On marijuana policy, the big-talking, fast-moving, ultimately self-defeating Trump administration is currently frozen in stasis.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has yet to back up any of his tough talk on marijuana with action—this week, appearing to inch even closer to maintaining the current uneasy truce—and pharmaceutical industry-backed Rep. Tom Marino, the president’s thoroughly awful choice for drug czar, has yet to be confirmed.
In the meantime, Ed Shemelya, the country’s “marijuana czar,” is making the rounds, going to places like Wisconsin—where he recently declared cannabis “a generational nightmare,” and “the most misunderstood and dangerous drug on the market,” the Janesville Gazette reported.
Shemelya, a former Kentucky state trooper, is director of the National Marijuana Initiative. The NMI is one of several nationwide drug-education and drug-interdiction efforts that fall under the purview of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (which Marino will soon lead).
So, when Shemelya says something, he says it with the full weight and gravitas of the federal government behind him.
On Thursday, he spoke to a local anti-drug group in Beloit, Wisconsin, a small city on the state’s border with Iowa, and to a group of 35 people gathered at a local church, Shemelya expounded “on marijuana myths.”
Here’s the Gazette’s reporter on scene (warning: paywall):
“Today, marijuana isn’t what it was 10 years ago,” Shemelya said. He noted that the drug is more potent now than it once was.
Twenty-nine states have legalized some form of marijuana for medicinal use, and eight states and Washington, D.C., have legalized it for recreational use. Still, Shemelya said, it’s the most misunderstood and dangerous drug on the market…
He called marijuana a “generational nightmare” because children and teenagers think the drug is safe.
Not far away from Beloit is the city of Milwaukee, a place surely known to lawmen like Shemelya, if for no other reason than its colorful, cowboy hat-wearing, TCOT-approved sheriff. In Milwaukee last year, 343 people died from drug overdoses, the Journal-Sentinel reported.
Through mid-April, 72 people had died—meaning the city is on pace for a record 400 drug overdoses in 2017. And here’s the predictable reveal: Not a single fatal overdose has been attributed to cannabis.
Just to review: In the middle of a worldwide opiate crisis, with scores of people dropping dead from synthetic opiates (bought online and shipped via the mails from overseas) across the country—a situation so pernicious that “normal,” poppy-derived heroin is safer than the current supply—one of the White House’s leaders on marijuana policy is calling cannabis the country’s most dangerous drug.
A medical doctor was also present at Shemelya’s intimate talk to the local anti-legalization set. True to his profession, James MacNeal offered that “describing [marijuana] as the most dangerous drug on the market might not be a fair assessment.” He might be right, but then offered his own bizarre view on the drug, which is not the drug responsible for hundreds of drug overdose deaths in his state.
“It’s not a respiratory depressant, but that doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous,” MacNeal said. “You can hallucinate and walk out in front of a car, and that can kill you just as much as not breathing from a heroin overdose.”
(In case you were curious, because we were: We have never heard of someone intoxicated on cannabis wandering in front of a car. Not to say it has never, ever happened during the march of human history—but you can guarantee that you’d hear about it ad nauseam if it had.)
To his credit, Shemelya did briefly extol the value of medical cannabis, for which some lawmakers in Wisconsin are advocating.
“To tell you there is nothing medically valuable about this plant would be telling you a lie,” he said, according to the paper.
That’s nice of him.
At the same time, to say that youth usage rates are increasing—as his Marijuana Initiative does—would also be telling a lie, as researchers from the National Institute on Drug Abuse confirmed earlier this week.
To sit in a meeting room at a church in Wisconsin, a few miles up the road from where the victim of a fatal opiate overdose is currently lying on a slab in a coroner’s office, and offer a narrative that features marijuana as the country’s most dangerous drug is cartoonishly vile—and proof positive that more people are doomed to die before drug cops let go of generations’ worth of baseless, propaganda-based reefer madness.