Is Asa Hutchinson Qualified To Run DEA?

Is Asa Hutchinson Qualified To Run DEA?
Posted by FoM on August 31, 2001 at 08:47:58 PT
By Alan Bock
Source: WorldNetDaily 
All right, it hardly qualifies as big news that a Bush administration appointee would be an embodiment of the conventional political wisdom, perhaps slightly to the right of the Beltway consensus, but unlikely to think outside the box. In the case of Asa Hutchinson, who struck me as the most capable of the ultimately doomed House impeachment managers, however, it seems something of a shame. Ah, well, he made the choice to take the job as head of the Drug Enforcement Administration. It's likely to end his political career and make him something of a laughingstock. 
Or, maybe, when he finishes the years of peddling disinformation which that job has to entail, unless one is willing to admit the obvious failure of the drug war, he can write a book on morals and become a wealthy ้minence grise. Still, it's disappointing that an apparently able and intelligent person would be so stubborn about disseminating obvious falsehoods. It's not so surprising that the Arkansas Republican former congressman, during his first week as head of the Drug Enforcement Administration would promise bravely that the federal government will devise some method to enforce the federal ban on use of marijuana for medical purposes. His position is, after all, a law enforcement job and the U.S. Supreme Court recently affirmed (albeit on narrow grounds) the federal laws against sale and use of marijuana, even for medical purposes. The most disappointing aspect of Mr. Hutchinson's comments on taking office was, as Kevin Zeese of Common Sense for Drug Policy told me, "not just the implicit disrespect for voters in the nine states that allow medicinal marijuana use, but his continuing peddling of the myth that there is no scientific evidence of marijuana's medical value." Hutchinson also implied that any slackening of enforcement efforts might "send the wrong message" to teenagers, a rhetorical flourish that should have been discredited long ago, quite recently by a report commissioned by the last "drug czar," but apparently lives on in certain peoples' mental fantasies. Mr. Hutchinson told reporters on his first official day in office that the scientific and medical communities have determined that there is no legitimate medical use for marijuana but "if they continue to study it we will listen to them." He said it is important to "send the right signal" when dealing with medical marijuana enforcement issues. Those statements suggest he is completely unfamiliar with the Institute of Medicine report commissioned by former "drug czar" Barry McCaffrey after California and Arizona passed initiatives in 1996 authorizing medical use of marijuana (and other drugs in Arizona's case) and issued in March 1999. The Institute of Medicine is a division of the National Academy of Sciences convened to provide accurate information when science, medicine and public policy intersect. The IOM report ("Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base") was based on a thorough review of all the scientific papers extant on the subject as well as some investigations the panel undertook itself. It summarized its conclusions as follows: Advances in cannabinoid science of the past 16 years have given rise to a wealth of new opportunities for the development of medically useful cannabinoid-based drugs. The accumulated data suggest a variety of indications, particularly for pain relief, entiemesis, and appetite stimulation. For patients such as those with AIDS or who are undergoing chemotherapy, and who suffer simultaneously from severe pain, nausea and appetite loss, cannabinoid drugs might offer broad-spectrum relief not found in any other single medication. The data are weaker for muscle spasticity but moderately promising. While contending that the future of medical marijuana does not lie in the smoked plant, the report acknowledged that "until a non-smoked rapid-onset cannabinoid drug-delivery system becomes available [which the report suggested might be 10 years], we acknowledge that there is no clear alternative for people suffering from chronic conditions that might be relieved by smoking marijuana, such as pain or AIDS wasting." The report recommended that the federal government set up a program to allow such use, under tightly-controlled conditions for severe illnesses only. Barry McCaffrey, after the report was issued, found one sentence he could quote without giving up his self-image as a valiant drug warrior, the sentence about the future of medical marijuana not lying in smoked raw plant. He was fond of embellishing the sentence by going into a lame laugh line about a big doobie not being medicine in modern America. Some audiences laughed. Too few knew that, in so doing, he was ignoring the rest of the report completely – and too few in the media knew enough to ask him the question. Considering his personal testiness, he might never have answered it if he had been asked anyway. One might have hoped that Asa Hutchinson would have approached the issues with a little more concern for accuracy. It is accurate, after all, that marijuana is still on Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act (whether justifiably or not is another question), which means that possession, manufacture and use are all prohibited. It is not accurate that the "scientific and medical community" agrees there are no medical uses. Whether Hutchinson said so out of ignorance or as a conscious deception I don't know, but those are the only two logical choices. (A strict