For your reading pleasure, here’s the funniest op-ed you will read today, via NRO, entitled “Marijuana: A Gift of the Left to America’s Youth.” Author Dennis Prager is happy to report that he has been proved right:
According to the CBS4 report, based in part on data from a local drug-testing lab: “Experts say the test results show that children are getting higher than ever with alarming levels of THC, marijuana’s active ingredient, in their bodies.” The massive increase in both the number of users and the amount of marijuana used by young people is precisely what I and many others predicted.
The source for Prager’s claim is the assertion of a drug-testing company that it’s been called in to conduct tests more often. He characterizes this as “based in part on data from a local drug-testing lab.” But the company provides no numbers in the CBS4 article, so it isn’t really “data” at all. And drug testing companies have a long history of inflating their claims, which is understandable because they profit from the drug prohibition. Does Prager, who’s done radio shows about cronyism, really not get that? He’s also a big fan of tobacco:
Yes, tobacco — specifically cigarettes — kills and marijuana doesn’t. But, if you’ll forgive the ultimate political incorrectness, young people would do much better in life if they smoked tobacco rather than weed. First, tobacco doesn’t kill young people. … Second, regular pot smokers increasingly tune out of life, becoming what are known as potheads, or, to put it bluntly, losers.
The entire op-ed is filled with ridiculous statements, from “How would Britain have fared in World War II if Winston Churchill had smoked pot instead of cigars?” to the easily-debunked claim that legalization leads to more potent forms of pot (there’s substantial evidence that the opposite is true–heroin emerged after opium was criminalized, meth after crack cocaine, etc.).
There’s no question that marijuana decriminalization provides local news stations with more opportunities to scare people. The very station Prager cites recently ran an AP report warning of a rise in meth lab-like explosions due to a profusion of hash oil manufacturers, and it’s run “think of the children” pieces before too. The difference is the good folks at CBS4 Denver have the honesty to report basic facts that may not fit into Prager’s narrative about evil leftists:
“We actually saw teen marijuana use go down in the state of Colorado, where it went up nationally in a tightly regulated medical marijuana environment,” said Kayvan Khalatbari, co-owner of Denver Relief Dispensary. He’s citing a study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that says marijuana usage in Colorado teenagers went down by 2.8 percent from 2009 to 2011. Police say that’s not what they are seeing. “Were just seeing so many problems with it that it couldn’t possibly be on the decrease,” Sgt. Jim Gerhardt of the Colorado Drug Investigators Association said. “We’re seeing so many kids using it.”
Look, marijuana use among children is a problem that should be dealt with–ideally by parents. But people who make the argument that decriminalization equals more stoned children rarely have to confront the opposite argument that prohibition equals mass incarceration of nonviolent offenders and the enrichment of drug cartels rather than American businesses. The latter evidently doesn’t bother Prager, who will likely do quite well concern-trolling movement conservatives with columns like these for years to come.
Yet the biggest error of his piece is one of omission–the suggestion that letting states do what they will with regard to certain drug laws is some sort of leftist cause, and that conservatives have no reason to grapple with the realities of the drug war. Conservative opinion is evolving rapidly on this issue, as Anthony Gregory detailed last September in these pages. Since then we’ve seen hemp legalization efforts supported by the likes of Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, and the arch-conservative Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli come out in favor of pot federalism. Prager is too busy demonizing familiar enemies and citing nonexistent “data” to relay those important developments to his readers.