So I guess I should feel honored. Drug Czar John Walters picked my question to answer in the White House chat yesterday. I tried to frame it in a way that would be critical, yet not too critical (so he wouldn’t answer it). So here’s what ended up:
Pete, from Bloomington, Illinois writes:
Isn’t there a problem with giving kids misleading information regarding marijuana that overstates the actual dangers? I worry that when they find out we’ve been lying to them about marijuana that they’ll stop believing us when it comes to more dangerous drugs. After all, when you call Canadian pot the “crack cocaine of marijuana,” the message kids may hear is that crack must not be too bad.
Actually Pete, you’ve got the question exactly backwards. Marijuana is a much bigger part of the American addiction problem than most people — teens or adults — realize. There are now more teens going into treatment for marijuana dependency than for all other drugs combined. And there are more teens now seeking treatment for marijuana than for alcohol. Today’s marijuana is also twice as strong as it was in the mid 80’s. One of the reasons we have such a serious problem with marijuana in our country is because of the misinformation that has been spread about it over the past 30 years — that marijuana is “harmless” or a “soft drug” or a “rite of passage.” These are all myths — and for too many Americans they are costly myths. We need to educate Americans about the real harms of marijuana if we want to sustain the gains we’ve made over the past three years.
We’ve recently released a report entitled “Marijuana Myths & Facts: The Truth Behind 10 Popular Misperceptions” to help get the facts out about marijuana.
So I accuse Walters of downplaying the dangers of other drugs by hyping marijuana, and in his answer he does exactly that. He again overstates the dangers of marijuana (which leads to lack of confidence by teens that they’re getting the truth). And he significanly downplays the dangers of alcohol.
Of course, he pulls the same stunt that his office has been doing ad nauseum — the false implication regarding treatment. The truth is that treatment percentages connect to referrals, not addiction, so the reason that marijuana numbers are high has nothing to do with the danger of the drug (marijuana only has mild dependency capability), but rather that people go into treatment to avoid expulsion from school or as a condition for a positive drug test on the job, or to avoid jail.
As for the Drug Czar’s “report” — “Marijuana Myths & Facts is a joke. One of the commenters here is working on a detailed rebuttal to that publication — I’ll post a link to it when it’s available.
Of course, this was not a good format for me. I ask a question and he gets to answer it any way he wants to without rebuttal. So, for the record, I’ll state once again — I’ll debate the Drug Czar anywhere, any time. I’ll even pay my own way. Just let me know and I’ll be there.