PROPOSED CHANGES TO NATIONAL DRUG POLICY TO REDUCE THE LEVEL OF SUBSTANCE ABUSE

Teen Substance Abuse Is
The Largest PREVENTABLE and MOST COSTLY
Public Health Problem In America[i][1]

By now it should be apparent that we cannot control the supply of drugs, nor can we win the drug war by treating the wounded or turning our back on enforcement of narcotic laws.  After spending mass fortunes eradicating cultivation sites in Colombia, Mexico, Afghanistan and elsewhere, America now allows the cultivation of marijuana in the US under the guise of producing “medical marijuana”.

On the economic front, contrary to ONDCP’s $193 billion estimated cost of drug abuse and addiction, the real economic cost is much, much higher.  If one includes school dropouts ($470 billion)[2], health costs ($700 billion)[3], and estimated costs for mental illness ($174 billion)[4], welfare costs ($136 billion)[5] and traffic accidents and fatalities ($70 billion)[6], the real cost of America’s FAILURE TO PREVENT is arguably $1.7 trillion a year.  It is the most expensive problem facing our country, AND the biggest opportunity ….. if the government has the wisdom, courage and will to prevent the problem.

The human cost is enormous.  105 American die daily of drug overdose, probably one-fourth of all drug related deaths.  America has declined to 24th in the world academically, with a one-third dropout rate.  We consume 66% of the world’s illicit drugs, and house 25% of the world’s prisoners.  Gang members now number 1.4 million, almost twice as many as law enforcement personnel.

America has never done what works to prevent the disease of addiction where it almost always begins, on average at age 12 or 13.  Marijuana, even in small quantities, interrupts brain development and causes loss of IQ, leads to psychosis, suicidal depression, birth defects, cancer, diminished academic achievement and productivity, is a factor in over 50% of crime, exacerbates the school dropout ratio and contributes heavily to traffic accidents and death.  And yet, 4,000 kids between 12 and 17 start using pot for the first time every day., seventeen percent (258,200 a year) can or will become addicted.

There is a desperate need for leadership by the President, Attorney General and Congress to address this problem.  By turning its back on this problem, and even contributing to it, by not enforcing federal law, the nation has been put on a trajectory of disaster.

If we continue to allow the mass destruction of our youth, we have no future as a nation.



[1] CASA – The National Center For Substance Abuse And Addiction at Columbia University

[2] UC Santa Barbara High School Dropout Research.  Life time cost of each dropout is $387,000, x 1.2 million dropouts.

[3] The National Center of Substance Abuse and Addiction (CASAcolumbia.org) Teen Substance Abuse study.

[4] Dr. Joel Hay, University of California Los Angeles

[5] Conservatively estimated at 20% of welfare costs.

[6] United States Highway Transportation Service

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

FINDINGS – FEDERAL ENFORCEMENT OF CSA LAWS    Federal CSA laws and international treaties are of no value unless they are enforced and adhered to.  Prior to the current administration the levels of drug use had been relatively level for the past 20 years or so.  Owing to lack of enforcement by the Executive Branch, and even what can be considered encouragement by the President and Attorney General for states to violate federal laws, marijuana use has escalated from about 14.75 million to 18.9 million users (at last count), and growing.  Marijuana is extremely harmful in its own right, but also is a gateway to stronger drugs that currently kill 105 Americans every day.  Gang members have grown from 850,000 to 1.4 million according to the FBI, mostly aligned with Mexican cartels.

Two states have been given a free pass to legalize marijuana for recreational use, and twenty states allowed to carry on the ruse of “medical marijuana” which has spanned three Administrations, all the while knowing that whole crude marijuana is a Schedule I drug with no accepted medical use.  The US in the eyes of its international allies has become a rogue nation, allowing the cultivation, distribution and use of marijuana.  After leading the world effort against narcotics for four decades, and spending in excess of over $1 trillion mostly to interdict the flow and eradicate the production of illicit drugs, we now allow marijuana to be produced in California, Colorado and elsewhere, and distributed throughout the US.

The access and use of Cannabis (POT)-infused edibles, ingestibles, and topicals have become ubiquitous in our society. They are being produced, sold, and promoted in such a way as to circumvent all US drug laws and policies; and to such an extent that it has overwhelmed authorities in the states where they were “legalized.” Cannabis items and products have already leeched out into nearby states, and are now leeching out nationwide via the internet.

