Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) on Tuesday railed against the nation's "dishonest" federal marijuana laws, describing them as a symbol of government irrationality at its worst.
"During a hearing with the deputy director of the Office of Drug Policy, there was a moment of clarity for me," he said the House floor. "I was struck by the realization that our own office, charged with drug policy, discouraging or eliminating drug use, might well be part of the problem."
Last week, the congressman asked the deputy director of the White House's Office of Drug Policy whether marijuana was more dangerous than methamphetamine. He also inquired as to the number of marijuana overdose deaths. But the deputy director would not give him an answer.
"Why is the $25 billion we spend fighting drugs each year so ineffective in stopping, much less reversing, the trend? Are our policies and programs misguided?" Blumenauer remarked.
"I think part of the problem is that we aren't honest about the impacts and dangers. Nothing better illustrates that than the continued misclassification of marijuana under federal law as worse than cocaine and methamphetamines. That's according to federal law."
The federal Controlled Substance Act classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, while cocaine and methamphetamine are both classified as Schedule II drugs.
"Is it possible that this federal dishonesty means that people don't take drug warnings seriously?" the congressman continued. "No one knows anybody who ever died from a marijuana overdose. The failed marijuana prohibition could actually make the real drug problem worse."
Blumenauer said marijuana prohibition put money into the pockets of criminals. He suggested marijuana was a "gateway drug" because it was so easy for a drug dealer to "offer his marijuana customer something else, something worse, something more dangerous" in the unregulated black market.
"I fear spreading misinformation and wasting resources, arresting two-thirds of a million people for something that most Americans now think should be legal, undermines what could be an effective approach," he added. "Think for a moment. Unlike marijuana, tobacco is a highly addictive killer -- over four hundred thousand people a year die from it yet tobacco use has declined almost two-thirds in the last half century. How did that happen?"
The use of tobacco was drastically reduced thanks to public education campaigns and cigarette taxes, Blumenauer noted. Outlawing tobacco was unnecessary.
"For me, this goes beyond issues of marijuana policy. It is a symbol of a political process that is not thoughtful, not rational on dealing with things from the national debt, to our failing infrastructure, to climate change. Isn't it time for us to face some facts, adjust some policies, and move ahead?"
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