Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) Introduces Bill Allowing Drug Czar to Speak the Truth about Marijuana

Press Release February 11, 2014
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<p>Contact: Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Bill Piper 202-669-6430</p>

WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) has introduced The Unmuzzle the Drug Czar Act of 2014 (H.R. 4046). The bill would repeal a little know provision of federal law that requires the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), informally known as the U.S. Drug Czar, to “take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use” of marijuana or any Schedule I drug for medical or non-medical use. The provision even prohibits ONDCP from studying legalization.

Because of the ban, the Drug Czar and his staff are unfairly prevented from stating their true positions on marijuana policy and are not even allowed to study the legalization of medical marijuana in 20 states and the District of Columbia or the legalization of marijuana like alcohol in Colorado and Washington. Many believe the ban makes government officials too afraid during congressional hearings to even say scientifically accurate statements like the fact that marijuana is safer than alcohol, heroin and other drugs when asked by members of Congress.

“It’s extraordinary if you really think about it: a federal law prohibiting a federal agency from even studying an issue, and then directing that agency to oppose any reform no matter what scientific or other evidence emerges,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.  “That such a law remains on the books is disgraceful.  I pity the intellectually honest staff at the drug czar’s office who are muzzled and censored, and effectively compelled to lie when they testify before Congress and speak to the public.”

A majority of Americans want to treat marijuana like alcohol. President Obama has said that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol and that legalization in Colorado and Washington should move forward. In January, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Obama administration will announce guidelines that will make it easier for banks to deal with state-legalized marijuana businesses.

The ban only applies to the Drug Czar, which means that the nation’s top drug policy advisor is forced to take positions at odds with the President who appointed him and the Attorney General that wages the drug war.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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