By Jacob Sullum for REASON
Writing in today’s New York Times, anti-pot psychiatrist Ed Gogek, who identifies himself as “a lifelong partisan Democrat,” argues that members of his party, if they are true to their principles, should oppose medical marijuana laws as well as broader forms of legalization:
The marijuana lobby wants us to distrust two centerpieces of the regulatory state, the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The whole purpose of medical marijuana laws is to evade the regulatory power of these agencies. We’re the political party that got the F.D.A. to regulate tobacco. How can we now say it shouldn’t regulate pot?…
Legalization would also undermine a successful Democratic program: drug courts, which were written into the 1994 crime bill by Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. They use coercion, the threat of jail, to keep addicts in treatment.
But the marijuana lobby opposes coercion. That’s not surprising. Drug users just want to be left alone to get high. If we side with them, we’re undercutting the Democratic answer to substance abuse….
[Legalization advocates] make selfish demands that would undermine the public good.
Democrats: the Party of Control, Coercion, and Collectivism! No wonder they won.
Gogek claims, hilariously, that he and President Obama are “standing up” for “science” when they insist that marijuana belongs on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, a legal status supposedly reserved for drugs with a high abuse potential and no accepted medical value that cannot be used safely even under a doctor’s supervision. Science, according to Gogek, tells us that marijuana is more dangerous than morphine, cocaine, or methamphetamine.
Gogek also thinks science tells us that medical marijuana laws lead to more pot smoking among teenagers, a claim that has been repeatedly refuted by analyses of survey data. To give you a sense of Gogek’s scientific reasoning, he cites an increase in pot use by teenagers since 2008 to illustrate the impact of medical marijuana laws that have been around since 1996. If I claimed it was the election of a president who admitted smoking pot in high school that led to more pot smoking in high school, that would be reckless speculation, but it would still be more plausible than Gogek’s theory. At least the timing is right.
As is typical of anti-drug polemicists, Gogek equates use with abuse. Hence the drug users who “just want to be left alone to get high” are all guilty of “substance abuse,” meaning they would benefit from getting arrested and forced into “treatment.” Likewise “most medical marijuana recipients,” who are “drug abusers who are either faking or exaggerating their problems.” One paragraph later, “most” becomes “almost all.” Now who’s exaggerating?
It surely is true that many dispensary customers are recreational pot smokers taking advantage of a legal loophole. But instead of calling them fakers, Gogek agrees they are sick. It’s just that they are suffering from “substance abuse” rather than insomnia or back pain, and the cure for that is coercion, not cannabis. What an inspiring vision these Democrats have.
Although Gogek mentions general legalization in passing, he does not recognize that as a possible solution to the dishonesty fostered by prohibition. If people can legally obtain pot without pretending to be sick, as will soon be the case in Colorado and Washington, the malingering that so offends Gogek will disappear. But he still would have to deal with the haunting feeling that someone, somewhere may be left alone to get high.