evidence to show, I’m simply going to assume that you are victim to a faulty preconception. I don’t think the minds of American kids work fundamentally different than the minds of Swedish ones.

      If you just mean that there’s a small minority of kids who simply rebel against every rule (although the majority generally follows them), then sure, that’s probably true. But appeasing the rebels by sacrificing the rest of the kids doesn’t sound like a very good idea. You have to use different means to solve that problem. Many rebel kids come from abusive home environments, so you might start there.

      1. That may be the case in Sweden – where most rebel kids come from troubled homes – but it is definitely not in America. We are a society that glorifies rebels and rulebreakers – heck, one of the main conservative political groups takes its very name from an illegal act (Google the Boston Tea Party). Forbidding something, especially to American teenagers who are already rebellious by cultural expectation, is not exactly going to stop them from doing it.

        Plus, I think you’re conflating casual use with heavy, regular use of drugs. I know a number of people who have occasionally done cocaine. Only known one addict. Most of my friends drink. None are alcoholics, although a few (including me) came rather close. I know a great many people who use marijuana and an entire array of psychedelics. Only met a couple of burnout acid freaks. And all the people with addictions had serious psychological problems before they fell down that path.

        I had a fascinating talk a year or so ago with one of the leaders of the local Narcotics Anonymous chapter, about addiction and addicts. The people who survive find something else to get addicted to – a lot of them become addicts to religious ecstasy (Pentacostal, at least in his group) and use that to replace the feelings they got from heroin or meth.

        Is the problem intoxication, or addiction? Or is the problem bad decision making? After all, one of the biggest fouls you can make among my social circle is not being able to keep your shit together when you’re getting twisted. If you know that something is going to make you do dumb things, hand off your car keys to someone being on Team Sober that night.

        So long as it is not affecting someone else, what harm is there in selling it? Are we to set up a Big Mother-type state, that protects us from our bad decisions? Are we going to continue to encourage lawlessness, by continuing to ineffectively enforce laws that can never be enforced? Black markets exist for a reason – they serve desires that cannot be met in the marketplace. The more things you ban, the more you concede to the black market. This is a fundamental fact of the human equation. Wishing it different will not change it.

  16. “The ‘Executive Branch’s’ job is to execute what the Legislative Branch enacts.  This is how our government works.”  -Stonewalker

    True.  However, they are also able (and, even expected) to exercise judgement while enforcing these laws.  The ability to refuse to enforce an unjust law is one of the checks/balances that our system is supposed to have.  Just as the Judicial Branch can refuse to convict someone for breaking a law unjustly passed by the Legislative and unjustly enforced by the Executive.  The final balance is, of course, the jury’s right to refuse to convict someone that breaks an unjust law (Jury nullification).

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