According to the New York Times, the shutdown of the federal government has seriously impacted the Office of National Drug Control Policy, otherwise known as the “Drug Czar.” Normally the office is staffed with 88 full-time employees, but thanks to furloughs of “non-essential” personnel, just eight full-time employees are on the job.
It’s nice to know that over 90% of the staff working drug control policy at the White House isn’t really essential, but we wonder what keeps the other eight busy during the shutdown? Planning new ways to shut down medical marijuana dispensaries? Concocting new scaremongering reefer madness? Ironing Gil Kerlikowske’s shirts for his new gig at Customs and Border Patrol? Cleaning out Gil’s office for the next law enforcement goon in charge of a medical and social policy?
If this were a just world, 100% of the Drug Czar’s office would be declared non-essential and drug policy would be handled by the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and the Surgeon General’s office. You know… scientists, researchers and doctors, not cops and ex-military.
Unfortunately, when we get out of the policy office and onto the streets, government shutdown or not, making sure pot plants get ripped out of the ground, dispensaries get raided and cannabis growers, sellers and consumers are imprisoned is still considered “essential.” Eighty-five percent of the Justice Department will be working, with the Drug Enforcement Administration still on the job, according to the Justice Department.
While the government still considers DEA agents raiding gardens and busting potheads “essential,” other government functions considered not as important include pesticide regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency, food inspectors at Health and Human Services, and auto recall inspectors at the Department of Transportation. After all, in our government’s estimation, we have so much more to fear from cannabis than pesticides, tainted food, and poorly-made cars.
We lived through the last government shutdown in the middle of Clinton’s Administration. We assume they had to furlough most of the Drug Czar’s office then, too. We don’t recall drug-related harms skyrocketing when most of ONDCP stayed home and we doubt drug use and abuse will change much during this shutdown. It’s time our government recognized that one-hundred percent of the ONDCP and DEA is “non-essential.”
"Radical" Russ Belville is the host of "The Russ Belville Show."