Pubdate: Wed, 22 Jan 2014
Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Copyright: 2014 The Seattle Times Company
Author: Danny Westneat


Sometimes sea changes come so slowly that when they finally arrive,
they barely make it into the news.

So it was the other day when President Obama, in a magazine interview,
said that marijuana, long classified as one of our worst drugs, is
really about the same as alcohol.

"As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as
a bad habit and a vice," Obama said. "I don't think it is more
dangerous than alcohol."

This story ran on page A6 of The Seattle Times. That's probably
because the implication of these words - that pot should be legalized,
or at a minimum, decriminalized - has already been embraced by voters
here. It's another example of how the "change" president has spent his
years mostly following big cultural changes, not leading them.

Still, that the president just declared a major plank of the War on
Drugs to have been wrongheaded is big news. So big that his own Office
of National Drug Control Policy hasn't gotten the memo.

"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," the drug czar's website says.

Well, alcohol poses significant health and safety risks, too. It's
just not a crime to drink, which is the key distinction. Obama wasn't
encouraging pot use - at least to my ears. He was saying it makes no
sense to treat people as criminals for it.

Why have we been doing so for 40-plus years?

I guess this all strikes me as a big deal because I came of age in the
"Just Say No" time of zero, or little, tolerance. The hypocrisy of
arresting 700,000 people a year for what most politicians themselves
had probably done got so thick it led to that uncomfortable era of
"urine-test journalism," when we reporters would go around grilling
politicians whether they'd ever smoked pot.

After youthful marijuana use felled a U.S. Supreme Court nominee,
Douglas Ginsburg, in the late 1980s, it became a litmus-test question
even in local politics. I remember a King County executive candidate,
Bruce Hilyer, who later became a Superior Court judge, fumbling the
question at a televised debate and staring flummoxed into the cameras.
(He eventually admitted to smoking pot when he was younger, and went
on to win the primary but lost the general election.)

Well now we have the president of the United States saying it probably
should have been treated the same as, say, drinking vodka. So the
anti-pot criminal crusade was a decades-long governmental mistake.
Sorry about that!  
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D