Former DEA Chief Discusses Risks & Problems with Marijuana Legalization

plantIn his tenure as Administrator of the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), Peter Bensinger served under three U.S. Presidents; Ford, Carter and Reagan.  According to Devon Dwyer (Power Players, ABC News & Yahoo News) Bensinger was one of the top officials in leading the war on drugs.  In a recent interview, Dwyer found out from Peter Bensinger what he thinks of the legalization of marijuana, the problems it will generate and the consequences to those who use the drug.

The Risks and the Challenges

Bensinger opened the interview with a very direct message that the legalization of marijuana “sends the wrong message to the public”, disregarding the science on marijuana, as well. He made special note of Colorado, where marijuana was legalized for recreational use beginning in 2014.

He noted that the DEA goes after the drug traffickers, and warns that the traffickers will now come to Colorado, emphasizing “they’ve already arrived!”  He emphasized legalization of the drug will be seen by drug traffickers as a “great opportunity”, both to sell to youth and to others who are now able to have the drug in their possession.

Dwyer suggested that marijuana already posed an enforcement problem even before its legalization, asking if legalization therefore is “just a new type of enforcement challenge”.

Bensinger responded with “It’s much worse”, with people needing to think of what will happen on the highways as a result.  He cited marijuana as the second highest cause of fatalities on the highways, just after alcohol.

Dwyer brought-up the fact that Obama is on record in an interview expressing his belief that marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol.  Bensinger was quick to respond in disagreement, stating he doesn’t agree with the president at all, nor does Dr. Nora Volkow, the National Director on Drug Abuse, nor does the American Medical Association either. Bensinger stated, “They both say marijuana is not safe”, adding that it is the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and not the legislators who should decide what is medicine.  He continued, emphasizing that it is Congress who should decide what is legal, and not the President of our nation.

Dwyer asked Benisnger if he sensed “an air of inevitability” surrounding the legalization of the drug, marijuana.  Bensinger stated he did not think so, as he thinks the public will see the disaster of it.  He emphasized that marijuana is addictive, with one-in-eleven who use becoming dependent, and for those under the age of nineteen, the statistic is one-out-of-six becoming dependent on the drug.

Bensinger stated that the message about marijuana which the President gave “is not the right message”.  Bensigner was adamant that it is “dangerous and addictive”, as well as illegal in the United States and “should not be tried as an experiement.”

Myths about Marijuana

Dwyer took the opportunity in his interview with Peter Bensinger to ask about some of the myths he’s seen regarding marijuana.

The response was quick and forthright.  Bensinger stated the myth “that it’s harmless”, citing it as harmful, and that it stays in the body.  He said a person will dissipate a drink [of alcohol] “in about an hour”, but marijuana can stay in the body “for a week.”  He further added it goes to the brain, “where we’re fattest.”

Other harmful effects Bensigner outlined in debunking some marijuana myths were that it causes short-term memory loss when used chronically, impacts the immune system with regular use, and affects depth perception.

Dwyer interjected with a reference to “in the grand scheme of things”, that with Beninger being a former administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency and with its limited enforcement resources, wasn’t going after “small-amount users” rather a waste of time?

Beninger put that to rest with his response, directing attention to cities with open drug markets, citing New York as a “pretty safe place now” in comparison to 20 to 30 years ago.  He directly attributes that change in safety to the drug markets having been cleaned-up, with the steps taken to arrest people and taking them off the city street corners “when they’re selling dope!”

He further added that crime is down in places where crime is not allowed to occur; warning that when this “environmental improvement” is taken away, people will be subject to more crime.

And what is the former DEA’s overall take on the legalization of marijuana and the rapid growth of sales of the drug for recreational use in both Colorado and Washington, along with the legalization of medicinal pot in another 18 of our nation’s states?

“I think it’s a disaster”, citing the damage it will do to the young people in Colorado, the industries in the state, as well as putting the highways in jeopardy.  “Plus, it’s again federal law and the Constitution…”

Bensigner posed the argument that both the public and the politicians who are pushing to legalize marijuana have been deceived by the “myth” that marijuana is without harm.

It doesn’t get any clearer than that.