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The McLaughlin Group

Host: John McLaughlin

Panel:
Pat Buchanan, Author and Columnist;
Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast;
Guy Taylor, Washington Times;
Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report

Broadcast: Weekend of November 30-December 1, 2013

Copyright © 2013 by Federal News Service, LLC, 1120 G Street NW, Suite 990, Washington, DC 20005-3801 USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, LLC. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Transcripts Database or any other FNS product, please email info@fednews.com or call 1-202-347-1400.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Thanks, But No Thanks.

The U.S. security community has something else to be worried about -- the proliferation of drones. Drones are multiplying across the globe. Drones are UAVs -- unmanned aerial vehicles -- aircraft that are operated remotely nearby or from thousands of miles away, like the distance between the nation of Afghanistan and military bases in the U.S.
Drones come in various shapes, sizes and weights. For the U.S., they are used for surveillance, disablement and killing. As many as 87 nations now possess some form of a drone, using them to conduct surveillance in their own nations and elsewhere.

Peter Singer of the Brookings Institution says this. Quote: "People in Washington like to talk about this as if the supposed American monopoly on drones might end one day. Well, the monopoly ended years ago," unquote.

Of those 87 nations, it is difficult to determine how many have actually weaponized drones or plan to do so. Thus far, the only nations to shoot missiles from drones are the U.S., Britain and Israel. But U.S. intelligence officials believe it is only a matter of time before other nations deploy weaponized drones as well.

In the meantime, just using drones for reconnaissance purposes can raise hackles. As one unnamed official told the Washington Times, quote, "No one is turning a blind eye to the growing use of surveillance-only UAVs," unmanned aerial vehicles, "including by non- state actors, even if these systems have a host of beneficial civil applications. One problem is that countries may perceive these systems as less provocative than armed platforms and might use them in cross-border operations in a way that actually stokes regional tension," unquote.

Question: Are remotely piloted drones the air forces of the future? Pat Buchanan.

PAT BUCHANAN: No, I don't think so, John. And I don't know that they're that great a danger. If the Chinese, for example, got a major force of drones, I think, and they were very modern, I think it could represent a real threat to America's fleet of -- out there off the China coast.
But I think right now the real danger from drones to the United States comes from non-state actors, terrorists who get a drone or something like that and put a bomb on it and are able to do so and drop it on some open American facility.

But again, the United States has such powers of retaliation against other countries. If they attack us with a drone, so what? I mean, we have the ability to attack, I think, and respond greater than any other country on earth. It's just a modern, I think, advance in military technology that I don't see the great threat to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, one of the advances is to build them bigger so that they can carry bombs, and then a drone can enter a fight with another drone.

Eleanor.

ELEANOR CLIFT: Well, and neither drone will bleed. And I think that's the appeal, because leaders want to deploy them because you don't put your young people at risk.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Remotely piloted.

MS. CLIFT: Right. And I'm told that half the graduates at the U.S. Air Force Academy are studying to be drone pilots and not regular pilots. And this has opened up a whole discussion within the Air Force, you know, because they won't actually see combat. They will get to go home and have dinner with their kids. So how do they get promoted? You know, have they really put in their time?

So I think it's transforming how we are waging war, and I think it has all kinds of repercussions, especially in these sort of cross- border skirmishes. And it's big business. Israel is the biggest exporter of drones. And they're so far ahead, they're kind of the -- they're the new Silicon Valley.

And there's all kinds of technology here. We're talking about warfare. But in terms of intelligence gathering, or more colloquially known as spying, you can get these drones down -- they're no bigger than an insect. There could be one right here, John. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In the studio.

MS. CLIFT: You never can tell.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There you are.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Guy Taylor, you're the expert.

MS. CLIFT: Guy's the expert.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're the expert on this.

GUY TAYLOR: Thank you. I don't necessarily agree with Eleanor that Israel is the leader in the market. I think in the new market, it's Chinese companies that are scrambling to make smaller and smaller drones that the U.S. State Department and Defense Department and Congress are unwilling to let leading American weapons makers sell to adversaries around the world.

