“Opiates are far more addictive than marijuana,” Congressman Jared Polis said last week. “That is a fact.”
Yet this particular fact is one that the Democrat was able to extract from DEA administrator Michele Leonhart only after a stunning interrogation in which she acted as if he were demanding she choose between Hitler and Stalin on a scale of evil.
The relevant exchange began at a congressional hearing on the DEA’s priorities when Polis asked Leonhart if crack cocaine (not an opiate, obviously) were more dangerous for a user than marijuana.
Leonhart: “I believe all illegal drugs are bad.”
Polis: “Is methamphetamine worse for somebody’s health than marijuana?”
Leonhart: “I don’t think any illegal drug …”
Polis: “Is heroin worse for someone’s health than marijuana?”
Leonhart: “Again, all the … .”
Polis: “Yes, no, or I don’t know. I mean, if you don’t know, you can look this up. … I am asking you a very straightforward question.”
Leonhart: “All illegal drugs are bad.”
Polis: “Does that mean you don’t know?”
Leonhart: “Heroin causes an addiction. … It causes many problems. It’s very hard to kick.”
Polis: “So does that mean that the health impact of heroin is worse than marijuana … ?”
“I think you’re asking a subjective question … .”
Polis: “I’m just asking you as an expert in the subject area … .”
Leonhart: “And I’m answering as a police officer and as a DEA agent that these drugs are illegal because they are dangerous, because they are addictive, because they do hurt a person’s health.”
Polis: “So is heroin more addictive than marijuana?”
Leonhart: “Generally, the properties of heroin, yes, are more addictive.”
“We have an agency that can’t even acknowledge basic scientific facts,” Polis told me later. Indeed, its officials seem to believe that drawing distinctions between marijuana and other outlawed drugs is tantamount to encouraging pot’s use — as if intellectual honesty would thrust the agency into the drug legalization camp.
Yet you can, of course, make a perfectly good argument against legalizing marijuana and at the same time admit that you’d be far more alarmed if you found your 17-year-old experimenting with heroin, cocaine or meth than with pot — however much you deplore all teenage drug use.
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, “Heroin is particularly addictive because it enters the brain so rapidly. … Cardiac function slows. Breathing is also severely slowed, sometimes to the point of death.”
Surely our blunderbuss DEA should be able to admit that whatever the downsides of marijuana, overdose deaths are not among them.
True, pot’s proponents have a pronounced tendency to dismiss its perils, particularly for the young. But the DEA easily outdoes them for un-nuanced answers, such as Leonhart’s empty mantra that “all illegal drugs are bad.”
Maybe this explains why the last two DEA agents in charge of the Denver office have taken such clumsy public stances against Colorado’s medical marijuana law, with the current chief agent saying she’d refuse to live in a city with dispensaries.
Does that mean she’ll have to leave the state if voters approve a measure on this fall’s ballot decriminalizing the drug?
The DEA is an important federal agency. It would be helpful if it weren’t staffed by propagandists.