By Stephen C. Webster on February 04, 2014

Appearing at a House hearing on Tuesday, President Obama's deputy drug czar refused to directly answer a question on whether marijuana is more dangerous and addictive than methamphetamine or cocaine.

The hearing, called by Rep. John Mica (R-FL), was designed to offer legalization opponents in the Republican Party a chance to paint the President as weak on crime due to his recent comments in favor of marijuana decriminalization. Mica suggested that the President's statements are symptomatic of a "schizophrenic" policy toward substance abuse, adding: "We've gone from 'just say no,' then we had 'I didn't inhale,' and now we have 'just say maybe' or 'just go ahead.'"

Michael Botticelli, however -- who serves as deputy director for the Office on National Drug Control Policy -- likely came away with a different impression of Tuesday's discussion thanks to a prolonged grilling by Democrats on the House Oversight Committee.

The line of questioning from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) was particularly amazing to watch, as he repeatedly asked Botticelli to clarify why marijuana is considered a Schedule I substance -- reserved for the most dangerous drugs -- when cocaine and methamphetamine are both in Schedule II.

Botticelli was completely unprepared for the question and repeatedly tried to sidestep it, but Blumenauer hung on like a pitbull.

"Your equivocation right there, being unable to answer something clearly and definitively when there is unquestionable evidence to the contrary, is why young people don't believe the propaganda, why they think [marijuana is] benign," the Oregon Democrat said.

It took half the hearing, and numerous similar questions from Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Steve Cohen (D-TN), before Botticelli budged from the government's official line that marijuana is more dangerous than cocaine or meth.

"It is ludicrous, absurd, crazy to have marijuana at same level as heroin," Cohen said. "Ask the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, if you could. Nobody dies from marijuana. People die from heroin."

In the end, Obama's deputy drug czar ultimately admitted that overdoses from marijuana are "rare" (even though they're actually non-existent), and agreed that alcohol and prescription pills pose a much greater threat to public health than smoking pot.

"If someone cannot simply agree that marijuana is less harmful than drugs like heroin and methamphetamine, they are not fit to be overseeing our nation's drug policy," Dan Riffle, policy director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in an advisory. "This is just more evidence that it's time for a new approach to marijuana policy in our nation's capital. Our marijuana policy should be guided by scientific evidence and not the antiquated views of some federal officials."

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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