And I also don't agree with Pat's assessment that somehow non- state actors are the biggest threat here. I think the bigger threat here is that drone proliferation has come to a point now where it's really just a matter of time before another power in the world, whether it's Turkey or China or Iran, uses -- or Russia -- uses a drone for its own purposes. And the very ugly precedent that the United States has set over the -- beginning with the George W. Bush administration and escalated exponentially by the Obama administration has been this use of drones for targeted killing campaigns.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What potential adversary is big on drones?

MR. TAYLOR: Well, the Chinese, the Russians. The Iranians have -- are also believed to have Predator- or Reaper-class drones. These are --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who has weaponized drones?

MR. TAYLOR: Well, this is a great question, because these programs are so secretive around the world, like the U.S. program.

It's very hard to pin it down. Right now there are about 26 countries in the world that are believed to have Reaper- or Predator- class drones. Those are the ones that Hellfire missiles can be attached to.

Of those, about 15 countries' militaries around the world are believed to have the weaponized version. That's why I say it's really a matter of time before we wake up to a scenario where, whether it's an adversary or an ally, other than Britain, Israel and the United States, uses one of these things. And we don't have a lot of moral standing in Washington --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well --

MR. TAYLOR: -- to say we don't like you use them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have enough standing, since you've written about drones extensively, to urge an international protocol on drones?

MR. TAYLOR: I think that's part of the impetus behind this story for me, John. We need to have a serious conversation to get to that point.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do you know that isn't taking place?

MR. TAYLOR: I think it is taking place. It hasn't -- we don't have some document --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, when is it going to surface? I haven't heard anything about an international protocol? We could have drone warfare.

MORT ZUCKERMAN: There is no ability whatever of being able to stop the revolution of drones. Amongst other reasons, it flies in all weather conditions. When you lose a drone, you're not losing a big fighter jet that would cost a lot of -- much more money, and would also risk the lives of your pilots.

So it is by far and away the most efficient way to do a lot of things. One is to gather intelligence, and two is to be able to retaliate on one target or another. There's been nothing like it. And it's going to, if anything, just get -- there'll be more proliferation of that over time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are drones currently carrying distinguishing marks so we know where the drone came from, what country?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The only way you will know when a drone lands is you'll know what it drops, and then you'll be able -- you may be able to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do we need an international protocol that says you've got to put this right on that --

(Cross talk.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There's no way that will happen, any more than we have an international protocol on what planes can drop.

MR. BUCHANAN: You know, John, this is just another --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: This is absolutely not going to happen. And we are going to devise all kinds of different technologies that we'll be able to carry and transport through drones.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, this is just another weapon --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: God knows what --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about privacy? Suppose you're sunning yourself out at your swimming pool and that drone gets right overhead and stays right there and you can't see it because it's too far removed?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, that's always possible. I always wave when they go by.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do? (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: John, look, that could be true of anything. That could be true of satellites.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Suppose you're in a condition where you can't wave.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That could be true of -- what's that?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Suppose you're in a situation where you can't wave --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I won't be --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- but you're also identified?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I won't be in the swimming pool then.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh.

What about you, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I'm just saying, look, suppose someone attacks us; let's say Iran, you know, hypothetically. They attack the United States with a drone at one of our facilities over there. We know where it came from. We know who sent it. And we can let them have it with everything we've got. Why should we be afraid, basically, of what is a flying pilotless plane that carries one bomb on it?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I agree. I think compared to what?

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's always the evil of two lessers. Would you rather have bombers flying over you?

MR. BUCHANAN: I'd rather have that than a truck with a nuclear weapon in it.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MS. CLIFT: They are amazing. They fly at 65,000 feet.

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: And they can see a sticker on the windshield of a car --

MR. TAYLOR: They have incredible surveillance capability.

MS. CLIFT: Surveillance capability.

