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Congressman: People Don’t Die From Marijuana, They Die From Heroin

by K.L Nelson

Not everyone will agree, but the sad truth is that the U.S. war on drugs is a failure. Some would even say that even calling it a war on drugs is a misnomer. On a recent episode of MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, host O’Donnell noted that:

“It is not a war on drugs, it is a war on drug dealers and drug users, but we don’t want to call it that because we know who the drug users are. The drug users are our children, our sisters, our brothers, our fathers, our mothers. They are otherwise law-abiding Americans who use marijuana to as much intoxicating affect as a glass of wine; they are Wall Street cocaine users and some of them are tragically, fatally heroin addicts."

Opponents of the war on drugs have noted that perhaps there would be more success if the government put more resources into drug education and treatment options.  O’Donnell agrees:

”The addicts need help not a prison sentence. The addicts need treatment. We have the resources to provide that treatment . . . but we waste that money trying to arrest them and to imprison them. . . .”
O’Donnell’s words were inspired by the actions of Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) who recently spoke at a congressional hearing on the war on drugs.

Directing his comments to Drug Czar Michael Botticelli, Cohen talked about the many ways in which the drug war has failed.

Financially speaking, he noted things could be handled better.

“There are non-violent, first-time offenders serving life sentences in jail costing us $30,000 a year. The population of jails has gone up 800% in the last 30 years. You’re concerned about costs and cutting costs but not when it comes to jailing a population.”

He also pointed out that philosophically speaking, the government could have taken a better approach to solving what he referred to as our country’s real drug problem.

“Mr. Botticelli, it is ludicrous, absurd, and crazy to have marijuana in the same level as heroin. . . Nobody dies from marijuana. Heroin and meth are the two drugs that are ravaging our country, and every death is partly the responsibility of the federal government’s drug priorities for not putting total emphasis on the drugs that kill, that cause people to be addicted and have to steal to support their habit. Heroin and meth are where all of your priorities should be . . .”

Just for good measure, Cohen shared a few thoughts comparing alcohol use to marijuana use.
“Violence against spouses and women. . . people don’t smoke marijuana and beat up their wives and girlfriends. They get drunk and sometimes they beat up their wives and girlfriends . . .”

O’Donnell applauded Cohen’s actions saying:

”Some of us publically and passionately insist that the war on drugs is a failure but we don’t get to say it . . . to the generals conducting that war. . .”