What hap­pened to the pot stigma?

Los Angeles Times - - OP-ED - By Wil­liam J. Bennett and Seth Leib­sohn Wil­liam J. Bennett was the na­tion’s first drug czar, the sec­re­tary of Ed­u­ca­tion from 1985-88 and is the co-au­thor of “Go­ing to Pot: Why the Rush to Le­gal­ize Mar­i­juana Is Harm­ing Amer­ica.” Seth Leib­sohn, ra­dio host o

Twenty years ago, drug deal­ers were seen for what they were — crim­i­nal and danger­ous el­e­ments in our so­ci­ety. They were shunned by the main­stream. Peo­ple who sold mar­i­juana were con­sid­ered losers, in the busi­ness of harm­ing our chil­dren. Par­ents warned their kids to stay away from those known to use drugs.

But thanks to the mar­i­juana lobby, what was once scorned is hyped and cel­e­brated — even as the drug has be­come more po­tent, with THC, the in­tox­i­cat­ing chem­i­cal, present at much higher lev­els than in the 1990s. Deal­ers run state-sanc­tioned dis­pen­saries, lobby to fur­ther le­gal­ize their prod­uct and re­ceive pos­i­tive me­dia cov­er­age when do­ing so.

The dan­gers have gone up and the stigma has gone down. And many in the Repub­li­can Party are aid­ing and abetting in this so­cial col­lapse. Re­cently, two prom­i­nent Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­cans, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and Rep. Tom McClin­tock, have taken the lead in help­ing re­verse the long-stand­ing con­sen­sus be­tween both par­ties that mar­i­juana, and other drugs, should re­main il­le­gal. A few of the po­ten­tial 2016 Repub­li­can can­di­dates for pres­i­dent are force­fully against le­gal­iza­tion, but most have been all over the map on this is­sue.

Yet it is no more a Repub­li­can Party or con­ser­va­tive value than it is a Demo­cratic Party or lib­eral value to help le­gal­ize, and thus ex­pand the use of, a danger­ous prod­uct.

Mario Cuomo, the late Demo­cratic gover­nor of New York, spoke out force­fully against le­gal­iza­tion. For­mer Rep. Pa­trick Kennedy fol­lows in his foot­steps to­day. Over the years, oth­ers who have op­posed le­gal­iza­tion in­clude Repub­li­cans Ron­ald Rea­gan, Ge­orge H.W. Bush, Ge­orge W. Bush, Bill Kris­tol, Charles Krautham­mer and Jack Kemp, and think tanks such as the Her­itage Foun­da­tion, the Hud­son In­sti­tute and the Clare­mont In­sti­tute. As Rea­gan said in 1986, “Drug abuse is not a so-called vic­tim­less crime.” In­deed, it is not. We wish more of our cur­rent elected of­fi­cials un­der­stood that fact.

Le­gal­iza­tion is aimed at adult use, but how have age re­stric­tions worked out in pre­vent­ing teen and ado­les­cent use of al­co­hol? Ac­cord­ing to the 2013 House­hold Sur­vey is­sued by the Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices, more than 22% of 16- and 17-year-olds and more than 43% of 18- to 20-year-olds reg­u­larly drink al­co­hol. As for mar­i­juana, in Colorado, where it be­came legal in 2012, teen use is 56% higher than the na­tional av­er­age.

Fur­ther­more, the science is over­whelm­ingly clear that mar­i­juana use is harm­ful to hu­man health, par­tic­u­larly among chil­dren and young adults. As the Amer­i­can Med­i­cal Assn. stated in 2013 when it came out against le­gal­iza­tion, “Cur­rent ev­i­dence sup­ports, at min­i­mum, a strong as­so­ci­a­tion of cannabis use with the on­set of psy­chi­atric dis­or­ders. Ado­les­cents are par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to harm.”

A 2014 study in the jour­nal Cur­rent Ad­dic­tion Re­ports found that regular pot use (de­fined as once a week), es­pe­cially among teenagers and young adults, can lead to cog­ni­tive decline, de­creased IQ, and poor at­ten­tion and mem­ory. This backs up a grow­ing num­ber of stud­ies with sim­i­lar find­ings, in­clud­ing a lengthy 2014 re­port in the New Eng­land Jour­nal of Medicine, and an­other re­port from the same year by North­west­ern Medicine and Mas­sachusetts Gen­eral/Har­vard Med­i­cal School, show­ing a link be­tween the recre­ational use of mar­i­juana and sig­nif­i­cant brain ab­nor­mal­i­ties in young adults.

If con­ser­va­tives be­lieve the ef­forts to con­tain mar­i­juana use have been too ex­pen­sive or bur­den­some on our law en­force­ment and cor­rec­tions sys­tems (as is of­ten claimed), we ask them to sim­ply look at the num­bers and costs as­so­ci­ated with en­force­ment of the legal prod­uct they analo­gize it to so of­ten, al­co­hol.

Ac­cord­ing to the FBI, ar­rests and im­pris­on­ments for al­co­hol and liquor vi­o­la­tions (DUIs, drunk­en­ness and liquor law vi­o­la­tions) ex- ceed ar­rests and im­pris­on­ments for all drug vi­o­la­tions com­bined — by nearly 500,000. Mar­i­juana pos­ses­sion ac­counts for 40% of the drug vi­o­la­tions. Why? One is legal and avail­able, and one is still — mostly — il­le­gal and less avail­able.

As for any claim of un­con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity, there is no ar­gu­ment against the legal bar­ring of mar­i­juana that does not also ap­ply to heroin, co­caine and meth. That is why some of the more hon­est pro­po­nents in the le­gal­iza­tion move­ment will ad­mit that mar­i­juana le­gal­iza­tion is but a first step to­ward the le­gal­iza­tion of all drugs.

Abra­ham Lin­coln said gov­ern­ment’s “lead­ing ob­ject is to el­e­vate the con­di­tion of men … to clear the paths of laud­able pur­suit for all.” Over­see­ing or en­cour­ag­ing more mar­i­juana use is just about the last thing a gov­ern­ment try­ing to el­e­vate the con­di­tion of men and clear the path of laud­able pur­suits would do. At stake is the safety of our youth, and that should be one thing both ma­jor par­ties can agree is pre­cious.

Los An­ge­les Times

MANY IN THE GOP are aid­ing and abetting in the so­cial col­lapse brought on by the de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana.

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