Pubdate: Thu, 10 Jul 2014
Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Copyright: 2014 The Seattle Times Company
Author: Rob Hotakainen, McClatchy Washington Bureau
Page: A4


'Serious Challenge'

But Critics Call Drug Czar's Report 'Tone Deaf'

WASHINGTON - A day after Washington state joined Colorado in selling 
marijuana in retail outlets, the Obama administration 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 broad 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 of drug use.

"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 and Colorado in 2012 to legalize the 
recreational use of marijuana for adults older than 21.

Colorado began its pot sales Jan. 1; Washington began 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 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, highway accidents and lower 
academic performance.

With studies showing teens less concerned about possible risks linked 
to marijuana, the report warned that young people 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 from heavy 
cannabis use during the teen years. 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