Another Drug Czar Marijuana Offense

by Dan Bernath, MPP Blog

Yesterday, Bruce pointed out that the latest government data indicate that over the past 15 years teen cigarette use has declined and marijuana use increased to the point where teens use them pretty much equally now.

At his press conference announcing the annual report, Monitoring the Future, I asked White House drug czar John Walters to explain his insistence that marijuana must be prohibited for adults in order to protect children when the data suggest the exact opposite.

I don’t have a transcript yet, so what follows is my recollection of the exchange. However, if Walters or anybody from his Office of National Drug Control Policy public affairs department wants to dispute any of it and give me a transcript or video, I’d be grateful.

Anyway, the substance of his response was pretty much his standard circular logic: Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug for teens and therefore must remain illegal. Or something. Again, help me out here, ONDCP public affairs.

He could have stopped there, and I kind of wish he had, because frankly I’m tired of making fun of this guy. But he couldn’t resist adding that he believes the real reason marijuana prohibition has been so impotent is that organizations like MPP devote so much time and energy to recruiting the next generation of potheads.

That’s right – I’ve just pointed out to him that youth use rates of a taxed and regulated substance, tobacco, have plummeted, and he accused MPP of wanting to adopt the same model to control marijuana because we secretly want to encourage teen use.

Of course, he knows this is nonsense, so I said, “Ok, Director Walters, you know that’s not true.” He muttered something feeble about how maybe MPP has been more effective reaching kids than he was. Which is funny, since ONDCP has spent billions on misleading, ineffective ads that condescend to kids, while MPP spends nothing. And why should we? We’re a policy organization. Policy is for grownups.

A lot of my colleagues feel understandably offended by the ridiculous accusation that any of us would favor encouraging children to engage in risky or dangerous behaviors. But Walters has resorted to that particular tantrum many times, and I find it more pathetic than offensive.

You know what bothers me? Where was the press? The biggest successes in reducing teen drug use, according to Monitoring the Future data, involve substances that are responsibly taxed and regulated – alcohol and tobacco. Meanwhile, we flounder with teen marijuana use rates. That’s news, folks.

But it wasn’t spelled out in the official press release, so nobody thought to ask about it. Except me. But then again, I work for an organization that, for some reason, wants to corrupt children.