- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. acknowledged the use of synthetic drugs is growing among U.S. teenagers, rejecting a suggestion that President Obama’s recent comments equating the dangers of marijuana with those of alcohol might lead more young people to experiment with pot.

The Drug Enforcement Agency is dealing with a spike in synthetic drugs, commonly labeled as “incense,” “spice” or “bath salts,” among teenagers primarily because of the misnomer that they’re safe, Mr. Holder told an oversight hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday.

“They’ve been marketed in such a way that there are no dangers in using them, and that’s not true,” Mr. Holder said.

But the attorney general sidestepped a debate on Mr. Obama’s recent remarks on pot in a New Yorker profile, which have been strongly criticized by some anti-drug activists and law enforcement authorities.

“I haven’t read the article,” Mr. Holder said. “As I’ve understood, he thinks the use of marijuana by young people isn’t a good thing.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, pressed Mr. Holder on whether he shared the president’s view of the marijuana use and alcohol. Mr. Holder maintained that minors smoking pot violates federal law and that law would be enforced.

“I think the use of any drug is potentially harmful, including alcohol,” Mr. Holder said.

His comments didn’t satisfy Mr. Sessions.

“I invested a huge amount of my time to break the use of drug use in our country — to make clear drug use isn’t socially acceptable and children shouldn’t be using it and it’s wrong,” said Mr. Sessions, a former state attorney general. “I’m heartbroken at what the president said — it’s shocking to me.”