Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 26, 2014

ED VASICEK: President helps diminish perception of pot's risks

Obama equates marijuana to cigarettes


Kokomo Tribune

---- — The snowy, cold weather is a great time to enjoy homemade soup. We invited our fictitious friend, Emil, to join us. Why? Because his fictitious wife was out of town.

“I sure love beef barley soup,” Emil commented. “Especially when we have a real winter like this one.”

“Yep, that’s how we think too,” I replied. “I made my biggest pot full of it.”

“Speaking of pot,” Emil continued, “What do you think of President Obama’s endorsement of marijuana?”

“Well,” I responded, “I think it will be just like the gay marriage thing. All of a sudden, lots of people will trash their convictions and pretend like they never thought otherwise. Although people gripe and complain when they talk to pollsters, a lot of Americans follow President Obama like the Pied Piper when it comes to moral or social issues.”

“What was it that President Obama said?” Marylu inquired.

Emil answered, “I brought the clipping with me. Printed off the Internet. According to the Christian Science Monitor, ‘President Obama spoke out on marijuana in an interview with the New Yorker released Sunday. He told David Remnick, the magazine’s editor, that pot is not any more dangerous than alcohol or tobacco in terms of its impact on individuals.

“‘“As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life,” Mr. Obama said.’”

“Hard to believe that the president would say such a thing,” I added. “It is one thing to say that he smoked marijuana and regretted it, but to say it is the same as smoking a cigarette or taking a drink is basically saying we have been wrong all these years to make marijuana illegal. All the billions we’ve spent on enforcement was money wasted, and the massive amounts of time spent in jail by offenders was wrong.”

“I hear you,” added Emil. “It is one thing to say, ‘We have lost the war and we can no longer enforce a ban on marijuana. So, since we cannot stop it, the best we can do is regulate it.’ I am not sure we should take that route, but I can at least understand that kind of approach.”

“Yep,” I added. “The president’s statement is nothing like yours. He’s communicating a moral judgment: Smoking marijuana is a minor vice, like smoking a cigarette.”

“You know what’s particularly ironic?” Emil added. “Look at how America has clamped down on smoking. Think of the no-smoking bans in restaurants and public places. Think about the warning on cigarette packages. Will they put warnings on joints? And we have pushed for more nutritional lunches so our kids can learn better and be healthier. But think about how marijuana use impacts learning.”

I ran over to my laptop and quickly found the drugabuse.gov website. I read this aloud:

“‘Marijuana [use] ... has generally increased among young people since 2007, corresponding to a diminishing perception of the drug’s risks. More teenagers are now current smokers of marijuana than of cigarettes ...’”

“Well, the president’s words will help diminish the ‘perception of the drug’s risk’ even further,” Marylu opined. We nodded in agreement.

I continued to read:

“‘... [M]arijuana’s adverse impact on learning and memory persists after the acute effects of the drug wear off; when marijuana use begins in adolescence, the effects may persist for many years ... marijuana use by young people can have long-lasting negative impact on the structure and function of their brains.

“‘A recent study of marijuana users who began using in adolescence revealed a profound deficit in connections between brain areas responsible for learning and memory ... people who began smoking marijuana heavily in their teens lost as much as 8 points in IQ between age 13 and age 38 ...’”

“Between video games and pot, I think we are draining our nation’s intelligence,” Emil concluded. It’s hard to disagree with Emil.

Ed Vasicek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at edvasicek@gmail.com.