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Thursday, November 07, 2013

Drugs and Politics

Jim Alexander e-mails:

I saw your comments about the Mayor of Toronto's admission that he has smoked crack cocaine. Since you are a big supporter of President Obama, I have to wonder why you don't ask the same questions about him.
It's a valid question, but saying I'm a big supporter of President Obama is to imply that I support everything he's done, which isn't the case. One of the many things with which I disagree is Obama's continued support for the Failed War On Drugs, and I have criticized him for exactly the same hypocrisy as Mayor Ford. That is, the fact that millions of Americans have been jailed for the very drugs that Obama admitted consuming as a young man -- and far too many of them have the same skin color he does. If Obama had been convicted and done time like them, he would not be sitting in the Oval Office today.

I have also criticized Obama for allowing the Justice Department to take punitive action against medical marijuana dispensaries in the early years of his administration. Though that policy has softened since, his initial continuation of the Bush-era raids of those facilities, despite state laws that permitted it, was an inappropriate application of federal power.

I'm not a drug user. I won't even take Oxycontin or Vicodin or Percocet, and haven't smoked pot -- for recreation or medical reasons -- since Halloween, 1978. But I detest the lies that have been told about marijuana for decades, intended to scare Americans into believing that pot and crack and heroin all fit into the same category. As a nation, we have to stop using slippery slope arguments for everything and instead start compartmentalizing -- yes that's bad, but this is not that -- more issues.

Although Ford said he used cocaine during "one of his drunken stupors," I don't hear anyone calling for another prohibition on alcohol because it's a gateway to crack. Yet that's the slippery slope argument against legalizing recreational marijuana. The truth is that, just as gay marriage hasn't led to a man marrying a horse, allowing people to smoke a joint in the privacy of their own homes after a hard day's work isn't going to turn us into John Belushi at the Chateau Marmont.

I wish this President would say that out loud. He and other politicians (like the two men that preceded him, also admitted drug users) must believe that even discussing the legalization of marijuana on the federal level would be a political slippery slope. They're wrong. As the nation's opinion changes, so should its leader's.