Pubdate: Tue, 31 Mar 2015
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2015 The Washington Times, LLC.
Author: John R. Coyne Jr.
Note: John R. Coyne Jr., a former White House speechwriter, is 
co-author of "Strictly Right: William F. Buckley Jr. and the American 
Conservative Movement" (Wiley).
AMERICA by William J. Bennet and Robert A. White Center Street, $26, 240 pages


William Bennett, who served as secretary of education under Ronald 
Reagan and director of national drug control policy (or drug czar) 
under George H.W. Bush, has long been known for his strong and clear 
articulation of conservative principles in a number of best-selling 
books, among them "The Book of Virtues."

In "Going to Pot," he and his co-author Robert White, a managing 
partner in an international law firm and former assistant U.S. 
attorney for the District of New Jersey, examine the current trendy 
rush to legalize the drug. "Marijuana, once considered worthy of 
condemnation, has in recent years become a 'medicine' legalized fully 
in four states, with others expected to follow."

Once a cause becomes popular, especially a cause aimed at reversing 
some long-accepted societal standard, and once the media, both mass 
and social, begin to beat the tom-toms in support of that cause, 
chances are good that what may have been considered dangerous and 
harmful becomes benign and even desirable.

At present, marijuana legalization is on that fast track, and it's 
Mr. Bennett's intention to provide "a call to action for the 46 
states that know better than to support full legalization, and a 
voice of reason for millions who have jumped on the legalization 
bandwagon because they haven't had access to the facts."

Many of these facts, write the authors, are contained in the numerous 
studies they cite, showing, for instance, a link between marijuana 
use and abnormal brain structure and development. The damaging 
effects of prolonged marijuana use are especially pronounced on the 
teenage brain, with a clear link to teen psychosis as well as IQ 
decreases and brain damage. "These are permanent decreases, 
indicating permanent brain damage."

Yet, according to the authors, marijuana "is a substance whose 
dangers the president of the United States recently downplayed, in 
the face of the very evidence his own Office of National Drug Control 
Policy, DEA, and the National Institute of Drug Abuse promulgate."

But legalize it, level the playing field with other harmful 
substances that currently enjoy legality, and you've opened the door 
to yet another serious and harmful public health problem, exacerbated 
by the dramatically increased potency of today's marijuana.

"Legality is the mother of availability and availability, as former 
health, education, and welfare secretary Joe Califano recently put 
it, is the mother of use."

In the end, write the authors, legalization simply defies common 
sense. "Adding to the catalog of unhealthy products in America does 
nothing to reduce problems we already have; it only serves to 
increase the harm by adding yet another dangerous substance to the 

True, there have been well-argued statements of support of 
legalization for essentially economic and libertarian reasons from a 
variety of serious people, among them Milton Friedman and William F. 
Buckley Jr. (Rand Paul, with his libertarian pedigree, may also 
believe in a form of legalization, with the proviso that minors are protected).

And as the authors point out, there are also somewhat unlikely 
opponents, among them Maureen Dowd, the New York Times' premier 
columnist, and California Gov. Jerry Brown, who as the erstwhile 
"Governor Moonbeam," was once mistakenly, if understandably, thought 
of as a charter member of California's considerable drug culture.

The authors quote Mr. Brown on the subject: "If there's advertising 
and legitimacy, how many people can get stoned and still have a great 
state or a great nation? The world's pretty dangerous, very 
competitive. I think we need to stay alert, if not twenty-four hours 
a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together."

When a nationally known and perceived liberal political leader voices 
opposition to legalization in this straightforward way, say the 
authors, "we know this problem transcends party problems because it 
is detrimental to our nation."

Why the trendy rush to legalize is being led by many of the same 
people who have declared war on trans fats, sugar, potato chips and 
tobacco remains something of a mystery - especially in the case of 
tobacco, where reputable studies cited by the authors have shown that 
smoking marijuana is more damaging to the lungs than cigarette smoking.

But the vagaries and contradictions of ideology aside, the authors 
have opened with a strong and eloquent salvo in what they hope will 
be "a larger debate about the legalization of marijuana, whether 
medical or recreational."

"This argument is, after all, about our most precious and valuable 
assets: the health and well-being of our children and our country."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom