With all the sound and fury eight former DEA bosses are stirring up over marijuana, you would think that recent legalization measures passed in Washington and Colorado are the first sign of the apocalypse.
In an AP article (Trib 3/5) replete with infomercial appeal, “the onetime DEA heads issued a joint statement” (pot humor is mandatory in these articles) that the Justice Department should “act now or else it will be too late.”
Too late for what? Too late for the cartels who profit from illegal drugs? Too late for the war on drugs which is bankrupting our public safety budgets? Too late to add the ginzu knives to this special offer?
This is not a plug for pot. Never used it, never will. In fact, most of us are aware marijuana has its dangers:
- Harvard researchers report the risk of heart attack is five times higher in the hour after smoking marijuana;
- The National Institute of Health found that a person who smokes five joints per week may be ingesting as many carcinogens as a pack-a-day smoker;
Lingering side effects also include a loss of critical thinking, a doubled risk of depression and suicidal thoughts, and the possibility of fetal damage if ingested during pregnancy.
But are the negative effects of alcohol, our ubiquitous drug of choice, really so different? Scrolling through that list one finds hangovers and sleep disruption, depression, liver damage, fetal alcohol syndrome, liver damage and a host of other calamities including fatal alcohol poisoning.
The comparisons between alcohol and marijuana may be more complex than that, but if we are to avoid hypocrisy, we should at least be willing to have an open and honest conversation about legalization.
None of this should be a surprise for the voters in Washington and Colorado who supported legalized marijuana. The resources used and the money spent enforcing marijuana statutes has impacted our state and local budgets. For several reasons, voters decided they’d had enough of that.
Attorney General Eric Holder seems to understand the discussion. He appeared to listen to Governor Inslee in a recent conversation on the topic of federal intervention. He also has other obligations as well, including a responsibility to other governments. In fact, the U.N.’s International Narcotics Control Board is urging the DOJ to move against the legalization measures.
But that is the Fed’s fish to fry. The only relevant argument for or against our state’s legal vote has distilled down to the question of states’ rights. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Either way, we should take the urgent advice of eight former DEA heads with a grain of salt. With the market for narcotics still strong, cartel profits in the billions and our precious dollars spent incarcerating record numbers of inmates, these guys just don’t get it.
We’re still fighting the war on drugs, and we’re still losing.