The lawlessness is so widespread, it is hard for advocates to make a reasoned response to it. However, the federal government HAS THE POWER to make a “reasoned response,” i.e., ENFORCE THE LAW.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

1)    VIGOUROUSLY ENFORCE FEDERAL CSA LAWS   Take whatever measures necessary to ensure that the Executive Branch upholds its duty to enforce CSA laws and comply with International Treaties. All 8 conditions outlined in the Cole memo to Colorado have been violated, and still no enforcement action from the DOJ.  Our international allies, such as Mexico, have stated the US has no moral authority to suggest drug policy and are even considering legalization of marijuana, which can only serve to the detriment of their own young people, and ours.

2)    IMPOSE ECONOMIC SANCTIONS.    There is no justification for rewarding States or local communities who violate federal CSA law with federal subsidies while they seek to profit from the sale of illicit drugs at the expense of all Americans.  The economic cost of enforcing federal laws in Nebraska and other states is now mounting as marijuana grown in Colorado (and other states) is being diverted.  Withholding subsidies from offending states and offering more to other states who are suffering the human and economic costs for their actions is warranted, and will act as a deterrent for other states who are considering legalization.

3)    CONTINUE TO WITHHOLD FEDERAL BANKING PRIVILEGES FROM MARIJUANA DEALERS   Drug dealers do amass a considerable amount of cash, and there is an inherent danger as there always has been having drugs and cash in the same location.  But drug dealers should not be allowed a legal means to launder their proceeds.

4)    REQUIRE THE FTC TO BAN FALSE ADVERTISING starting with the terms “medical marijuana” and “medical cannabis” which lead people, particularly young people, to believe marijuana is harmless.  When the perception of harm goes down, consumption goes up.  The general public, and all members of congress, need to understand that there is a difference between the isolated components, such as CBD, and the whole crude plant.  Referring to both as “medical marijuana”, as was/is the case with Dr. Sanjay Gupta and CNN speaking to a national audience, which misleads the public into believing the plant is all good, with no mention of the harms.  The American public deserve to know the truth about marijuana, and if they do, they won’t support legalization for any purpose.

The FTC should also restrict propaganda that suggests marijuana is safer than alcohol, which is neither true nor relevant.  The public needs to understand that alcohol is water soluble, excreted from the body in hours, and in moderation is relatively safe.  Marijuana on the other hand, is fat soluble and remains in the body and brain for over one month, compounding with each additional joint.  Only the federal government has the resources to counter the propaganda campaigns financed by drug money and/or billionaires who seem to profit in some manner by inflicting the disease of addiction on young people.

5)    ENSURE THAT THE FDA REGULATIONS ARE ENFORCED PERTAINING TO SMOKE, EDIBLES, FOOD SUPPLEMENTS, DRUG PHARAPHENALIA AND PROPER LABELING OF FOOD ITEMS FOR HUMANS AND ANIMALS THAT CONTAIN CANNABIS OR HEMP PRODUCTS.   The Executive Branch must see that the laws are faithfully executed, or there is no point having laws.   Two people in Colorado have already died from psychotic episodes after eating marijuana laced cookies and candies which contained vast amounts of THC. Emergency room visits for adults, children and pets who have ingested marijuana have increased dramatically.  Elementary school children have been caught distributing marijuana laced brownies and cookies at school.  Manufacturing these items must be eliminated and parents must be held accountable when contributing to the problem.

