Dem Rep: Ask Hoffman If Pot Is As Dangerous As Heroin

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(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBS DC/AP) – Democratic congressman Steve Cohen invoked the recent death of famed actor Philip Seymour Hoffman to make a point about how certain drugs are more harmful than others.

“It is ludicrous, absurd, crazy to have marijuana at the same level as heroin,” Cohen said speaking to Michael Botticelli, the Deputy Director of the White House Office of National Drug Policy.  “Ask the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, if you could. Nobody dies from marijuana. People die from heroin. And every second that we spend in this country trying to enforce marijuana laws is a second we’re not enforcing heroin laws. And heroin and meth are the two drugs that are ravaging our country.”

Cohen was speaking during a hearing held by Congress on marijuana policy Tuesday. President Barack Obama recently made remarks about marijuana being less dangerous than alcohol.

Currently marijuana and heroin are classified as Schedule I drugs under the law, but Cohen strongly believes that heroin is more powerful than marijuana.

Cohen continued on by stating that the government needs to put “total emphasis on the drugs that kill.”  He said that it would be preferable if young people didn’t do any drugs, but “they are, and we need to make sure we keep them alive.”

Hoffman was found dead Sunday with a needle in his arm, and tests found heroin — but no traces of the potent synthetic morphine additive fentanyl, which is added to intensify the high and has been linked to 22 suspected overdose deaths in western Pennsylvania — in samples from at least 50 packets in his apartment in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, law enforcement officials have said.

Four people were taken into custody on drug charges after police investigating Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death executed search warrants, two people with knowledge of the investigation said Wednesday, and the medical examiner’s office said more tests are needed to determine what killed him.

There was no timetable for Hoffman’s autopsy to be finished, said medical examiner office spokeswoman Julie Bolcer, who declined to discuss the pending tests. Toxicology and tissue tests are typically done in such cases.

Police have been investigating his death as a suspected drug overdose.

The four people were taken into custody Tuesday night after police executed search warrants at several New York City apartments based on a tip provided by a confidential source that the suspects may have suppliedHoffman with drugs, according to two people with knowledge of the investigation who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because investigators have not obtained evidence to corroborate the reported connection.

Police say undisclosed quantities of heroin and marijuana were found Tuesday night in three apartments in a lower Manhattan building. The four suspects — three of whom live in the building — face charges of criminal possession of a controlled substance. Two also face charges of criminal use of drug paraphernalia. They’re awaiting arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court.

Investigators have determined that the “Capote” star made six ATM transactions for a total of $1,200 inside a supermarket near his home the day before his death, law enforcement officials have said. Investigators have been piecing together Hoffman’s final hours using video surveillance to determine his whereabouts. They’re also examining a computer and two iPads found at the scene for clues.

The NYPD’s intensive effort to determine the source of the drugs in an apparent accidental overdose is unusual. Courts have found that under state law, drug dealers cannot be held liable for a customer’s death.

Hoffman had been frank about struggling with substance abuse. He told CBS’ “60 Minutes” in 2006 that had he used “anything I could get my hands on” before getting clean at age 22. But in interviews last year, he said he had relapsed, had developed a heroin problem and had gone to rehab for a time.

Hoffman’s relatives said they were devastated by a death both “tragic and sudden.” His funeral is scheduled for Friday.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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