Smoke and mir­rors: Obama cre­ates hazy drug pol­icy

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Ernest Is­took

Pres­i­dent Obama’s lat­est claims about mar­i­juana are con­tra­dicted by re­search and of­fi­cial po­si­tions of the Of­fice of Na­tional Drug Con­trol Pol­icy, which is part of the White House. And Mr. Obama’s words have anti-drug lead­ers wor­ried about neg­a­tive reper­cus­sions among youths.

Mr. Obama claimed to The New Yorker mag­a­zine that mar­i­juana is no worse than cig­a­rettes or al­co­hol, and he pro­moted state ef­forts by Colorado and Wash­ing­ton to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana, which re­mains il­le­gal un­der fed­eral law.

The Na­tional Drug Con­trol Pol­icy’s of­fi­cial stance, posted on White­House. gov, 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.

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 lais­sez­faire 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 Mr. Obama is un­der­cut­ting his work, how­ever. He’s a short-timer be­cause Mr. Obama nom­i­nated him last fall to be­come com­mis­sioner of U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion.

So for now, per­haps un­til Mr. 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.”

They should add Mr. Obama’s name to the list of con­fus­ing mes­sen­gers who per­pet­u­ate false no­tions. Ex­cept con­fus­ing mes­sen­ger is too po­lite a term. Out­right hyp­ocrite fits bet­ter.

Be on the look­out for the White House to re­move warn­ings of mar­i­juana use from its web­site, such as this gem: “The Ad­min­is­tra­tion stead­fastly op­poses le­gal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana and other drugs be­cause le­gal­iza­tion would in­crease the avail­abil­ity and use of il­licit drugs, and pose sig­nif­i­cant health and safety risks to all Amer­i­cans, par­tic­u­larly young peo­ple.”

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.

Myth No. 10 is “The gov­ern­ment sends oth­er­wise in­no­cent peo­ple to prison for ca­sual mar­i­juana use.”

In fact, less than 1 per­cent 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 ram­blings in The New Yorker show an ef­fort to project an in­tel­lec­tual ap­proach to the mar­i­juana is­sue when in fact his was pseudo-in­tel­lec­tu­al­ism.

He of­fers loose ar­gu­ments, even dis­cred­ited ar­gu­ments, be­cause he doesn’t ex­pect se­ri­ous fol­low-up from the me­dia. Even if he gets it, Mr. Obama sim­ply talks in cir­cles, ends the ques­tion­ing and shuts out that reporter in the fu­ture.

Any­one who be­lieves oth­er­wise must be smok­ing some­thing.

Ernest Is­took is a for­mer Repub­li­can mem­ber of the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Ok­la­homa.

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