After youthful marijuana use felled a U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Douglas Ginsburg, in the late 1980s, it became a litmus-test question even in local politics. I remember a King County, Wash., executive candidate, Bruce Hilyer, who later became a Superior Court judge, fumbling the question at a televised debate and staring flummoxed into the cameras. (He eventually admitted to smoking pot when he was younger, and went on to win the primary but lost the general election.)
Well now we have the president of the United States saying it probably should have been treated the same as, say, drinking vodka. So the anti-pot criminal crusade was a decades-long governmental mistake. Sorry about that!
Some critics are bashing Obama for encouraging nationwide dope smoking, but he was actually pretty negative about it, calling it “a waste of time and not very healthy.”
He also pointed out, correctly I think, that “the experiment taking place in Colorado and Washington is going to be a challenge.” Will pot use here rise? Maybe. Will there be more drug addiction or abuse? Will it spark a drive to legalize harder drugs? Obama raised the specter of that.
But for my entire life honest talk about the drug issue has seemed impossible, because of the hectoring, shaming stance of the government and hypocrisy of the lawmakers (remember “I didn’t inhale”?). It really is a big change now just to hear a different tone.
Danny Westneat is a columnist for The Seattle Times. Readers may send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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