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Opening Arguments


An interesting little difference of opinion:

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 youth.

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 remainsillegal under federal law.

The National Drug Control Policy’s official stance, posted on the 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 I.Q.

Taxpayers have spent billions of dollars warning about drugs, often about marijuana, but these efforts were dramatically undercut by the president’s comments.

As a simple matter of documented fact, Mr. Obama is right. Cigarettes and alcohol have caused far more damage than marijuana, inflicting misery and death on millions of people. But how much damage could marijuana cause if it became as widely used as alcohol and tobacco instead of the preferred choice of a small minority? And saying something isn't as bad as something else is not exactly a sterling endorsement of it. It's like saying herpes is OK because it isn't as bad as syphilis.

The only thing worse than a bad law is to send mixed messages on what you intend to do about a law. From the Obama administration, we have had both "yeah, we still think the federal anti-drug law is important" to "nah, we've got bigger fish to fry." As a result, states feel free to ignore Washington and pass whatever drug laws they want to. Now that some states are moving beyond medical marijuana to endorsing recreational use, we can expect the decriminalization trend to accelerate.

But the federal law is still on the books. What are Colorado and Washington going to do if we elect a new president who isn't quite as latitudinarian as Obama?