President Obama’s Drug Czar: “Legalization is not in the president’s vocabulary.”

Thoughts:

- When Mr. Kerlikowske says “Marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit” he is being dangerously ignorant. President Obama appointed a man who sounds like a Republican when talking about marijuana.

- President Obama has been shockingly regressive when it comes to his policies on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and ending the failed “War on Drugs.”

- The United States has exported a policy that amounted to nothing at best and horribly backfired at its worst. The Conservative Party of Canada has appropriated this policy (along with the Republican habit of completely ignoring facts) for their own. Canadian’s and Mexican’s need to demand progressive drug laws since the United States of America is failing so badly on this front.
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The federal government is not going to pull back on its efforts to curtail marijuana farming operations, Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, said Wednesday in Fresno.

The nation’s drug czar, who viewed a foothill marijuana farm on U.S. Forest Service land with state and local officials earlier Wednesday, said the federal government will not support legalizing marijuana.

“Legalization is not in the president’s vocabulary, and it’s not in mine,” he said.

Kerlikowske said he can understand why legislators are talking about taxing marijuana cultivation to help cash-strapped government agencies in California. But the federal government views marijuana as a harmful and addictive drug, he said.

“Marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit,” Kerlikowske said in downtown Fresno while discussing Operation SOS — Save Our Sierra — a multiagency effort to eradicate marijuana in eastern Fresno County.

Marijuana plants valued at more than $1.26 billion have been confiscated and 82 people arrested over the past 10 days in Fresno County. The operation started last week and is continuing.

By comparison, Tulare County’s leading commodity — milk — was valued at about $1.8 billion in 2008.

Officials say the marijuana-eradication operation will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the exact amount won’t be known until agencies can add up staffing, vehicle and other costs.

In Operation SOS, more than 314,000 plants were uprooted in 70 gardens — numbers expected to rise as the enforcement action continues. Agents also seized $41,000 in cash, 26 firearms and three vehicles.

Planning for the operation began in February and focused on marijuana crops being backed by Mexican drug cartels, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said.

Mims said many cartels are involved, but she would not name any because the investigation is still under way. All but one person arrested was from Mexico, officials said.

One hundred growers may still be on the loose, said Fresno County sheriff’s Lt. Rick Ko. Many may have gotten rides out of the area, but some could still be in the Sierra, Ko said.

Last year, Fresno County deputies seized 188,000 marijuana plants.

In just one week, nearly twice as many plants were seized, Mims said, “so you can imagine how many we were missing.”

Statewide, more than 5.3 million plants were seized in 2008, or two of every three confiscated in the United States, said Bill Ruzzamenti, director of the Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.

“The amount of drugs out there scares most of us,” he said.

Volunteers are going into the gardens to clean up trash, dead animals and pesticides to return the land as close to its original condition as possible. But it could take years for the land to recover, because little can be done once fertilizers and pesticides seep into the ground or stream beds.

“For every acre of marijuana grown, 10 acres are damaged,” said George Anderson with the California Department of Justice.

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