U.S.: Bill Would Repeal Law Prohibiting Drug Czar From Studying And Supporting Marijuana Legalization

OfficeofNationalDrugControlPolicy(ONDCP)

'Unmuzzle the Drug Czar Act' Introduced in Congress Tuesday Would Repeal Law Prohibiting the Drug Czar From Studying Marijuana Legalization and Requiring Opposition to Marijuana Legalization Efforts

Rep. Steve Cohen's bill comes one week after congressional members slam ONDCP for failing to acknowledge facts about marijuana and relying on marijuana propaganda

Did you know the Drug Czar is prohibited by law from supporting, or even studying marijuana legalization? U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) on Tuesday introduced a bill that would change federal law so that the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), commonly known as the “Drug Czar,” is no longer prohibited from studying the legalization of marijuana and no longer required to oppose attempts to legalize marijuana for medical or broader adult use.

“We applaud Rep. Cohen for challenging these absurd and antiquated rules,” said Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “Prohibiting the drug czar’s office from studying marijuana legalization is like prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency from exploring new ways to reduce pollution.”

“A majority of Americans think marijuana should be made legal for adults,” Riffle said. “The federal government’s top drug policy official should not be required to blindly oppose them. Our nation’s marijuana policy should be guided by science, not politics.”

Specifically, H.R. 4046, the Unmuzzle the Drug Czar Act of 2014, would amend the Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 1998 to remove the following language from the obligations of the director:

(12) shall ensure that no Federal funds appropriated to the Office of National Drug Control Policy shall be expended for any study or contract relating to the legalization (for a medical use or any other use) of a substance listed in schedule I of [the Controlled Substances Act] and.take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance (in any form) that --
(A) is listed in schedule I of section 812 of this title; and
(B) has not been approved for use for medical purposes by the Food and Drug Administration

Rep. Cohen and other members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform slammed the ONDCP during a hearing last week. Rep. Cohen chided the office for failing to address the National Institute on Drug Abuse's obstruction of research into the medical benefits of marijuana. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) criticized it for relying on marijuana “propaganda.”

ONDCP Deputy Director Michael Botticelli drew criticism for refusing to acknowledge that marijuana poses less potential harm to the consumer than heroin or methamphetamine.

“The federal government took a gamble on marijuana prohibition, and it stacked the deck to keep it in place,” Riffle said. “Now that it’s clear prohibition has failed, it’s time to cut our losses and adopt a more sensible, evidence-based policy.

“Every objective study on marijuana has concluded that it poses less harm than alcohol to the consumer and society," Riffle said. "Government officials should not be prohibited by law from acknowledging that.”