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October 2003
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“A.M. Rosenthal, Drug War Stooge”

Last week, we were treated to one of the standard drug war cheerleader columns that could have been a press release from the Drug Czar. But this was by a Pulitzer Prize and Light of Truth winning, Presidential Medal of Freedom receiving, former Managing Editor of the New York Times. So what’s up?
A picture named rosenthal.jpg
For those who haven’t followed Rosenthal’s writings over the years, or the glee with which drug policy reformers have responded to the rich wealth of stupidity in his drug war pieces, it’s a strange story.
Today, I’m going take you on this little exploration of a supposed journalist who has spent much of his career spreading propaganda, and even conspiring with the ONDCP to find ways to use the press and the government to attack drug policy reformers.
Start with the current piece: Case for legalized pot is a deadly con job by A. M. Rosenthal. A few of the points he makes.

The specialists say legalization of it would create mass addiction and vastly multiply the cost of drug treatment.

What specialists? Unspecified. Based on Rosenthal’s past references to “specialists,” they tend to be drug addiction personnel who make their living from the war, or even work for the Drug Czar. History shows us that the mass addiction scare is completely false. Experiences in the Netherlands and past decriminalization in the states have demonstrated at most, a mild increase in use, and generally a decrease in addiction.

John Walters, the head of federal drug enforcement, says that of the 7 million Americans who need treatment for drug addiction, 60% are hooked on marijuana. “Marijuana is at the heart of drug problems,” he says.

Here, Rosenthal takes Walters’ distortions and stretches them further. This is one of the recent favorites of the drug warriors. The fact that 60% of those in treatment are there because of marijuana has nothing to do with dependence or addiction or being “hooked.” It’s because the criminal justice system is putting people in treatment who are caught using marijuana (regardless of any dependence issues) and treatment is used in the same way to deal with positive drug tests in the workplace, schools, etc. In fact, the over-use of treatment for marijuana users is actually reducing treatment availability for those who need it for harder drugs. (If we made everyone who was caught eating chocolate go through treatment, then I guess we’d say they’re all hooked and that chocolate is at the heart of the drug problem.)

Experts also point out that one marijuana cigarette contains as much tar as four tobacco cigarettes.

Rosenthal tries to infer danger above that of tobacco (which is legal). Yet, studies have shown no established link between marijuana and mortality, unlike tobacco.

For example, marijuana has now been shown to cause physical dependence and physical withdrawal.

True. So have snack foods. The National Institue of Medicine showed that dependency rates for marijuana use are dramatically lower than those for tobacco and alcohol (which are legal), and “marijuana dependence appears to be less severe than dependence on other drugs.” In fact, addictions specialist Jack Henningfeld (see, I can use specialists, too) ranked marijuana lower than caffeine in dependence, tolerance, and withdrawal.

[quoting a statement by “prominent specialist” Dr. Herbert Kleber] “Unfortunately, the American public too often is sold a bill of goods by a clever campaign funded by a small group of billionaires who have engaged in extraordinary advertising and political manipulation.”

This is a favorite rant of Rosenthal’s — that the drug reform movement is heavily funded and using their great resources to hoodwink the public with an expensive advertising campaign. Well, let’s see, so far my pay for doing this has come up to a whopping $0. And most of the drug reform organizations I know are being run by interns and begging for funds to pay for their web server space and postage (more on this tomorrow). However, on the other side, the ONDCP has an almost unlimited budget paid for by… us, the taxpayers. Whose propaganda ads do you see on national television all the time? (Oh, and by the way, the prominent “specialist” he quoted is a former deputy drug czar!)
Does A.M. Rosenthal matter?

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