MR. TAYLOR: However -- however, in the greater scheme of things, the generation of drones that have dominated the market, American-made Reapers and Predators, are actually relatively unintelligent. They don't have the capability, like fighter jets, to subvert air defenses. So the idea that a foreign power is going to fly one of these things into American airspace --

MS. CLIFT: And they could only --

MR. TAYLOR: -- or even the airspace of a U.S. naval asset somewhere in the world and not be shot out of the sky --

MS. CLIFT: They can only see what's on the ground directly below them. They can't see off to the side. They don't have peripheral vision.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to go back to you. Are you ready?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Iron Drome (sic) --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- is an Israeli --

MR. BUCHANAN: Iron Dome.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Iron Dome.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That is a beautiful way of protecting Israel.

Correct?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: To some extent, yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's an anti-missile battery.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does it have drone capability?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, it has electronic capability. And what it can do is pick out God knows what in the air with unbelievable accuracy and explode it. I don't know that it's perfect. I don't know that it's really been tested.

MR. TAYLOR: (Inaudible.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: But it is absolutely a transformative way of defending yourself.

MR. TAYLOR: The Israeli air force said last year that it had shot a drone out of the sky. This gets back to the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was a Hamas attack.

MR. TAYLOR: It was -- actually, it was -- Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah in Lebanon, claimed responsibility and said -- it was months after --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was a rocket. Wasn't it a rocket?

MR. TAYLOR: It was -- he said they had received a drone from Tehran and flown it over -- a surveillance drone over Israeli airspace. And the Israelis said they shot it out of the sky.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've done our duty here with regard to --

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible.) (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- drones. Haven't we today?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Pilgrim Paul.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R-WI): (From videotape.) We've got big government in practice. And what we are realizing is that the results are nothing close to the rhetoric that was used to sell them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin was in Iowa two weeks ago delivering the keynote address at the birthday salute to Iowa's Republican governor, Terry Branstad. Chairman Ryan used the opportunity to critique big government and "Obamacare." It was Mr. Ryan's first trip back to the Hawkeye state since he became the number two on the Mitt Romney presidential ticket in the 2012 presidential election.

Well, this time around so far, it's Mr. Ryan himself who is generating some presidential top-of-the-ticket buzz. Iowa holds the first caucus in the nation in the next presidential election, 2016.

In an interview with Iowa's Des Moines Register, Ryan showed ankle. After next year's midterm elections, he will be more forthcoming. In the meantime, the 43-year-old congressman has been fully engaged, chairing the powerful House Budget Committee, hammering out a budget with Senate ranking Democrat Patty Murray. Fiscal-minded conservatives have not forgotten how Paul Ryan has played a prominent role in drafting the House's budget plan.

Iowa's Republican governor, Terry Branstad, with five non- consecutive terms, was interviewed by the Washington Times, where he saluted Chairman Ryan. Quote: "He is one of the very few people in Washington who is really trying to do something significant to get the country back on track financially. You cannot spend a trillion dollars more than you are taking in year after year without destroying this country. And Washington, D.C. just tends to play politics and kick the can down the road. He at least has put together a thoughtful plan to do something about it. I respect that," unquote.

Paul Ryan is a deficit hawk. He likes to concoct budget plans with plenty of bitter medicine to go around. Question: Is this a winning presidential agenda? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: He, in his previous budgets, has gone after entitlements. I don't think he's going to do that in the negotiations that are going the end of this year into next year, because senior citizens are actually the only voting bloc that's loyal to the Republicans right now, and he's not going to want to alienate them.

But Ryan is trying to pick up the Jack Kemp mantle of compassionate conservatism. He has been traveling to urban areas with Bob Woodson, who is the civil rights activist who was prominent during the Reagan era. They don't believe in government support for these programs, for anti-poverty programs. They want to sort of energize the private sector. I don't think it's very realistic. But nonetheless, that's what he -- that's his new shtick.

But, you know, mounting a presidential race from the House is a tough thing even in the best of times. And these are the worst of times. And when you have this -- Ryan is a de facto member of the House leadership, and it's a Congress that has 9 percent approval. So I wouldn't put a lot of money on his presidential chances.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Eleanor, you're overlooking the perceived imperfections of "Obamacare" and how this, in a sense, helps Ryan, who is so experienced.

