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Drug Czar Says "No" to California's Medical Marijuana Initiative, Polls Show Support for the Proposition


October 1996

General Barry McCaffrey, the national drug control policy director, said he opposes Proposition 215, a California initiative proposal to legalize marijuana for medical use ("Drug Chief Says No to Pot Plan," Washington Post, September 11, 1996, p. A2; Sabin Russell, "U.S. Drug Czar Visits Haight, Denounces Medical Uses of Pot," San Francisco Chronicle, August 16, 1996, p. A8).

"There is not a shred of evidence that shows that smoked marijuana is useful or needed," said McCaffrey. "This is not science. This is not medicine. This is a cruel hoax." He said Proposition 215 "poses a serious threat to the effectiveness of drug enforcement and prevention" by providing loopholes for drug dealers. Proposition 215 qualified in April for the November 5th ballot in California. See NewsBriefs article, September 1996.

However, during a tour of the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic in San Francisco on August 15, McCaffrey reportedly described the August 4 raid of the local Cannabis Buyers' Club as "a ham-fisted raid" to a clinic staff member. See NewsBriefs article, September 1996.

During the tour of the clinic, McCaffrey praised the staff members, calling their program a model of the community saving lives. "We have to increase the resources in the treatment of chemical addiction," McCaffrey said. McCaffrey was critical of needle exchange programs used to prevent the spread of HIV among intravenous drug users. Questioning the programs' effectiveness, McCaffrey said, "The jury is still out on needle exchange."

Polls are showing support for Proposition 215 by a ratio as high as 2 to 1. According to a September 18 Field poll, among those likely to vote, 62% said they would vote for the proposition, and 29% said they would vote against it. Among all registered voters, 61% favor the measure, and 30% oppose it (David Tuller, "Medical Use of Marijuana Backed in Poll," San Francisco Chronicle, September 19, 1996). A Los Angeles Times Poll showed that 53% of those likely to vote said they would vote for the measure and 31% said they would vote against it ("The Times Poll," Los Angeles Times, September 19, 1996).