You can tell a lot about a person by the battles he chooses to fight, and even more by the battles he chooses to fight badly.
I've always been a very vocal supporter of President Obama, and continue to be. But I must say, the extent to which his administration has supported this nation's drug laws -- despite rapidly shifting public support and troves scientific evidence showing that marijuana, in particular, is by no means as dangerous as heroin, as federal law currently classifies it -- is despicable.
And not only has the administration avoided change and consistently stood behind the law, but also it has lied to us. Here are three lies from a recent White House statement responding to The New York Times Editorial Board's decision to endorse marijuana legalization:
1. "Substance use in school age children has a detrimental effect on their academic achievement."
This fact is taken from a 2009 National Youth Risk Survey, which showed that students with lower grades are more likely to smoke marijuana. But, the report notes -- echoing something you learn in any introductory statistics course -- "These associations do not prove causation." It goes on: "Further research is needed to determine whether low grades lead to alcohol and other drug use, alcohol and other drug use leads to low grades, or some other factors lead to both of these problems."
Not only does this uncover a concerning level of mathematical ignorance in the White House, but it also reveals a dangerous ideology that the Obama administration has apparently endorsed. Kids who use drugs are more likely to be in bad situations as it is -- they may have lower incomes or experience turmoil at home -- so naturally they will perform worse in school. Bad academic achievement is a complex issue; far more complex than just getting kids to stop smoking pot. Let's hope that's not the White House's grand education plan.
2. "Marijuana is addictive."
The White House cites a study showing that 9% -- oh no! -- of marijuana users become addicted, but that number means little without some context. Thirty-two percent of tobacco users become addicted, 23% of heroin users, 15% of alcohol users, and an equal 9% of anti-anxiety drug users.
If you ask me, 9% is far from a public health crisis worthy of banning a substance under the harshest classification federal drug law has to offer. In fact, there's a far higher percentage of people addicted to their phones than there are addicted to marijuana.
3. The White House is focused on "innovative reform" and is committed to treatment as an alternative to incarceration.
To put it plainly, if this were true, the first thing the administration would do is vigorously fight to end the federal prohibition of marijuana. Current marijuana laws place the drug alongside some of the most dangerous substances known to humans, and reject its medical value. If the administration really felt there was room to improve on how we deal with marijuana users, it would seem legalization, or at least some drawback of the Controlled Substances Act, would be the natural place to start.
But instead, the White House has consistently fought public opinion and basic logic by standing behind our Nixon-era drug laws. That's bad enough as it is, but to take it further and support bad policy with lies and exaggerations is, if you ask me, far more criminal than smoking a joint.