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't think so. Look, I think Paul Ryan is a very able civil servant. He's very wonkish. He runs the Budget Committee. I don't think he's had any dramatic achievements. But I do believe this. Look, you've got Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin. He may well be running. Ryan will be eclipsed by him in Iowa because Ryan also is from Wisconsin, John.

And he's too much, in my judgment, of a non-charismatic wonk. He's very good on the numbers, you know, talking about enterprise zones and all these things. And I just don't see how he breaks through and appeals where you've got Cruz and you've got Rand Paul and then you've got Chris Christie and you've got all these other characters who are very lively and very energetic and much more dramatic in front of the camera.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you think, in a Cruz-Ryan --

MR. BUCHANAN: I think he ought to go for speaker of the House.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in the Cruz-Ryan combination --

MR. BUCHANAN: I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- you think that Cruz is the winner?

MR. BUCHANAN: He's -- I mean, if the two of them are the competition?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, Cruz would win hands down.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, please.

MS. CLIFT: We're talking about Republican primaries.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.

MS. CLIFT: And Pat could be right about that. But winning hands down --

MR. BUCHANAN: Could be? (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: -- I wouldn't talk about a national race. (Inaudible.
)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We saw Ryan in action in the last
presidential race, and Ryan had terrific substance in that race.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he not?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, he did.

MS. CLIFT: They sidelined him most of the time.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He has terrific substance. But I think Pat's right. To go from --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think in a Cruz -- in an opposition position to Ryan?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think Cruz has ruined himself nationally.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He has or has not?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think he has --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- with that 21-hour-plus, you know, filibuster, OK; call it what you will. Yes, I think he's painted himself into a corner. And I don't think the Republicans are going to nominate somebody like that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is more authentic in appeal, Cruz or Ryan?

MR. TAYLOR: Ted Cruz, 100 percent. But I also --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: More authentic?

MR. TAYLOR: In appeal. That was your question.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, in appeal.

MS. CLIFT: In Republican primaries.

MR. TAYLOR: (Inaudible) -- people out in the countryside who watch him, snippets of him on cable news, then definitely Ted Cruz.

MR. BUCHANAN: John -- in less than a year, John --

MR. TAYLOR: (Inaudible.) I just want to get in also that I don't know that Paul Ryan really actually has presidential ambitions.

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MR. TAYLOR: To read into his Iowa trip that way is one way of looking at it. I think, in fact, he doesn't even have total House leadership -- (inaudible). The word in the hallways of Congress is that he wants to be chairman of the Ways & Means Committee.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, your political acumen is showing us --

MR. TAYLOR: (Inaudible.)

MR. BUCHANAN: -- why you got 33 percent of the vote in the race in Rhode Island for the U.S. Senate. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In a terrific race, though.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ryan's vice presidential run is a tactical asset in terms of experience and seasoning.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's a very able guy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's had the experience and seasoning.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's conscientious. He's able. He's knowledgeable. What I'm saying is when you get out into that primary field, he's just like other fellows. He's too vanilla.

MS. CLIFT: He's --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He's very appealing, too, as a personality.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure, he is.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He's very well liked in the House.

MS. CLIFT: He's much more congenial --

MR. BUCHANAN: He ought to run for leader of the House.

MS. CLIFT: He's much more congenial and appealing than Ted Cruz. But I don't know that he has a particular base within the Republican Party. There was not a lot of clamor for him after --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's chairman of a very important committee that deals with high finance. You understand that.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but they can't come up with a deal, and they're seen as --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He is universally --

MS. CLIFT: -- (inaudible). So I don't know if that's a great --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He is universally right.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And respected.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's respected.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And respected.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: But that's a different platform.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three -- you know, it's like pushing up a huge rock.

MS. CLIFT: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who was that guy, that Greek character?

