- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 8, 2005

To those who have worked on federal narcotics legislation for decades, the notion of state referenda allowing “medical” marijuana, as an exception to federal drug trafficking laws, has always been an oxymoron.

There was nothing “medical” about smoking marijuana; the two words were mutually exclusive. The idea made no more sense than “medical glue sniffing, or free-lance “medical heroin injection.” It was dangerous, indulgent nonsense at best, a cynical hoax at worst. Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s lucid ruling this week, the hoax is over.

The so-called “medical marijuana movement,” led by cleaned-up former hippies and underwritten by three or four wealthy anti-establishment millionaires, including George Soros, seems to have been intended to find a back door into the federal legislative, federal law enforcing, and federal regulatory process — one that logically, sensibly and thankfully forbids the production, sale and distribution of narcotics.

To the clever few, a possibility of tricking the vast majority of Americans into supporting a colossal change in society’s approach to a substance that measurably lowers human immunities, thus leading to early death for those with AIDS; creates direct and polydrug addition; accounts for the greatest number of young people in drug treatment today; contributes to tens of thousands of emergency room incidents annually; and alters personalities and brain function — seemed just too good to be true.

The motivation was always mixed. The leading aim was to dupe a coalition of former and present drug users, relatively inattentive libertarians, states’ rights conservatives, and anti-establishment liberals into toppling existing laws. Never mind that those laws protect kids, stop polydrug trafficking, empower our local, state and federal law enforcement officers to exclude drug trafficking from our communities, reduce violent personal and property crime, and have helped prevent everything from domestic abuse to workplace accidents.

The idea was simple. They would execute a multiyear end-run on Congress, which tends to place special value on kids and community safety. They would politically seek to subvert the Food and Drug Administration’s lengthy drug trials and science-based safety studies by claiming an urgent need, and a state’s right to redefine what constitutes “medicine.”

They would press for “administration” of the narcotic by a sophisticated process called “smoking.” They would disparage and reduce proven pain relievers, from synthetic Marinol, based on similar elements, to hundreds of other pain-relief options.

Cynically, they would first recruit and roll onto radio and television a coalition of willing victims, especially those with terminal diseases, who could be poster folks for their movement. They would ignore, diminish, outspend and dismiss lifetime efforts by parents — tens of thousands of them — who lost kids or worked with kids suffering from drug abuse. They would vilify the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration, Office of National Drug Control Policy, nonprofits like DARE America and anyone who points out the lunacy in this campaign of disinformation. They would merge their movement into the United Nations, which would defend elements of it under the rubric of “harm reduction,” work it across Europe, expand the “medical marijuana” notion into areas like giving away drugs and needles in European countries.

It was a good plan, from both a strategic and operations viewpoint. You can fool all the people some of the time. The strategy would catch off-guard overworked and underfunded U.S. legislators. Parent groups and nonprofits fighting to preserve kids’ lives, from the Partnership for a Drug Free America to PRIDE, would be methodically, frenetically and geographically outspent. The messages of the 1980s — such as Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” and that decade’s success in lowering drug use of all kinds across all age groups and all drugs — would be criticized, mocked, hopefully forgotten. The plan would leverage wide European anti-establishment drug distribution efforts, in places like Amsterdam and Switzerland, to shame America into “getting with the Euro program” and “coming along.” It was a neatly packaged approach.

But Americans are not fools. Americans and the U.S. Congress are not about to choose the freedom to “smoke” a dangerous drug — even one conveniently described as “medical” through the magic of open-ended state referenda — over the safety and health of their kids, or the safety and health of the their nation. This is America, not Amsterdam or Switzerland; the United States, not the United Nations.

As a people, we have long respected those we elect to craft federal criminal laws, and we rightly revere those who defend us by enforcing them. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. Supreme Court takes a similar view. Neither our reverence for the rule of law and medical science, nor the Supreme Court’s, is likely to change. You cannot fool all the people all the time.

Accordingly, the “medical pot” hoax is over.

Robert Charles, former assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement, 2003-2005, is president of the Charles Group in Gaithersburg, Md.

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