FINDING –  ‘MEDICAL MARIJUANA” IS NOT MEDICINE:  The term “medical marijuana” was coined in 1979 by the Founder of NORML as a “red herring”, to give pot a good name as a first step toward full legalization.  On the false pretense that it was for the chronically ill, the idea was sold to the voting public with propaganda campaigns largely financed by one or a few billionaires who don’t even reside in the states that have such laws.  In California particularly, the burden of protecting citizens has fallen heavily on local communities and law enforcement, who have clearly shown that dispensaries are nothing more than retail drug dealers.  California’s educational system has also suffered, with a truancy rate that costs $1.4 billion annually, and a 24.2% school dropout rate with a life time cost of $46.4 billion per cohort.  Actual surveys have shown that only 2% of the patients are actually the ones targeted by Prop 215.  Eighteen year old kids, who can’t legally buy beer, and whose brains won’t be fully developed for 7 more years,  have been allowed to get a pot doctor’s recommendation for as little as $20, then buy marijuana from numerous dispensaries.  This has created a vast new network of drug dealers praying on younger kids, and a new wave of drug addicts and school dropouts.  Doctors who issue these recommendations have little or no training in marijuana, since it is not medicine. Most are only in it for the money. Anyone can get a doctor’s recommendation for any purported illness.  For $300, one can buy a recommendation for 99 plants, which equates to 118,000 to 594,000 joints at 1 to 5 lbs per plant.  That is hardly about compassionate use.

The “medicines” are never labeled or packaged properly, largely have unknown ingredients, pesticides or potency, and the THC content on average is in excess of 20%, even 75% as BHO (Butane Hemp Oil).  The potency vastly exceeds what legal medications would allow.  According to the ADAMII report, 54% of arrestees in Sacramento (only place measured in California) test positive for marijuana alone, and 80% for all drugs.  The vast majority of “patients” are just in it to get high or make money, with no regard to the adverse impacts on themselves of others.  CBD, an ingredient that could be medicinally beneficial, is bred out of the product in favor of THC, the psychoactive ingredient.

RECOMMENDATIONS

1)     FIRST AND FOREMOST, ENFORCE FEDERAL LAW.  Marijuana is Schedule I drug because it has no accepted medical purpose.  By allowing states to initiate their own laws in contrast to federal CSA laws and all scientific evidence of the harms of marijuana, the burden of public safety has shifted from the federal government to states, and from states to local communities …. AT GREAT COST.  Local communities should not have to bear the cost for lack of enforcement by the federal government.  (See the attached document from David Evans, Attorney)

2)    IMPOSE ECONOMIC SANCTIONS –   Withhold federal funds from States and local communities that violate federal CSA laws, and in essence contribute to the problems and proliferation of marijuana use as opposed to the solutions.  That would include states and cities that allow and tax dispensaries, who are essentially double dipping and participating in laundering money for the illicit drug trade.  They should not be rewarded with federal tax dollars.

3)    EDUCATE CONGRESSIONAL MEMBERS –   Hold hearings for all congressional members to enlighten them on federal CSA laws and the scientific evidence of the harms of marijuana, why it is categorized as a Schedule I drug, how it is devastating our youth and how it is inflicting a tremendous human and economic cost on America.   There is obvious need for enlightenment  on both sides of the aisle.

FINDINGS –  SENTENCING GUIDELINES  Owing to the surge in marijuana use,  the courts have been overloaded with misdemeanor cases involving simple possession of marijuana.  As a result, some states, like California, have passed legislation stating one ounce (60-120 joints) is a misdemeanor subject to a $100 non-escalating fine.  While relieving pressure on the courts is defensible, the fine is nothing more than a small cost for a lucrative business.  Concurrently, the Department of Justice has taken it upon itself to lighten the sentence for non-violent crimes, which includes drug dealers.  The nation would benefit by clarity and consistency in defining and enforcing federal laws.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

1)    ESTABLISH NATIONAL GUIDELINES FOR SIMPLE POSSESSION OF MARIJUANA   making possession of small amounts an infraction rather than a misdemeanor to relieve pressure on the courts, but with escalating fines and consequences that are sufficient to serve as a deterrent.  There are 60 to 120 joints to an ounce of marijuana.  Simple possession should be limited to 1/8th of an ounce, or less, to deter distribution.  Fines for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd offense could be fashioned after DUI laws, possibly $500 for 1st offense, $2,000 for 2nd offense, and $5,000 for 3rd offense, plus restrictions on driving privileges, community service, evaluation and treatment, et al. The third offense could be a misdemeanor or require jail time.

2)    MANDATORY SENTENCES FOR DRUG DEALERS – Drugs are weapons of mass destruction, and dealing drugs should not be considered a non-violent crime.  The small number of people incarcerated for simple possession have mostly plea bargained down, violated probation, or on average had 115 lbs of drugs in possession.  People who profit by selling products that cause addiction, death and destruction should be treated as dangerous criminals.  Conditions for early release from prison should require a bond to cover costs in the event they re-offend after release.

