In an article published in The New Yorker by Dan Remnick, President Obama chronicles his time in office, personal experiences and visions of the future. He also casually discusses with reporter Remnick his firm position on certain social issues but rides the fence on marijuana legalization. His laissez-faire attitude about legalization has drug policy and prevention experts scratching their heads in confusion as to why the President will not give clear guidance on this important issue.
President Obama is surrounded by a myriad of experts who have voiced serious concerns about the harms of marijuana and rejected legalization, so either he is seriously ill-informed about the issue or is completely ignoring warnings from his highly-esteemed advisors. Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske, has stated on numerous occasions that ‘marijuana legalization is a dangerous social experiment.’ Yet the President said, ‘it’s important for it to go forward,’ meaning the legalization of marijuana in the states of Colorado and Washington. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), indicates on www.drugabuse.gov that ‘increases in potency may account for the rise in emergency department visits involving marijuana use. For experienced users, it may mean a greater risk for addiction if they are exposing them-selves to high doses on a regular basis.’ According to the National Institutes of Health, one in six kids who try pot before 18 will abuse it or become addicted. Other studies have also shown that regular use of marijuana is robbing our youth of their IQ points, memory and in some cases, their mental health. The American Medical Association (AMA) has come out against the legal sales of marijuana due to public health concerns. Further, the majority of other major health organizations share the AMA’s sentiments. However, President Obama claims it is no more harmful than alcohol. He casually compares pot to alcohol and tobacco as though none of these drugs are public health threats.
The President can oppose the legalization of marijuana and still make thought-provoking changes to drug policies. Legalization is one extreme that the President should push back against. His lack of a formal position on what he is or is not supporting is an irresponsible move for such a person in the most highly-regarded position in this country.