Drug Czar Spreads Outdated “Reefer Madness” Hyperbole at California Event Opposing Prop. 19

Press Release October 19, 2010
Media Contact

Stephen Gutwillig at 323-542-2606 or Tony Newman at 646-335-5384

President Obama’s Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske is in Southern California today to speak out against Proposition 19, California’s initiative to control and tax marijuana. Kerlikowske is appearing at a treatment center where he will claim that passing Prop. 19 will cause increased marijuana consumption and subsequent marijuana addiction.
Stephen Gutwillig of the Drug Policy Alliance released this statement:
“The Drug Czar has come to California to spread outdated “Reefer Madness” hyperbole about the health impacts of marijuana and to influence the vote on Prop. 19. The truth is marijuana prohibition has utterly failed. Marijuana is cheaper, more potent and universally available to any young person who wants it. Banning outright this widely available substance has only fueled a massive black market and enriched the increasingly brutal criminal syndicates that control it. We arrest more low-level marijuana possession offenders every year – half of all drug arrests in this country – and still don’t make a dent in demand or the underground economy.
“From a public health perspective, marijuana is far less addictive than either alcohol or cigarettes. And most people in treatment programs for dependence on marijuana in this country are there because they were caught by the police – 57% according to federal data. Just as disturbing, more than half of those people referred to drug treatment by the criminal justice system didn’t meet the clinical standard for marijuana dependence. In fact, more than a third hadn’t used marijuana in the 30 days prior to admission. Given the choice, wouldn’t you choose treatment rather than go deeper into the criminal justice system?
“The Drug Czar is ignoring for political reasons the longstanding realities of coerced marijuana treatment. People simply caught by the police are taking valuable treatment slots from people who have serious drug problems. Marijuana prohibition itself acts as a barrier to people who need help but are afraid to seek it. Director Kerlikowske claims to care about helping people with drug problems, yet his budget not only underfunds drug treatment, it underfunds prevention, education and harm reduction as well. His budget and strategy are nearly identical to the failed drug policies of President Bush who oversaw enormous increases in both incarceration and overdose fatalities. Instead of wasting taxpayer money travelling across the country to tell Californians how to vote, the Drug Czar should be working with Congress to increase funding for treatment and other services that not only save lives but save money as well.”
A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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