MR. BUCHANAN: Sisyphus.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sisyphus. I feel like I'm Sisyphus here today -- not sissy, Sisyphus.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Reform Immigration Now?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) We've got manufacturers, service sector, food, high tech. And they represent just a small cross-section of businesses all across the country who are deeply committed to making sure that we get comprehensive immigration reform done, and done quickly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama continues to push for comprehensive immigration reform here at an event this month with a cross-section of business leaders. But Congress is only halfway to immigration reform. The Senate passed an overhaul bill back in June, authored by the so-called gang of eight, a group of bipartisan senators -- four Democrats, four Republicans.

Get this: There are some 11.7 million illegal immigrants now in the U.S. The Senate bill provides for a 13-year path to citizenship for those illegal aliens if and after they meet certain criteria, like passing a criminal background check, paying fines, paying back taxes.

The bill would also up the number of specialty visas for high- tech and other types of workers, which is a big reason why the business community is so supportive of the bill. The Senate would also get in the act, notably by tightening border security with $40 billion over the next decade to build 700 miles of fence along the U.S.-Mexican border, plus adding 20,000 new Border Patrol agents.

But the overhaul of immigration laws has stalled in the House. Republican House Speaker John Boehner does not agree with the Senate's comprehensive legislation. Nor does a key senator, Republican Marco Rubio of Florida, even though Rubio was one of the architects of the Senate legislation six months ago -- a member of the gang of eight.

Mr. Rubio now favors a more incremental approach rather than the mammoth overhaul of the gang-of-eight bill. His spokesman, Alex Conant, says the senator is being pragmatic. Quote: "Senator Rubio worked very hard on immigration reform, and we successfully passed it in the Senate. But now we're dealing with the political reality of what's achievable in the House," unquote.

Senator Rubio bailed on the gang of eight, correct?

MR. BUCHANAN: That means it's dead for this year. But next year, to be honest -- I'm not in favor of it, but if they took out the DREAM act as a small part of it and tried to run that through alone, they might have a fighting chance if they did it in the Senate and sent it to the House.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president has put together a plan, has he not?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: But let me just add one other thing to that. One of the things he absolutely should do is raise the number of H1B visas, which are given to graduate students in the hard sciences and engineering. We have a tremendous shortage of those people. No other country in the world would preclude those people from coming.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me get Guy.

MS. CLIFT: Well, once the Republicans get through their primaries --

MR. TAYLOR: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Eleanor in.

MS. CLIFT: -- there's a small window next year where it might go through. But, you know, the Republican Party has burned Rubio alive for daring to step into this issue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Guy Taylor, do you want to sum all this up?

MR. TAYLOR: What little bit of unity there is amongst Republicans in the House is centered around antipathy towards the Affordable Care Act. The idea of introducing something as divisive as trying to push through a sensitive immigration legislation is outrageous and it's not going to happen.

MS. CLIFT: And Republicans lose with an important bloc of voters if they don't act.

MR. TAYLOR: Unless there's suddenly polling going into 2014 where somehow it suddenly seems --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Give me a quick answer.

MR. TAYLOR: -- (inaudible) -- to go forward --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we going to get comprehensive reform on immigration this year?

MR. BUCHANAN: You're not going to get comprehensive this year or next.

MS. CLIFT: Not this year, no. (Laughs.)

MR. TAYLOR: No.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not this year. Next year?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I don't believe they'll get it --

MS. CLIFT: Next year, maybe.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- next year either.

MR. BUCHANAN: Not comprehensive.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Four: Marijuana Exiles.

JOSH STANLEY (Charlotte's Web cannabis grower): (From videotape.) Our first little girl, Charlotte, was having 400 seizures a week; the first week on these meds, zero. Our product is legal in Utah. But because the federal government says we can't bring it from Colorado to Utah, these kids are suffering.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The product is a strain of marijuana called Charlotte's Web that is being used to treat severe forms of epilepsy such as Dravet Syndrome, also called severe myoclonic epilepsy of infancy, or SMEI, which can cause hundreds of seizures a week, severely disrupting a child's development.

