Perhaps the best news to come out of the White House in recent days was the affirmation of a strong policy against the legalization of marijuana. This, along with a message of opposition to legalization from the American Society for Addiction Medicine was a good one-two punch against efforts underway in California and elsewhere.
The two items were not related. They were prompted by different incidents. However, those incidents are both part of a larger effort to make the drug as socially and legally acceptable as alcohol.
The White House statement came in response to eight separate, but potentially overlapping, petitions that were sent to its "We the people" project, which promises a policy response to any petition for government action that collects enough signatures. The addiction medicine group was responding to the California Medical Association's endorsement of decriminalization efforts for "recreational" marijuana use. It might as well also have been responding to its own California chapter, which also would legalize, tax and regulate marijuana in an effort to minimize its use among adolescents.
The last thing the nation needs is an official stamp of approval on another mind-altering and addictive substance. Legalization efforts in this country count on Americans being ignorant of what is happening in other parts of the world, most notably in Holland, where Dutch officials are carefully backing away from liberal laws that allow people to smoke cannabis in "coffee shops."
In recent weeks, amid mounting public healt concerns, the Dutch government announced it would begin classifying strong forms of marijuana as a hard drug, similar to cocaine and ecstasy. Then the Behavioral Science Institute of Radboud University Nijmegen in Holland released a study that showed cannabis can increase the risk of depression in certain young people. Other studies have shown an increased risk of schizophrenia and psychosis, especially among young people with certain genetic predispositions.
The White House statement seemed to be another indication that the Obama administration is prepared to carry on a long-standing federal policy against marijuana use, coming on the heels of memo from a Justice Department official who said state laws would not give immunity from federal prosecution.44 comments on this story
The official White House statement, which came from Obama's director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske, said "... legalizing marijuana would not provide the answer to any of the health, social, youth education, criminal justice, and community quality of life challenges associated with drug use," It also mentioned the drug's connection to respiratory disease, cognitive impairment and addiction.
Utahns, we trust, need little convincing, generally, that marijuana use should remain illegal, even allowing for legitimate arguments that the punishments users receive should focus on treatment rather than imprisonment. But if the legalization movement were to receive an official toehold elsewhere in the country, it could push the culture toward a general acceptance that would come with a host of potential health problems. It's good to know the administration agrees.