President Barack Obama made waves in an interview with the New Yorker magazine a couple weeks ago, in which he finally stated the plain and simple truth that no American president up until now has had the guts to tell, that marijuana use is no more dangerous than alcohol use. Pro-cannabis advocates took the statement as a cautious grain of optimism, while the DEA and sheriffs across the country crapped their cages.
The question though, whether or not marijuana is just as safe as alcohol, is an important one, as it casts a very real shadow of doubt over the retention of cannabis on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. In a House Oversight Committee hearing yesterday on Capitol Hill, the White House’s Deputy Drug Czar was grilled on this very same topic, and like the president, he finally gave in to reality.
|Deputy Drug Czar Michael Botticelli|
As the deputy director of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, Michael Botticelli was sent in to face the proverbial firing squad, and Virginian Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly was loaded for bear.
Eric Dolan over at Raw Story was the first to report on the exchange that followed.
“How many people die from marijuana overdoses every year?’ Connolly quizzed Botticelli.
Botticelli guardedly replied, “I don’t know that I know. It is very rare.”
Rep. Connolly pounced, “Very rare. Now just contrast that with prescription drugs, unintentional deaths from prescription drugs, one American dies every 19 minutes. Nothing comparable to marijuana. Is that correct?”
The Deputy Drug Czar continued to try to bob and weave his way through the hearing, but Connolly wouldn’t let him loose. Botticelli repeatedly fell back on the assertion that regardless of its comparisons to prescription drugs or alcohol, the “totality of harm” associated with marijuana makes it a danger.
The word “lethality, however, he saved for alcohol, when he said, “…to basically say that because marijuana doesn’t have the lethality or the overdose potential that heroin or alcohol does, diminishes I think the significant health consequences that are associated with the drug.”
Spying his opening, Rep. Connolly took the remainder of his time to paint Botticelli into a political corner by referencing the president’s recent comparisons between booze and buds: “I guess I’m sticking with the president, the head of your administration, who is making a different point. He is making a point that is empirically true. It isn’t a normative statement, that marijuana is good or bad, but he was contrasting it with alcohol and empirically he is correct, is he not?”
Amazingly, Botticelli tried one more time to instinctively squirm, but Connolly cut him short, and in the process expanded the “which is safer?” debate beyond just alcohol, to other drugs, particularly oft-abused prescription drugs.
“Is it not a scientific fact that there is nothing comparable with marijuana?” Connolly demanded of the Deputy Czar, “And I’m not saying it is good or bad, but when we look at deaths and illnesses, alcohol, other hard drugs…even prescription drugs are a threat to public health in a way that just isolated marijuana is not. Isn’t that a scientific fact? Or do you dispute that fact?”
Perhaps noticing the cameras, and the judgment of history, for the first time, Botticelli finally admitted, for the record, “I don’t dispute that fact.”
You can watch the entire exchange, courtesy of Raw Story, here