Michael Botticelli, the deputy director of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, took a verbal beating over marijuana policy at a House Oversight Committee Hearing yesterday. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., took Botticelli to task over the dangers of marijuana as compared to alcohol or other drugs.
“How many people die from marijuana overdoses every year?” Connolly asked.
“I don’t know that I know. It is very rare,” Botticelli replied.
“Very rare,” Connolly said. "Now just contrast that with prescription drugs, unintentional deaths from prescription drugs, one American dies every 19 minutes. Nothing comparable to marijuana. Is that correct?”
Connolly went on to say, “Alcohol — hundreds of thousands of people die every year from alcohol-related deaths: automobile [accidents], liver disease, esophageal cancer, blood poisoning. Is that incorrect?”
Botticelli tried to avoid getting backed into the inevitable corner, pointing to the “totality of harm” that marijuana represents, even if it is not lethal in itself.
“I guess I’m sticking with the President — the head of your administration — who is making a different point,” was Connolly’s response. “He is making a point that is empirically true. That isn’t a normative statement, that marijuana is good or bad, but he was contrasting it with alcohol and empirically he is correct, is he not?”
“Is it not a scientific fact that there is nothing comparable with marijuana?” Connolly asked again when Botticelli tried to dodge the question. “And I’m not saying it is good or bad, but when we look at deaths and illnesses, alcohol, other hard drugs are certainly — even prescription drugs — are a threat to public health in a way that just isolated marijuana is not. Isn’t that a scientific fact? Or do you dispute that fact?”
“I don’t dispute that fact,” Botticelli said.
Wrestling with Obama’s recent comments asserting that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol, Botticelli reaffirmed that the administration has been “consistent in its opposition to attempts to legalize marijuana and other drugs,” CBS reported.