White House Pushes 'Drug Policy Reform,' a.k.a. Prohibition

Today the Obama administration hosted the
first-ever White House Conference on Drug Policy Reform. But don’t
be confused: Although “drug policy reform” usually means moving
away from the use of violence to stop people from consuming
arbitrarily proscribed psychoactive substances, that is not what
President Obama has in mind.

“Drug policy reform should be rooted in neuroscience, not
political science,” says Obama’s drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, in the
email message announcing the conference. “It should be a public
health issue, not just a criminal justice issue. That’s what a
21st-century approach to drug policy looks like.”  

In truth, this 21st-century approach to drug policy looks a lot
like the 20th-century approach to drug policy. Kerlikowske, who is
still upset that he does not get credit for ending
the war on drugs
when he took office in 2009, thinks
enlightenment in this area means forcing
drug users into “treatment” by threatening them with jail rather
than sending them directly to jail. He needs the heavy hand of the
state not only to impose treatment on recalcitrant drug users but
to imprison people who supply them with the drugs they want. That
is why Kerlikowske says drug policy is “not just a
criminal justice issue”—because he cannot imagine a drug policy
that does not entail locking people in cages for actions that
violate no one’s rights, whether those actions involve using
politically disfavored intoxicants or helping people do so.

Patrick Kennedy, co-founder of the anti-pot group Project SAM, likewise tries to
distract attention from the half a million Americans imprisoned for
drug offenses. “For too long drug policy has been caught in between
the false dichotomy of legalization versus incarceration,” Kennedy
says in a press release about the White House conference, where he
co-chaired a panel. The alternative to legalization is continued
prohibition, which requires incarceration. Prohibitionists like
Kennedy and Kerlikowske should have the courage to defend stripping
people of their liberty for doing nothing more than supplying a
product to eager buyers. Instead they pretend this is not

As for Kerlikowske’s claim that he seeks to depoliticize drug
policy, that is impossible as long as the government tries to
dictate what people put into their bodies. How can such an endeavor
be anything but political? The Obama administration, for example,
is committed to
the position that marijuana, which the Drug
Enforcement Administration’s chief administrative law judge once
“the safest therapeutically active substance known to man,” has a
high potential for abuse, lacks medical value, and cannot be used
safely even under a doctor’s supervision. This is Kerlikowske’s
idea of sound science.

Mason Tvert, director of communications at the Marijuana Policy
that Kerlikowske’s avowed respect for neuroscience is
also belied by his continued support for a policy that encourages
people to use a more dangerous intoxicant instead of marijuana.
“Every objective study on marijuana has concluded that it poses far
less harm to the brain than alcohol,” says Tvert, co-author of
Is Safer
. “The ONDCP has long championed laws that steer
adults toward using alcohol and away from making the safer choice
to use marijuana. If the drug czar is truly committed to
prioritizing neuroscience over political science, he should support
efforts to make marijuana a legal alternative to alcohol for

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/09/white-house-pushes-drug-policy-reform-ak

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