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Drug czar in Calif. to oppose Proposition 19

October 20, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
President Barack Obama's drug czar is taking aim at Proposition 19, the ballot measure to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in California.First it was the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Now President Obama's drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, says the federal government will take swift action if Californians legalize marijuana on Election Day. He says new statistics show the drug is already causing major problems in the state. But supporters of Proposition 19 say legalizing the drug won't hurt, but rather will help the situation.

The Pasadena Recovery Center is where the reality TV show "Celebrity Rehab" is filmed. Wednesday it was where Director of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske got a firsthand look at the problem of drug addiction.

Kerlikowske says the passage of Proposition 19 will not only go against federal law, but it will make the problem of drug addiction worse. He says right now almost half of Californians getting treatment for marijuana abuse are teens, and two-thirds of them say they started using the drug at the age of 14 or younger.

"I think that once an illegal substance becomes legal, we know it's more available, more accessible and we know that California has a higher rate for people being treated for marijuana than the entire rest of the country," said Kerlikowske.

Addiction specialist and host of "Celebrity Rehab" Dr. Drew Pinsky helped lead Wednesday's tour. He says in his experience some people get addicted to pot, usually after the third use.

"People go, 'Oh my God, this is the greatest thing that's ever happened to me,'" said Pinsky. "And that's all they can think about from then on. They either pursue, think about, obsess about it from that day forth."

But Prop. 19 spokesperson Dale Jones says the high number of teens seeking treatment for marijuana addiction in California is directly related to the fact that pot is illegal in this state.

"The states that have the highest criminal penalties also have the highest rate of problems both with addiction and in the criminal justice system," said Jones.

She says legalizing the drug will help take the money spent on prosecuting marijuana related crimes and give it to those that are truly are dealing with an addiction.

"Cannabis is shown to be safer than any other drug. In fact, the DEA administrative law judge declared cannabis as the safest therapeutic substance on earth. However, there are folks that can become behaviorally addicted to cannabis, just like they can become addicted to things like gambling."

Thursday, a string of celebrities will be holding a news conference to show their support for Proposition 19 and the legalization of marijuana.

Some of the attendees include Grammy-award-winning singer Melissa Etheridge and actor Danny Glover.


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