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Commentary: Obama on marijuana; CVS on tobacco
Published on February 7, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Anthony L Hall

President Obama created quite a buzz last week when he added his still-influential voice to the national debate on legalizing recreational use of marijuana.

Here, in part, is what he said during an interview for the January 27 issue of the New Yorker, which the magazine actually published online on January 19:

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. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol…

Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do.

Anthony L. Hall is a Bahamian who descends from the Turks and Caicos Islands. He is an international lawyer and political consultant - headquartered in Washington DC - who also publishes a current events weblog, The iPINIONS Journal, at
Given this, you could be forgiven for thinking that Obama had finally evolved to the point of declaring his support for legalizing marijuana, just as he had done recently on another controversial issue of national debate, same-sex marriage.

But think again:

Despite President Barack Obama’s recent comments stating that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol, the White House said Wednesday that his opposition to marijuana legalization still stands.

‘The president’s position on these matters hasn’t changed,’ White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at his daily press briefing, when asked if Obama was warming up to the decriminalization of marijuana. ‘He’s not endorsing any specific move by a state.’

(Huffington Post, January 22, 2014)

To be fair, his fellow Democrats are already pissed at him for undermining their midterm-election prospects with his disastrous rollout of Obamacare. Therefore, it’s understandable that this president does not want to risk outright mutiny by forcing them to defend his personal preference for legalizing pot.

He might have also been chastened, though, by having the head of his Drug Enforcement Agency publicly reprimand him, like a schoolmarm reprimanding a naughty student, for giving marijuana use the de facto presidential seal of approval.

DEA chief Michele M. Leonhart slammed President Obama’s recent comments comparing smoking marijuana to drinking alcohol at an annual meeting of the nation’s sheriffs this week, according to two sheriffs who said her remarks drew a standing ovation.

(Boston Herald, January 25, 2014)

But, just as I was always certain Obama was a closeted supporter of legalizing same-sex marriages, I’m certain he is a closeted supporter of legalizing marijuana too.

Not least because he’s intellectually honest enough to appreciate that only rank moral hypocrisy (and vested interest in the prison industrial complex) can explain why alcohol -- with its many harmful and, in far too many cases, deadly effects -- is legal, but marijuana -- with its relatively mild and, in very many cases, medicinal effects – is illegal.

A direct comparison of alcohol and cannabis [aka marijuana] showed that alcohol was considered to be more than twice as harmful as cannabis to users, and five times more harmful as cannabis to others.

(Journal of Psychopharmacology, January 27, 2012)

And let’s be clear that the harm alcohol causes to others ranges from drunken arguments that lead to domestic violence to driving under the influence that leads to vehicular homicides. Then, of course, there’s the economic and social-justice impacts legalizing marijuana would have:

According to an October 19, 2010, report in Business & Law, legalizing drugs would save the US government approximately $41.3 billion annually on expenditures related to the enforcement of prohibition and yield tax revenues of $46.7 billion based on tax rates comparable to those currently levied on tobacco and alcohol.

Not to mention that it would release hundreds of thousands (of mostly blacks and Latinos) from prison who are now serving time not for drug violence, but merely for marijuana possession and use.

(“Legalize Drugs!” The iPINIONS Journal, October 20, 2011)

Again I say, legalize it!

Meanwhile, in an unprecedented and truly life-affirming move, CVS Caremark announced yesterday that it will stop selling all tobacco products in all stores by October 2014.

No doubt this is highly commendable. But bear in mind that, at long last, CVS is merely ridding its store shelves and corporate conscience of the damning hypocrisy inherent in promoting human health while peddling these deadly products.

All the same, former smoker Obama not only hailed this belated decision, which will reportedly cost CVS $2 billion in annual revenues; he seemed to take credit for it:

As one of the largest retailers and pharmacies in America, CVS Caremark sets a powerful example, and today’s decision will help advance my administration’s efforts to reduce tobacco-related deaths, cancer, and heart disease, as well as bring down health care costs – ultimately saving lives and protecting untold numbers of families from pain and heartbreak for years to come.

(Washington Post, February 5, 2014)

CVS is the nation’s second-largest drugstore chain. One can only hope Walgreens, the largest, and other chains will now follow suit.

Incidentally, for the record, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that tobacco is “the nation’s leading killer,” causing 443,000 deaths each year; alcohol causes 88,000; marijuana … 0!

NOTE: Given Jamaica’s well-earned reputation as a ganja paradise, you might think it’s legal there. But it’s not. Therefore, here’s to Jamaica finally redressing this verdant hypocrisy and doing for the Caribbean what Uruguay has done for South America and Colorado for North America, namely, setting the precedent for legalizing recreational use of marijuana.

Related commentaries:
Legalize marijuana

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