ISTOOK: The blunt truth — White house drug czar contradicts Obama on marijuana

White House docs say pot causes brain damage and lower IQ in teens, alcohol does not

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It is impossible to reconcile that post with Mr. Obama’s failure to enforce federal drug laws against marijuana, and with his statement to The New Yorker about Colorado’s and Washington’s open violation of those laws, namely, “it’s important for it to go forward.”

Why go forward? The president’s explanation is indeed a head-scratcher: “Because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished.”

Everyone in Colorado and Washington who puffs up is breaking the law — federal law. And no law has a perfect rate of arrest and prosecution.

Mr. Obama, however, tried to attribute it to class warfare and racial bias — and in so doing voiced a myth that his own anti-drug people are shooting down.

As Mr. Obama stated: “Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot and poor kids do. And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties. We should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing.”

But Mr. Obama’s claim was shot down by an earlier federal publication, “Marijuana Myths & Facts: The Truth Behind 10 Popular Misconceptions”.

Myth #10 is “The government sends otherwise innocent people to prison for casual marijuana use.”

In fact, less than 1% of all drug incarcerations are for simple possession or use of marijuana. And those few tend to be plea-bargains for people who actually were dealers.

Mr. Obama’s own White House website contradicts his light-hearted claims about marijuana in other ways as well. Multiple pages are devoted to describing clear dangers of marijuana, including these excerpts:

  • Marijuana use is associated with dependence, respiratory and mental illness, poor motor performance, and impaired cognitive and immune system functioning, among other negative effects.
  • Marijuana intoxication can cause distorted perceptions, difficulty in thinking and problem solving, and problems with learning and memory.
  • Studies have shown an association between chronic marijuana use and increased rates of anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and schizophrenia.
  • Other research has shown marijuana smoke to contain carcinogens and to be an irritant to the lungs. Marijuana smoke, in fact, contains 50‐70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than does tobacco smoke.

But what about alcohol? Mr. Obama stated he doesn’t think marijuana is more dangerous that alcohol.

One trick used by pro-pot proponents seems to have worked with Obama. They adopt an extremely-narrow definition of marijuana’s dangers by discussing solely on whether it is “toxic,” meaning that high dosages become poisonous.

They choose that measure because alcohol poisoning causes tens of thousands of deaths each year but marijuana is not poisonous even in large doses.

Toxicity, however, has never been the sole measure of whether a substance is dangerous. Things need not be fatal to be harmful. Plus, things that are intoxicating and hallucinogenic can lead to fatal behavior without being poisonous.

Furthermore, the studies cited by the National Institute for Drug Abuse, regarding brain damage among regular adolescent pot smokers, has no parallel from alcohol. And making one dangerous drug legal is, of course, never a good reason to add another, or a third, or more.

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About the Author
Ernest Istook

Ernest Istook

Ernest Istook spent 25 years in public office, including 14 years in Congress. He was rated one of the top 25 conservatives in the U.S. House of Representatives. Then was a Heritage Foundation fellow and a fellow at Harvard’s Insitute of Politics, where he led a study group on Propaganda in American Politics Today.

Now as a radio host and ...

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