Pubdate: Tue, 29 Jul 2008
Source: Arcata Eye (CA)
Copyright: 2008 Arcata Eye
Author: Bruce Mirken


There is no polite way to put this, so I'll just say it: Deputy drug 
czar Scott Burns is either an ignoramus or a liar. There are far more 
falsehoods in his interview than one letter can possibly correct, so 
I'll focus on two:

LIE #1: Tough laws and enforcement are reducing marijuana use: Burns 
says, "drug use is down in the United States dramatically since 2001 
. So we know that when we push back, the problem gets smaller."

Actually, virtually every expert analysis has found this to be 
untrue. In 2001 the National Research Council, in a White 
House-commissioned study, found "little apparent relationship between 
the severity of sanctions prescribed for drug use and the prevalence 
or frequent use."

Just weeks ago, a new World Health Organization study found that drug 
laws have little if any relationship to use rates -- and that the 
rate of marijuana use in the U.S. is over double that of the 
Netherlands, where adults are permitted to possess and purchase small 
amounts of marijuana from regulated businesses.

LIE #2: Marijuana belongs in Schedule I, with drugs like LSD and 
heroin that are banned from medical use. Burns says, "Because of the 
higher potency, it is the same as cocaine and methamphetamine and 
heroin ... I say you should try crack, because from what I hear, 
crack cocaine will make you feel really good as well. This is not 
about making people feel better ... physician after physician, and 
scientist after scientist have said 'You have got to be kidding me.' "

Oh dear. First, does Burns really believe that relieving suffering 
(making sick patients "feel better") is somehow inappropriate for 
medicine? Is he unaware of the mass of clinical research documenting 
that marijuana does indeed relieve symptoms such as nausea, vomiting 
and neuropathic pain?

Second, methamphetamine and cocaine are in Schedule 2 -- that is, 
they are legal medicines. And no, the approximate doubling of average 
marijuana potency over the last 20 years doesn't make it a whole new 
drug -- not any more than wine is a whole different drug than beer 
because it has three times the alcohol level. Indeed, there is no 
proof that higher potency marijuana poses any danger at all. A recent 
analysis in the journal Addiction stated, "more research is needed to 
determine whether increased potency and contamination translates to 
harm for users."

As for what doctors think, the American College of Physicians -- 
124,000 neurologists, oncologists and other internal medicine 
specialists -- recently called for marijuana to be taken out of 
Schedule I "given the scientific evidence regarding marijuana's 
safety and efficacy in some clinical conditions."

Did Mr. Burns' nose grow longer as he was speaking?


Bruce Mirken, Director of Communications, Marijuana Policy Project

Washington, DC