Pubdate: Thu, 10 Jul 2014
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2014 San Jose Mercury News
Author: Rob Hotakainen, McClatchy Newspapers
Page: A4


$25b Plan Would Focus on Treatment for Addictions

WASHINGTON - A day after Washington state joined Colorado in selling 
marijuana in retail outlets, the Obama administration on Wednesday 
criticized drug legalization and warned that a declining perception 
of risk is leading more U.S. teens to smoke pot.

In a report to Congress, the White House drug czar's office said it 
wants to spend $25 billion next year as part of a drug-fighting plan, 
including more on treatment for people addicted to heroin and 
prescription painkillers. It described the abuse of opioids as a 
national epidemic.

"We cannot leave people behind," said Michael Botticelli, the acting 
drug czar and Obama's new top drug adviser, who announced the 
administration's 2014 national drug control strategy during a visit 
to Roanoke, Va.

The report urged Americans not to stigmatize those who are addicted 
to drugs but to make sure they're informed of the risks.

"And we must seek to avoid oversimplified debates between the idea of 
a war on drugs and the notion of legalization as a panacea," the 
report said, calling it a "false choice."

Groups backing marijuana legalization criticized the plan.

"The drug czar's office is still tone deaf when it comes to marijuana 
policy. ... Legalizing and regulating marijuana is not a panacea, but 
it is sound policy," said Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana 
Policy Project.

Calling marijuana use among young people a "serious challenge," the 
federal report said the challenges have "gained prominence" with the 
decision by voters in Washington state and Colorado in 2012 to 
legalize the recreational use of marijuana for adults over 21.

Colorado began its pot sales Jan. 1, while Washington state waited 
until Tuesday. The Obama administration gave the green light to the 
experiments last August, saying it would not interfere if the states 
do a good job policing themselves. Opponents of legalization 
applauded the new report.

"I think it is very reassuring," said Kevin Sabet, who heads Project 
SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana). "It shows that this White House 
is still very uncomfortable with the notion of legalization, and I 
think it signals that they aren't too thrilled with how things have 
panned out in Colorado. It would have been much easier for them to 
avoid the issue altogether in this year's strategy, but they chose to 
address it - that took guts."

In a letter to Congress, Obama said that millions of Americans will 
be able to get drug treatment paid by insurance companies as part of 
the health care law passed by Congress in 2010.

But he said more must be done to fight illicit drug use, which he 
said is linked to disease, crime, car crashes and poor grades.

With studies showing teens less concerned about possible risks linked 
to marijuana, the report warned that youths who use drugs often are 
at risk for truancy and delinquency. One study, by the National 
Academy of the Sciences, found an average drop of 8 points in IQ 
between childhood and adulthood due to heavy cannabis use during the 
teen years. And a second study, by the Centers for Disease Control 
and Prevention, found that of those students who got mostly Ds and 
Fs, two-thirds had used marijuana.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom