It’s hard to imagine, especially from a pharmacological point of view, why everyone doesn’t recognize that methamphetamine abuse is a major concern in our country. Yet oddly, our Drug Czar, John Walters, head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), still refuses to concentrate his publicly reported annual budget of nearly $15 billion on meth—instead choosing to continue the government’s breathless, hysterical and now 69-year-old national Reefer Madness campaign.

On another of his now-infamous antidrug junkets, this time in Oregon, which according to government and arrest data has higher-than-average meth abuse, Walters was asked by a reporter from the Oregonian why he has concentrated on pot, not meth, during his five-year tenure. Walters responded by noting that marijuana remains the most widely used illicit drug, branding public officials who identify meth as the bigger crime problem “short-sighted” and claiming that most meth users he meets at rehab centers say they started with pot.

“People don’t want to hear about that epidemic,” Walters said. “They don’t want to hear that BC Bud and high-potency marijuana are coming into our country. We’ve got more kids dependent on marijuana than all other illegal drugs combined. There is a kind of blind spot here that I think has to be confronted: ‘Marijuana is okay. It’s all the other hard drugs that are bad.’ That’s silly.”

Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis, however, quickly and plainly disagreed, reminding the same press junket that “methamphetamine is directly associated with violent and psychotic behavior. Marijuana is not.”

Walters later shrugged off local reporters’ and columnists’ suggestions that his timely visit to Oregon was part of the ONDCP’s barely veiled efforts to blunt local marijuana-law-reform efforts nationwide—specifically, in this case, a well-funded effort called Citizens for a Safer Portland, which is trying to make marijuana the lowest police priority in that city.

A few days after Walters’s propaganda visit to Oregon, Drug Czarina-in-waiting Mary Ann Solberg, the ONDCP’s deputy director, was enlisted for one of her many taxpayer-funded antimarijuana public-relations efforts, this time to obliquely oppose the SAFER campaign’s efforts in Colorado to remove all penalties and fines for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana. Spouting off in the Christian Right’s Focus on the Family daily newsletter (based in Colorado Springs, CO), Solberg wrote that marijuana “is not a benign drug, but a serious drug with consequences. To legalize something for recreational purposes, that we have documented does health harm to people, seems silly.”

“Silly.” Hmmm. Seems to me like that’s the exact same way we treat alcohol. But at least the ONDCP stayed on message.

Allen St. Pierre is the executive director of NORML, 888-67-NORML, norml.org (check out the Internet’s most popular pro-pot podcasts at
normlaudiostash.com).