The head of the largest lobbying group for narcs in California has asked President Obama to retract his comment that marijuana use is safer than alcohol.
Steve Riddle, president of the California Narcotic Officers’ Association, released an open letter to Obama Feb. 10. In it, he asked the president to take back remarks he made during a recent interview with David Remnick of The New Yorker.
The president told Remnick he thinks weed is “no more dangerous than alcohol,” and may be less dangerous “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.” He has yet to endorse changes to federal drug schedules that would make it possible to legalize pot, but he said he wants to stop punishing users.
Obama also called the legalization experiments in Colorado and Washington “important” and said he wanted to see what will come of them.
Not surprisingly, those words have galled drug warriors from Washington to California. The head of the DEA recently complained about the president’s comments at a private law enforcement event, where she received a standing ovation for contradicting her boss.
The anti-drug police lobby is especially powerful in California, where cops routinely block legislation that could bring order to the state’s medical marijuana system – because they know that would legitimize a system they still think they can destroy.
At the top of the pecking order is the California Narcotic Officers’ Association, a group that trains narcs and actively lobbies the idea that there is no such thing as medical marijuana. “MARIJUANA IS NOT A MEDICINE,” declares the opening sentence of the organization’s training manual on cannabis. Never mind voters said otherwise 18 years ago.
In his letter, Riddle insists Obama is leading the youth of America astray by implying they won’t die doing things their local D.A.R.E. officers haven’t pre-approved.
“Your comments in The New Yorker minimize the dangers of drug use, and by doing so, lessen the impression that drugs are harmful,” Riddle said. “Because of your honorable position as the leader of our great nation, you should hold the children of our nation to the same standard as your own children. It is never too late to do the right thing and correct a misunderstood statement and make it known that our nation’s future should never include the endorsement of illegal narcotics, including marijuana.”
Riddle’s letter is riddled with misleading statements and outright factual errors. Anti-drug zealots frequently do this, presenting numbers that sound big (4.2 million people addicted to marijuana in 2011) until you put them in context (at least five times that many Americans abuse alcohol).
The letter tosses out the old canard that weed is more potent than it was 20 years ago. That may (or may not) be so, but so what? If anything, the likely result is that people are smoking less dope, not getting higher.
And then Riddle folds back on his own argument, making the president’s case for him in the process.
“Addictive substances like alcohol and tobacco, which are legal and taxed, already result in much higher social costs than the revenue they generate,” he wrote to Obama. “The cost to society of alcohol alone is estimated to be more than 15 times the revenue gained by their taxation.”
Of course, that just means we should outlaw booze again and make marijuana legal. Riddle and his ilk, after all, are just about the only ones left standing who still believe alcohol is less harmful than weed. Cops don’t want to see the laws changed because pot busts pad their budgets and because cops generally don’t like change (or potheads).
Both sides will have to wait and see what the president says about cannabis next.