Charlotte's Web is a type of marijuana that is low on THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive element which induces a buzz, but high in cannabidoil, a compound which studies have shown is effective with patients, usually children, whose seizures are unresponsive to traditional treatment.
Six brothers in Colorado -- Josh, Joel, Jesse, Jon, Jordan and Jared Stanley -- developed Charlotte's Web. After a CNN special on their medical marijuana variant aired this summer, parents from around the country have flocked to Colorado to get Charlotte's Web for their epileptic children. The majority have settled in Colorado Springs, where medical-marijuana retailers are widely available. A month's supply of Charlotte's Web costs $30 to $300, depending on the dose.

The families call themselves, quote, "marijuana refugees," unquote. Some want to return home or visit relatives for the holidays. But many state laws ban marijuana, and federal law prohibits the interstate transfer of medical marijuana. So, many of the refugees become exiles.

Question: Should federal law be amended to provide an exception for Charlotte's Web so that children with severe epilepsy will have this treatment option available, no matter where they live? Mort Zuckerman.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think there should be an exception for these kinds of special plants, or whatever you want to call it, that help those kinds of diseases. I don't know that I would focus exclusively on marijuana. But whatever meets -- whatever medical standards are, not only in terms of the cures but how they would define it, should, in my judgment. That overwhelms whatever the concerns are with respect to the --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I think natural law trumps positive law here. I don't think the feds should change the federal law, but I do think this. The guy that went out to Utah and got these things for his kids and brought them back to his state -- and if I were the U.S. attorney or the prosecutor there, I would say put that down at the bottom of the list in terms of what we're going to prosecute, because quite obviously the individual's motivation is not to commit any crime. It's a very high and positive motive.

MS. CLIFT: The thing is that, because there's no unified federal law, you have U.S. attorneys in different states behaving differently. So you can't really assure somebody they're going to be safe from the law. I think there should be a medical exception, a hardship exception. And I must say, this is actually a miracle plant, marijuana.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're an authority on it?

MS. CLIFT: Well, the -- I've discovered --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Be careful, now.

MS. CLIFT: -- if I can say the word, the cannabinoids, which I think you made reference to in the set-up --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Cannabis.

MS. CLIFT: No, the cannabinoids, which are part of the cannabis, are also finding that they're helping with some forms of breast cancer.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mm-hmm. (Acknowledging.)

MS. CLIFT: So there's medicinal qualities to this plant that we should not let mere laws stand against.

MR. TAYLOR: How about this, John? How about if the federal government says to this parent who wants to fly to Utah, pay us in tax the equivalent to the amount of a plane ticket and then we'll allow you to receive the marijuana in the mail?
This whole issue speaks to the wider missed opportunity of our government in these times to regulate the use and tax on marijuana and draw significant revenues from --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, our friend --

MR. TAYLOR: -- (inaudible) -- how the drug is vilified as somehow worse than other legal forms of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This sounds to me like the camel's nose under the tent, what you're saying.

MS. CLIFT: I say let the whole camel in.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, our friend Lyn Nofziger --

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- Lyn Nofziger used to go get marijuana for his daughter, who was sick with a very painful form of cancer. And we all knew he had done it, and I don't know anybody of his friends --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- who condemned him for doing that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what about marijuana, generally speaking? What about a relaxation --

MR. BUCHANAN: I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- of marijuana?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think if you legalize all these drugs, John, I think the country --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who has legalized it? The Swiss?

MR. TAYLOR: He asked about marijuana, and you just said --

MR. BUCHANAN: Legalize --

MR. TAYLOR: -- legalize all these drugs.

MR. BUCHANAN: But I think if you legalize -- I think if you legalize marijuana --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If it's good enough for Switzerland, why isn't it good enough for us?

MR. BUCHANAN: Then you're going to get as many people addicted to marijuana as you've got to alcohol.

MS. CLIFT: The federal approach is let a thousand flowers bloom; let the states do it. And it's happening. Eventually this will all be legal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: New sanctions on Iran before the end of the year -- yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: 50-50.

MS. CLIFT: No. Give peace a chance.

MR. TAYLOR: No.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is yes.

Bye-bye.

(C) 2013 Federal News Service

END