Former US Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey shocked the mainstream by declaring in Saturday’s Washington Post that “The momentum to treat marijuana as a legal drug is irreversible.”

McCaffrey, the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy during President Bill Clinton’s second term (1996-2001), believes that the popularity of marijuana legalization lately has intimidated authorities into silence on the issue. “The politicians, police, judges know this is bad policy but they don’t make a peep. So we’re going to end up with impaired surgeons and air pilots. We’re just accepting another drug of abuse.” Because, you know, surgeons and pilots have no access to pot now, but once it is legal, they’ll be getting high every day at work.

McCaffrey’s also upset that the mainstream media won’t take seriously the politicians, police, and judges who appear on air to support the status quo of drug war. He says he won’t “make a peep” against legalization on TV because the networks “only wanted a rented idiot general who didn’t understand that marijuana was harmless and filling America’s jails.” That still hasn’t stopped McCaffrey from making money opposing legalization; through his consulting firm, BR McCaffrey & Associates LLC, McCaffrey has delivered two presentations on drugs and crime in the past two years.

One year ago, McCaffrey was singing the same tune about how these poor elected officials are overwhelmed by a majority of voters who supported legalization in Washington State. “I think local political leadership in the state of Washington was intimidated and irresponsible, or uneducated,” he told the Yakima Rotary Club, blaming elected representatives who had nothing to do with passing the citizen’s marijuana legalization initiative. At that event, one Rotarian made a joke about supplying Twinkies to find who the marijuana smokers were. McCaffrey found that kind of casual attitude toward reprehensible, explaining, “If you’re an employer and you think it’s OK for family members and employees to use drugs, you’ve got a screw loose.” 

Yet five years ago, speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations, McCaffrey seemed to have no issue with adults who smoke pot. “Since I’m not in public life, I actually don’t care,” he responded to the question ‘why not just legalize drugs?’ “I care about 6th graders through 12th graders. If you’re 40 years old, and you’re living in Oregon, and you have 12 giant pot plants in the back of your log cabin, knock yourself out.” (Fortunately, I’m well into my forties and live in Oregon… I just need that log cabin, I guess.)

McCaffrey’s always had a problem with the growing truth about cannabis. As Drug Czar, he attempted to punish California doctors for merely discussing medical marijuana with patients, a threat that didn’t diminish until the Supreme Court reminded him about a little thing called the First Amendment. He once claimed that the famously marijuana-tolerant Dutch had twice the US murder rate (it’s about one-fourth), that D.A.R.E. was successfully keeping kids off drugs (a 10-year follow-up study found “the absence of beneficial effects” from D.A.R.E.), and that “[Medical marijuana] is not science. This is not medicine. This is a cruel hoax that sounds more like something out of a Cheech and Chong show.” McCaffrey’s lasting legacy as Drug Czar was using $25 million in taxpayer money to pay Hollywood scriptwriters to include anti-drug messaging in TV shows like ER, Beverly Hills 90210, and 7th Heaven.

Rented idiot general, indeed.

"Radical" Russ Belville is the host of "The Russ Belville Show."