constructionist might wonder where the central government got the authority to enact such a prohibition since it isn't in the Constitution and it took an amendment to prohibit beverage alcohol. But you don't find many authentic strict constructionists or constitutionalists in conservative ranks these days, however promiscuously they may sling the rhetoric.) The IOM report also addressed the "sending the wrong message" issue. It reported, after analyzing several cases of modest liberalization, including the state-level debate on medical marijuana, that "there is no evidence that the medical-marijuana debate has altered adolescents' perceptions of the risks associated with marijuana use." In fact, it found a slightly higher perception of risk among California teenagers – though, in truth, probably not a statistically significant difference – than among teenagers in other states in the year or two following the campaign that led to the passage of Prop. 215 in 1996. So the "send the wrong message" argument – even aside from the question of whether in a free society it is the government's job to manipulate and massage teenagers' attitudes – is totally bogus. Asa Hutchinson should know it. If he doesn't, he's not qualified for the job he holds. (Self-serving suggestion time. All of this and a great deal more is in my current book, "Waiting to Inhale," available at your local bookstore or at and Later, in an interview with Robert Novak and Al Hunt on CNN, Mr. Hutchinson rebuffed a question about whether, in a federalist system, state law should trump federal law by saying "that's not consistent with the supremacy clause of the Constitution." But in the recent Supreme Court case, the government did not make a supremacy clause argument, an omission so striking that Justice Ruth Ginsburg asked about it. The government attorney responded that the supremacy clause was not at issue here, that in certain states the federal law and state laws were simply different. Mr. Hutchinson, a skilled and experienced attorney, should check the transcripts. He should also be aware that none of the state laws authorizing medical use of marijuana have been challenged in court on the ground that they are in conflict with federal law or for any other reason – for the simple reason that the prohibitionists know they would lose. All this means state officials are bound to enforce state laws and it is up to federal officials to enforce federal law. Mr. Hutchinson has acknowledged that this will be a delicate problem. Before he addresses it, he would do well to read the Institute of Medicine report - the summary, along with reports on other scientific studies, is available at -- and at -- -- complete report at -- and research the legal issues more thoroughly. If he reads the IOM report he just might learn one more item of interest. The IOM team noted that the most predominant argument for keeping marijuana illegal that it encountered during its hearings had to do not so much with the inherent dangers of marijuana itself – for the simple reason that they are few and mild and even prohibitionists know this – but the fear that use of marijuana would lead to the use of "harder" and more genuinely dangerous drugs. So the IOM experts dealt with the issue at length. They noted that the theory can be viewed two ways. There's the "stepping stone" hypothesis, which suggests that there is something about the chemical or pharmacological qualities of marijuana that leads users to be more likely to try other illicit or dangerous drugs. After reviewing the available scientific studies, the IOM report concluded that "There is no evidence that marijuana serves as a stepping stone on the basis of its particular physiological effect." No evidence. Zip. Zero. Nada. The other way to view the fear is as the "gateway" theory, for which there is some scientific evidence. The IOM report made it clear that "the gateway theory is a social theory. The latter does not suggest that the pharmacological qualities of marijuana make it a risk factor for progression to other drug use. Instead, the legal status of marijuana makes it a gateway drug." Come again? You mean the only reason with any credible scientific support to suspect that people who use marijuana might move on to other, more dangerous drugs is that marijuana is illegal, and people who seek to obtain it are likely to come in contact with an underground world in which other drugs are available and dealers stand to make bigger profits by saying "Why don't you try something a bit more interesting? I've got a sample right here"? Yep. You mean that insofar as some teenagers who try marijuana do move on to more dangerous drugs, the reason is that our political leaders keep marijuana illegal? That the prohibitionists are ultimately responsible for the suffering, devastation and even deaths caused by people who move on from marijuana to other drugs? At least partially so. Time to learn the facts and face them, Mr. Hutchinson. Then see if you can look at yourself in the mirror.Alan Bock is author of "Ambush at Ruby Ridge" and "Waiting to Inhale: The Politics of Medical Marijuana." Senior editorial writer and columnist at the Orange County Register, he is also a contributing editor at Liberty magazine. Source: WorldNetDaily (US Web)Author: Alan BockPublished: August 31, 2001Copyright: 2001, Inc.Contact: letters worldnetdaily.comWebsite: Articles:DEA Head Can Lead in a New Direction or Fail Head Says No to Medical Marijuana Articles - Asa Hutchinson 
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Comment #7 posted by lookinside on August 31, 2001 at 19:37:32 PT:
slightly off subject...
