Pushback on Obama's claims that marijuana no worse than booze
Is pot no more dangerous than booze? President Obama's statement to that effect in an interview in The New Yorker, raised a few eyebrows among rehab professionals and drug experts who cite research that contradicts the president's words.
The National Drug Control Policy's official stance, posted on the www.whitehouse.gov Website, says the opposite of Mr. Obama on all counts.
For example, as documented in agency reports, marijuana smoke has significantly more carcinogens than tobacco smoke.
And as reported by the government's National Institute on Drug Abuse, adolescent use of marijuana does something that alcohol does not; it causes permanent brain damage, including lowering of IQ.
Taxpayers have spent billions of dollars warning about drugs, often about marijuana, but these efforts were dramatically undercut by the president's comments. Mr. Obama might as well have rolled that money into a joint and smoked it on national television.
He told the interviewer, David Remnick, that his earlier years of prodigious puffery were "a bad habit and a vice" yet he doesn't warn others not to follow in his footsteps.
The Drug-Free America Foundation responded on its blog, "His laissez-faire attitude about legalization has drug policy and prevention experts scratching their heads in confusion as to why the president will not give clear guidance...either he is seriously ill-informed about the issue or is completely ignoring warnings from his highly-esteemed advisors."
The foundation called it an "irresponsible move for such a person in the most highly-regarded position in this country."
The official National Drug Control Strategy from drug czar R. Gil Kerlikowske lists marijuana as one of the "four major drugs (cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine)."
Don't expect him to resign in anger about how Obama is undercutting his work, however. He's a short-timer because Mr. Obama nominated him last fall to become the new Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
So for now, perhaps until Kerlikowske is at his new job, anti-marijuana messages remain on the White House Website. As one page describes things, "confusing messages being presented by popular culture, media, proponents of 'medical' marijuana, and political campaigns to legalize all marijuana perpetuate the false notion that marijuana is harmless."
Part of the problem in answering the president is that research into pot use is sometimes contradictory. It causes brain damage - or it doesn't. It's psychologically addicting - or it isn't. Moderate use - 3-4 times a month - is OK - or not.
I don't think there's much disagreement that heavy use of pot leads to significant damage to the body and the brain. But so does heavy alcohol use. The medicinal properties of alcohol in moderation are pretty much accepted at this point, although some studies may have exaggerated the positive effects.
The question I have always had is; who cares if it's no more dangerous than booze? Why add another substance with potential bad effects on the mind and body to the list of legalized substances?
As a practical matter, legalizing pot lifts a tremendous burden from the police and legal system. If that's your rationale for legalization, fine. But don't go around spouting off about how harmless pot is when for many people, it destroys their lives and health.