FINDING – DRUG CZAR POSITION:  National drug policy, established through the Office of National Drug Control, is critical to literally every aspect of public service and to every citizen in this country. The total economic cost to America is arguably $1.7 trillion, making it the biggest budget problem ….. and opportunity for correction. The Director of ONDCP should have direct and continual interface with other Cabinet Members.  During the current administration, whereby the Drug Czar has reported to the Vice President, there appears to have been a disconnect between ONDCP National Drug Policy and the Department of Justice.  This has undermined the ability and relevance of ONDCP to establish and regulate national drug policy.  While Director Kerlikowske continued to speak against legalization of marijuana, for example, the President and Attorney General stood silently on the sidelines allowing the proliferation of marijuana to flourish nationally, then set a new low standard by giving Colorado and Washington a free pass to legalize marijuana for recreational use.  The Drug Czar position is not the least important position, it arguably should be one if not THE most important positions in the Cabinet.

RECOMMENDATION:

1)    ELEVATE THE DRUG CZAR POSITION BACK TO CABINET LEVEL  and have one national drug policy and not two, as has been the case. Substance abuse impacts literally every aspect of public service (health, mental illness, welfare, crime, education, traffic safety).  More people die just from drug overdose every 6 weeks than all the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan in 10 years, and the collective economic impact (arguably) is an estimated $1.7 trillion a year.  Substance abuse is not the least of America’s problems, it is the greatest, and should be treated as such.

FINDINGS –  PREVENTION.  Critics say prohibition of marijuana has not worked.  They are wrong.  It did work, but it could have worked better had there been a greater focus on primary prevention.   We have relied on children to make intelligent choices, when their brains aren’t even mature until age 25.  And we have relied on parents, the “anti-drug”, assuming all are capable or motivated to keep kids safe. That has been universally ineffective. According to CASA, 56% of kids are considered at moderate to high risk of substance abuse, largely because parenting is inadequate.

Of the $19.8 million going to ONCDP for Drug Free Community Grants, only 1475 communities (7.8%) receive funds, while 17,954 (92.4%) of communities in America get no help.  Of $1.8 billion for the ONDCP budget, only 2.6% is allocated for prevention and treatment combined, while there are light years difference between the two.  The road back from addiction is utter hell, and generally unsuccessful.   We can’t win this war by treating the wounded.  While historically kids used drugs for two years before the parents even found out, todays drugs (legal and illegal) are so strong that the window to save a young life may be only days, or weeks.  We need to prevent the onset of the problem.

Currently there is no uniform, effective, nationwide program to educate parents, kids and the general public on the harms of marijuana and other drugs.  Campuses must be cleansed of drugs and alcohol, using whatever means available, and Student Assistance Programs (SAP) available to fill the parental void at home.  There is dire need for a universal prevention program that works to deter or prevent the early onset of ATOD use where it almost always begins, with children and adolescents.  Now that the Administration has accepted that addiction is a preventable pediatric health problem, it requires a solution to deter and detect the early onset of the disease.   Given the devastating human and economic cost of addiction, and the growing threat to our children and adolescents from cartel sponsored gangs, SUSPICION AND RANDOM DRUG TESTING for all students is no longer an optionIt is a necessity!  Somewhere between 12 and 17% of all schools in the nation have some type of drug testing, but trying to market the concept to the 13,809 school boards in America will take too long, with mediocre results.  This is a case where the government must do for the people what the people cannot do for themselves.   Most schools would rejoice if it was a legal requirement, didn’t impact their budgets, and they didn’t have to engage in heated discussions with parents.  It would improve school attendance and reduce juvenile problems, and lead to a reduction in crime, traffic fatalities, physical and mental health problems, suicides, mass shootings, welfare et al, while producing a healthier, better educated, more productive population in this increasingly competitive global economy.  Drug testing reduced drug use in the military by over 90%, 60-70% in the work place, and has worked well wherever administered properly.  In some cases with private schools, drug use has been eliminated almost entirely.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

Research has shown that “…If a child reaches age 21 prior to smoking, abusing alcohol or using drugs, they virtually never will.” (Joseph Califano Jr., Founder, CASA)  While that is a lofty challenge, that must be our goal.  We have learned about marijuana’s impact on brain development and mental health, and in light of the epidemic of deaths resulting from prescription drugs, we can no longer gamble.  Not to the exclusion of other programs that work, like extra-curricular activities, critical hours programs, mentoring, Friday Night Live, et al, a good prevention program must include the following:

1)    EDUCATION.  A nationwide programfor all kids and parents K-12, as well as the general public, presented in a manner that is appropriate and effective for each age group.

