Originally appeared in Politico MagazineLiberals want to ban trans fats and legalize marijuana. Does that make any sense to you? The national debate over marijuana legalization has caught many liberals in a confounding paradox. These liberals, who have fought vociferously for bans on cigarettes, super-sized sodas, trans fats and other unhealthy substances, now either advocate for the legalization of marijuana or stand unopposed to it. This is notable because, whatever else it is, marijuana is not healthy. In his recent New Yorker interview, President Obama remarked, “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.” But then he added, “I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.” Of the legalization in Colorado and Washington—never mind the unresolved conflict between state and federal law—he said, “it’s important for it to go forward.” Got that? The same president who signed into law a tough federal anti-cigarette smoking bill in 2009 now supports marijuana legalization. The inconsistency and self-contradiction is obvious. In the name of public health, liberals wage political war against genetically modified organisms, french fries and tubby kids, yet stand idly by, or worse, support the legalization of a mind-impairing substance known to be addictive and have deleterious effects on the brain. The very same year, for example, that Colorado legalized marijuana, the Colorado Senate passed (without a single Republican vote) a ban on trans fats in schools. Are we to believe eating a glazed donut is more harmful than smoking a joint? California has already banned trans fats in restaurants statewide, but now is on the brink of legalizing marijuana statewide come November. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg supported New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s effort to decriminalize marijuana in New York State, while at the same time supporting a ban on extra-large sodas. A 32-ounce Mountain Dew is bad for you, but pot isn’t? The logic is dumbfounding. For many years, health-conscious liberals have waged a deafening, public war against cigarettes. Smoking bans in public places like restaurants and bars have been enacted in states all over the country. Recently, New York City, New Jersey and several other cities and states have extended those bans to include the newest tobacco fad—e-cigarettes. Yet, when it comes to smoking marijuana? Crickets. What explains this obvious paradox? Do these liberals think that marijuana is somehow less harmful than a Big Gulp soda or a bucket of fried chicken? It’s hard to believe that’s the case, given the vast amount of social data and medical science on the dangers of marijuana. Marijuana is the most widely used and abused drug in the country. More Americans are admitted to treatment facilities for marijuana use than for any other illegal drug. The link between marijuana use and abnormal brain structure and development, including poor memory and schizophrenia, has been well documented, including a very recent study from Northwestern University. (“Memory-related structures in their brains appeared to shrink and collapse inward, possibly reflecting a decrease in neurons,” the study found.) To write off pot as no more dangerous than alcohol, as the president remarked, is to minimize alcohol’s destructiveness and belittle pot’s very real and harmful effects. The American Medical Association does not support marijuana legalization and reports, “Heavy cannabis use in adolescence causes persistent impairments in neurocognitive performance and IQ, and use is associated with increased rates of anxiety, mood and psychotic thought disorders.” Furthermore, marijuana is a mind-altering substance. You can chug a 40-ounce Coke or scarf down a bag of buttery microwave popcorn and still drive a car or operate machinery lucidly, but not when you’re stoned. No serious doctor, except maybe a witch doctor, has ever recommended inhaling the strong and harsh smoke of burning leaves. Unless you’re smoking something, the logic here is pretty strong. So what explains why liberals target unhealthy foods, yet turn a blind eye to a far more harmful substance? The answer is not clear, and there may not be a good answer at all. Perhaps marijuana advocates will say that they’re merely bowing to the reality that millions of Americans enjoy it despite its deleterious health effects. But the same could be said for trans fats. Rather than speculate, we should hold liberals accountable and demand that they answer publicly: If trans fats, GMOs and other dangerous substances deserve to be banned in the name of public health, then why not marijuana as well? Conservatives and liberals who believe in the authority of the government to “promote the general welfare” once found common ground in opposition to legalizing marijuana. When I (Bennett) was drug czar, I worked together with many Democrat leaders, like Rep. Charlie Rangel and then Senator Joe Biden, to crack down on drug use of all types. The battle was fierce and our opponents were vocal, but through tough enforcement policies and widespread public education we were successful and drug use dropped dramatically. It’s encouraging to see former Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy pushing back against President Obama’s curious indifference on pot. “He is wrong when he says that it isn’t very harmful,” Kennedy said recently. “We need to have presidential decisions made based upon public health and the sound science that the federal government’s invested in,” he added. We agree. It’s time for a new bipartisan coalition against the legalization of marijuana. We stand ready. If contemporary liberals abandon this fight, they do so to the detriment of the health of our children, communities and schools. William J. Bennett, former secretary of education and director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, is a fellow of the Claremont Institute and host of the nationally syndicated radio show, “Morning in America.” Christopher Beach is the show’s executive producer. Photo: http://tinyurl.com/ntdsgsd Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.