Congressman Grills Deputy Drug Czar

Rep. Steve Cohen: "It’s ludicrous, absurd, crazy to have marijuana in the same level as heroin."

One of the House's leading voices for legalization slammed pot's Schedule I status yesterday. "It's ludicrous, absurd, crazy to have marijuana in the same level as heroin," Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen told Deputy Drug Czar Michael Botticelli at an Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the Hill. "Ask the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, if you could. Nobody dies from marijuana. People die from heroin."

The actor died of an apparent heroin overdose on Feb. 2.

"Every second that we spend in this country trying to enforce marijuana laws is a second that we're not enforcing heroin laws," Cohen continued. "And heroin and meth are the two drugs that are ravaging our country. And every death, including Mr. Hoffman's, is partly the responsibility of the federal government's drug priorities for not putting total emphasis on the drugs that kill, that cause people to be addicted and have to steal to support their habit...

"Heroin is getting into the arms of young people. When we put marijuana on the same level as heroin and LSD and meth and crack and cocaine, we are telling young people not to listen to the adults about the ravages and the problems, and they don't listen because they know you're wrong...

"Our efforts ought to be towards meth and heroin. (Marijuana) shouldn't be Schedule I. Anybody that goes to jail for marijuana is a crime. It's a waste of money, it's a waste of resources, it's crime committed by our government."

At one point Cohen asked Botticelli: "You can't name one person who's died from an overdose of marijuana. can you?"

"Not to my knowledge," he answered.

Watch the entire hearing here.

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.