SAM strategy luncheon: Focus on the money

December 22, 2014

Earlier this month, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) held a lunch special strategy session. Among the 30 or so attendees were General Barry McCaffrey, former director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and Bob Weiner, former communications director for the ONDCP. The meeting, called the Drug Policy Summit, was held at the Heritage Foundation, which, along with SAM and the Drug Free America Foundation, sponsored it.

Weiner, a Democrat, told attendees at the closed luncheon that the silence of both parties on legalization has been deafening. “Both are afraid of losing the youth vote,” said Weiner, who believes the solution lies in getting politicians to speak up, one by one. “They need to show some moral force, which everyone respects.”

As for medical marijuana, scientists need to show that it isn’t as effective as other treatments for various diseases. “That will be very persuasive, as people learned Laetrile did not cure cancer after 22 states legalized it in the 1960s and 1970s,” he said.

Weiner also suggested that SAM write a letter to presidential candidates laying out the reasons for opposing legalization. But the biggest problem, the group agreed, is fighting pro-legalization money. “I suggested that they meet directly with the funding sources, from Soros on down, to make the case for why better approaches than legalization are supporting treatment and alternative programs like drug courts,” he said.

McCaffrey opened the meeting before the luncheon, which was public, saying that “political intimidation” is driving public policy. “We’ve lost the message wars,” he said. As for politics and legalization, “it can’t be ‘the left is for it,’ ‘the right is against it,’ and ‘libertarians are rational.’” McCaffrey also said that it’s “shocking that the media has made this into a matter of humor — there’s nothing funny about drug abuse.” Instead, he said, “We need to get the nation to focus on the science.”