Although the federal government seems to be coming around to some degree in terms of loosening the restrictions its agencies have against the use of cannabis at times, make no mistake about it, the Obama Administration still remains adamantly opposed to the legalization of marijuana.
A week before a group of cannabis advocates are set to get high on the front lawn of the White House in protest of the president’s unwillingness to reclassify weed in a lesser schedule than heroin, Michael Botticelli appeared before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. During the meeting, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy placed some of the blame for the American opioid epidemic on marijuana.
Standing firmly by the belief that pot is a gateway to more dangerous substances, Botticelli told lawmakers — who met to discuss the heroin and opioid crisis — that the “high level” of minor pot consumption across the nation was destined to contribute to “more significant problems in the United States” like the ones the nation is currently experiencing with regard to the junk epidemic.
President Obama’s drug czar then went on to explain that efforts to legalize the leaf have created an increase in abuse among young people because they no longer believe marijuana is a dangerous drug.
“We have historically high levels of marijuana use among youth and we also see historically low levels of perception of risk of marijuana use among the youth in our country,” he said.
Botticelli’s testimony almost mimics an official White House statement that suggests the Obama administration opposes the legalization of marijuana because it would “increase the availability and use… and pose significant health and safety risks to all Americans, particularly young people.”
“Confusing messages being presented by popular culture, media, proponents of ‘medical’ marijuana, and political campaigns to legalize all marijuana use perpetuate the false notion that marijuana is harmless,” the White House said. “This significantly diminishes efforts to keep our young people drug free and hampers the struggle of those recovering from substance use disorders.”
Although Botticelli, a recovering addict, believes legal weed creates more use among young people, a recent study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy finds this popular prohibitionist claim is more propaganda than fact.
In an analysis of the U.S. National Survey on Drug Use in Household data, the report states there has been “no increase or even a decrease in youth marijuana use after the passage of medical marijuana laws.” Yet, even though the federal government’s own research shows no evidence that legal weed has contributed to more young stoners, the man who leads President Obama’s drug policy efforts remains convinced that pot reform is a detriment to the next generation.
“I think the evidence is pretty clear that early use of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana – often used together – significantly increases the probability that someone will develop a more significant addictive disorder later in their life,” he said. “Early substance use actually effects brain development and predisposes people for more significant vulnerabilities later in their life.”
Although there was some opposition to Botticelli’s claim, some committee members, like Representative Stephen Lynch, said that while he wasn’t sure whether marijuana was actually a gateway drug, he argued that every kid on opioids and heroin that he knows — “100 percent” — admit their transgressions with drug abuse began with marijuana.
However, earlier this year, a report from The Washington Post slaughtered the argument that marijuana is a gateway drug by suggesting “99 percent of illicit drug users also tried coffee, or soda, or chocolate milk before moving on to stronger substances.” The article was centered on a study conducted by Texas A&M in which researchers discovered that 54 percent of U.S. 12th graders tried alcohol before tobacco or marijuana – providing some proof that booze is the real gateway drug.
“Alcohol was the most widely used substance among respondents, initiated earliest, and also the first substance most commonly used in the progression of substance use,” researchers said.
President Obama said in February that he had no plans to initiate any level of federal marijuana reform before leaving office.
What do you think? Is alcohol the real gateway drug?