Pubdate: Fri, 24 Jan 2014
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 2014 Houston Chronicle Publishing Company Division, Hearst Newspaper


Politicians Should Stop Treating Voters Like They're Kids When
Discussing Drug Policy.

The fact is that the war on drugs has failed to reduce consumption by
kids, and the prohibition on marijuana only encourages the rise of
deadly drug dealers.

There eventually comes a point in life when parents start to tell the
truth. The noble lies of parenting fall away - no, your face won't
actually stay like that - and children are addressed as adults.
Playing the chief executive's role as national father figure,
President Barack Obama crossed that line with America in his recent
interview with The New Yorker magazine editor David Remnick. After
generations of a drug war mentality and "Just Say No" rhetoric, the
president essentially admitted that our current laws against marijuana
don't make sense.

The president called marijuana use a "bad habit and a vice,"
reflecting on his own youthful indiscretions. But he also said
marijuana was likely less dangerous than alcohol, at least "in terms
of its impact on the individual consumer." After all, a prolific
drinker risks life-threatening liver damage. A prolific consumer of
pot risks wasting a life eating pot brownies.

It wasn't a "Father Knows Best" moment, with the White House
dispensing entrenched wisdom. The president was instead at his most
professorial - a style that rarely serves him well in Washington. But
this is a topic that deserves some nuance.

The president isn't alone in his refreshing candor. Gov. Rick Perry
stated his support for decriminalization, though not legalization, of
marijuana during a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos,
Switzerland, on Thursday. While this builds on the governor's support
for drug courts and diversion programs instead of jail time, the
straightforward language was something we hadn't heard before. Perhaps
it is a sign that we're growing up.

The days of reefer madness are over. The hyperbolic rhetoric and
race-tainted fears about drug use have fallen to academic study and,
often, personal experience. A 2013 Gallup poll found that 38 percent
of Americans have tried pot at some point - with 31 percent of
Republicans and 41 percent of Democrats. Most of them probably don't
deserve to face the full force of our justice system for what they

Despite prolific use, there is still little to praise about smoking a
joint. But those warnings against drug use should happen in adult
conversations, not noble lies. One by one, local governments are
sitting down and having serious talks about drug policy. Texas should
join the conversation. All too often, it feels like we're still stuck
between political sideshows advocating legalization and outdated
arguments from folks like Harris County District Attorney Devon
Anderson, who seem to think we should talk about drugs only as if the
audience were children.

Anderson wrote an open letter in response to the president's comments
about marijuana in which she pointed to the "deadly situations" caused
by marijuana and the harmful effects on kids' developing brains. If
that were the standard for setting law, we should ban football.

The fact is that the war on drugs has failed to reduce consumption by
kids, and the prohibition on marijuana only encourages the rise of
deadly drug cartels. Harris County voters should wonder whether
prosecuting marijuana crimes is a wise use of tax dollars while an
underground market for marijuana continues to put cash in the pockets
of drug dealers.

There are still unanswered questions in drug policy, mostly concerning
the long-term effects of legal marijuana. The long-term effects of
illegal marijuana are more certain: Millions spent on law enforcement,
poor people getting punished and pot use going up. We've tried
prohibition policy and seen the results. Texas needs something new. It
is time to act like adults.  
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