2)    SUSPICION AND RANDOM DRUG TESTING.  As a deterrent, and for early intervention, establish a federal mandate for all schools to implement suspicion based testing for any child that shows cause for concern, to cover ALL students.  All forms of drug testing should be used, including hair analysis which has a 90 day window of detection (6 drugs – $35), urine testing (13 drugs- $5), saliva (6 drugs $8) and laboratory testing for synthetic drugs.  Consequences for positive tests should be well defined.  Parents must be involved and when found guilty of contributing to the problem, held accountable.  Fines for positive tests can cover the cost.

3)    ESTABLISH TEAM 21   A voluntary program for student leaders who commit to stay clean, encourage others to do the same, and agree to participate in a random drug testing program.  Charging $65 per school year for middle and high school students, which can be covered by discounts from participating retailers, and can provide funding for school prevention programs throughout the nation without impacting the congressional budget.  Upper classmen in this program can volunteer to speak to elementary school kids and hand out a “Trading Card” with their picture and credentials.  This has proven very effective (i.e. Coronado SAFE Foundation).  If kids take charge of their own future, backed by parents and the local community, they can create the energy and momentum for positive change ….. much better than adults.

4)    CLEANSE ALL CAMPUSES OF DRUGS AND ALCOHOL using the best means available, which may include a single point of entrance, sniff dogs, and other state of the art methods.  Getting drugs off campus reduces the propensity to use by 4 to 5 times.  (CASA Columbia)

5)    OFFER STUDENT ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS (SAP) and counseling at all levels.  At-risk behavior can be detected in early childhood, and during adolescence having someone to talk to other than parents is highly desirable and effective in many cases.  A proper ratio of students to counselors is extremely important to help those kids who need extra help.

While the government must help by establishing laws and procedures that work, parents are fundamentally responsible for getting kids to adulthood safe and drug free, and they could/should cover the cost for schools to help in the process. Except for initial underwriting of only $7 to $10 million, a program can be developed which will generate over $1 billion to schools to cover costs, and be self-sustaining, with no burden on the congressional budget. (If invited to do so, we would be happy to share details as to how that can be accomplished.)

FINDIINGS:   Over two-thirds of prisoners have a substance abuse problem, one-third meet the clinical definition of mental illness,[1] and 80% are high school dropouts.  Without treatment and acquisition of job skills, the recidivism rate is extraordinarily high; so also is the mortality rate for many who suffer from addiction within two years of release from prison.  With treatment, rehabilitation and some job training, the recidivism rate can be cut dramatically.  Another need is to find felon friendly employers.  In California, confronted with a court ordered prisoner release program, many felons are released back into communities where they aren’t welcome, can’t find legal work so they turn to drug dealing and rather quickly re-offend and end up back in prison.  Creating safe, sober communities which offer job training and treatment could greatly benefit prisoners re-entering, and keep neighborhoods safer.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

1)    Acquire property on demilitarized military bases, such as the 42,000 acre Camp Roberts near Paso Robles, to create a “second chance” village whereby those re-entering can learn skills while building their own houses in a safe and drug-free atmosphere.   Panelized light gauge steel frame insulated panels provide one possibility for creating “green” state-of-the-art houses, which can be done with unskilled labor.  They can create shelter for themselves while building houses for sale to others.  As additional skills are learned, they can build an entire house.  In a full community many other opportunities can arise for employment.

2)    Use the National Guard, or veterans, for minimum security and to be trained as trainers or supervisors. In the process they can gain their own opportunity for an affordable house while learning the skills to work for others, or create their own small construction company.


[1] The National Center For Substance Abuse and Addiction.  Behind Bars II