recieved a notice with my paycheck said that "random drug testing would commence on october1st...i am married to a medical marijuana patient...i havenot smoked pot in 8 years...i've NEVER failed a pee first thought upon reading this notice(after the blindingRED rage passed) was that now seemed like a good time tostart smoking again..(i am dead serious)later in the day, after making a few calls on company timeto other employers(had 3 job offers), the general managerstopped by my job...i stopped him and firstly asked for a $5an hour raise..(this may happen, if he wants to retain me athis company)...after that was discussed and a date for a decisionreached(tuesday), i asked him "what's up with that notice?"he talked at length about job safety and explained that anemployee found dirty will have the opportunity to enroll ina drug rehab program and return to work as soon as he tests"clean"...(minimum 30 day layoff)...i didn't point out thatit was very unlikely that an employee would be workingelsewhere within the week...he'll find out the hardway...he'll also find out that it is mostly key people whoneed to unwind during the weekend...the stress that we puton ourselves, trying to make a construction companyprofitable, is very intense...  before he left, i showed him my OCBC caregiver'scard...explained it's significance...he really ran out ofsomething to say...finally he commented that his personnalopinion is that most drugs should be legalized and regulatedlike tobacco and alcohol...if i get the raise, i'll stay there a bit longer, just to beavailable to express myself when key employees startleaving...i want to see how they replace them...i think in 2years, the random drug testing will cost them severalmillion dollars...i can hardly wait...
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Comment #6 posted by ekim on August 31, 2001 at 11:15:17 PT:
please rember Asa to Debate Gov. Johnson 8-10-01
   Johnson To Debate Medical-Marijuana Laws on Radio Posted by FoM on August 25, 2001 at 16:10:43 PTBy Steve Terrell, The New Mexican Source: Santa Fe New Mexican Gov. Gary Johnson will be in the national spotlight with his views about drug-law reform once again next month when he debates the new head of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, Asa Hutchinson, on a national radio show. The debate is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sept. 10 at The University of New Mexico's Continuing Education Conference Center, 1634 University Blvd. The debate is free and open to the public. Questions from the audience will be allowed. The show will be broadcast sometime in the fall on Justice Talking, a weekly show on National Public Radio hosted by radio journalist Margot Adler. It will be available over the Internet at: has appeared in several national forums over the past two years, calling for liberalization of drug laws.Hutchison, until taking the DEA job this year, was a congressman from Arkansas. On the drug issue, he is Johnson's polar opposite.Hutchison recently called for increased enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states that allow the medical use of marijuana. Johnson backed legislation that would have set up a medical-marijuana program.According to a news release from the Lindesmith Center, "The debate will cover a broad range of drug-policy issues, including mandatory minimum sentencing, incarceration versus treatment, legalization of certain substances and quantities, and whether our federal government should emphasize prevention and education or drug interdiction."The event is sponsored by KUNM-FM 89.9, UNM's School of Law and the National AIDS Brigade. Source: Santa Fe New Mexican (NM)Author: Steve Terrell, The New MexicanPublished: August 25, 2001 Copyright: 2001 The Santa Fe New MexicanContact: letters sfnewmexican.comWebsite: 
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Comment #5 posted by rabblerouser on August 31, 2001 at 10:46:03 PT
Are you sure he is qualified to be in the human race?
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Comment #4 posted by Doug on August 31, 2001 at 09:53:30 PT
Damning with Faint Praise
I can't understand why Alan Bock ever had expectations that Asa Hutchinson would be anything other than another hard-line drug warrior. The fact that he was the "most capable of the ... impeachment managers" seem like pretty tepid praise.
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Comment #3 posted by Dream Weaver on August 31, 2001 at 09:53:00 PT:
I agreed with the whole arguement, except for (A strict constructionist might wonder where the central government got the authority to enact such a prohibition since it isn't in the Constitution and it took an amendment to prohibit beverage alcohol. But you don't find many authentic strict constructionists or constitutionalists in conservative ranks these days, however promiscuously they may sling the rhetoric.) At the Free Republic, a conservative discussion board, we've been arguing one thread on legalization for 3 or 4 days now. Come join the fun -- we've been accused of ruining lives, selling kiddie porn, and being (gasp!) socialists!
Free Republic Marijuana Thread, page 3
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Comment #2 posted by E. Johnson on August 31, 2001 at 09:48:01 PT
It is dismaying to watch these people lie
It is dismaying in the extreme to watch people spread deliberate lies about marijuana, people who in all other respects seem quite honest and intelligent.What is it that makes them lie like this?What is it that makes the DEA take the ridiculous and scientifically untenable position that there's no difference between hemp and fine bud?Is it just plain greed? Is it just plain job protection?Are the people in the DEA really so corrupt and so lazy that they would rather send people to prison than give up those marijuana interdiction jobs?It's hard to believe.The FBI has been subjected to scrutiny -- when will it be the DEA's turn to face accountability for their sins?Lying is a sin. How many conservatives still believe that? Do any of them still believe that?Doesn't Hutchinson believe that it is a sin to tell lies to the public as a public official? Isn't that why he wanted Clinton impeached?Where does their moral judgment begin to kick in here?
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Comment #1 posted by Sledhead on August 31, 2001 at 09:03:07 PT
He's not qualified to even be outside of Arkansas. ;-)Just another McCaf......
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