Pubdate: Thu, 10 Jul 2014
Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)
Copyright: 2014 Albuquerque Journal
Author: Rob Hotakainen, McClatchy-Tribune
Page: A1


Administration Seeks $25 Billion for War on Drugs, Wants More

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 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.

In New Mexico, a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana use
stalled in the state Senate this year, but the measure's sponsor, Sen.
Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, said he plans to bring it back
again next year and believes such a move is "inevitable."

In addition, a legislative study on the possible effects of marijuana
legalization in New Mexico is expected to be released this fall.

However, Gov. Susana Martinez has spoken out against the legalization
push. A former prosecutor, Martinez has "seen firsthand how illegal
drug use destroys lives, especially among our youth, and she opposes
drug legalization or decriminalization efforts," a spokesman said Wednesday.

The federal 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

"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 on Jan. 1, and Washington state started
them 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 for by insurance companies as part of
the health care law passed by Congress in 2010.

But he said that more must be done to fight illicit drug use, which he
said is linked to disease, crime, highway accidents and lower academic

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 D's and F's,
two-thirds had used marijuana.

The administration sounded similar alarms in December. At that time, a
survey released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that 60
percent of 12th-graders did not view regular marijuana use as harmful,
and more than 12 percent of eighth-graders said they had used the drug
in the past year. The survey also found that teens were more likely to
smoke marijuana than cigarettes.

Botticelli has taken the temporary lead for the administration on drug
issues after the last drug czar, former Seattle Police Chief Gil
Kerlikowske, became chief of Customs and Border Protection. Obama has
not named a successor.

At a news conference in Roanoke, Botticelli introduced himself as "a
person in long-term recovery." He said he wanted to share his personal
story because too many Americans still view addiction as a moral
failing, not a disease. "Treatment works," he said. As part of its
plan, the administration said it wanted to step up its efforts to
eradicate marijuana grown illegally on public lands. That has been a
growing issue on forest lands, particularly in California, in recent
years. And the plan calls for increased targeting of indoor marijuana
growing operations, which are easier to conceal.

The administration's $25 billion plan includes nearly $11 billion for
treatment and prevention and $9 billion for law enforcement and
incarceration. The White House said the portion of the drug budget
spent on treatment and prevention is now 43 percent, the highest in 12
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