The government’s sorta-kinda-maybe logic
By David Harsanyi
It could be argued that the most useless job in Washington, D.C., is held by John Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. He’s otherwise known as the country’s Drug Czar.
And when you consider the spectacular number of useless jobs in Washington, that’s quite an accomplishment.
No one is saying, of course, that it’s easy being a figurehead of a cost-inefficient organization charged with implementing the biggest domestic policy disaster since Prohibition. After all, it means advocating that thousands of non-violent offenders be sent to prison â€” quite often after paramilitary raids have reeled them in.
It means denying citizens dying of cancer, AIDS and other painful diseases the medical marijuana they claim alleviates their pain. It means ignoring the will of citizens in states like California and Colorado, where medical marijuana was legalized.
Being the Drug Czar means overstating and misleading Americans with so-called studies. He’s not alone. From the Centers for Disease Control to the Surgeon General, government agencies are under the impression that when their view of some “greater good” is at stake, concocting studies to propagate flawed policy is acceptable.
Take, if you will, the new report titled “Teen Marijuana Use Worsens Depression: An Analysis of Recent Data Shows ‘Self-Medicating’ Could Actually Make Things Worse.” Scary stuff.
“Adolescent marijuana use may be a factor that triggers psychosis, depression, and other mental illness,” explains Walters, who admits “research about causality is still ongoing.”
Ongoing, doubtlessly, until Walters unearths the answer he’s looking for.
It’s not often you see half-baked phrases like “Could Actually” in the title of a study. You’ll also notice Walters also says it “may be a factor.” Because, in other words, “it may not” be a factor at all.
The study of causality â€” proof that one thing causes the other â€” is imperative. (A recent British government study was “unconvinced” that any such relationship exists). Surely, one “could actually” find a link between depressed teens and alcohol consumption, or overeating, of any number of self-destructive habits.
As Michael Fendrich, a psychologist and director of the Center for Addiction and Behavioral Health Research at the University of Wisconsin, told WebMd, the study “overreaches” and is “kind of sensationalist.”
And in the end, it is also irrelevant. Children shouldn’t use drugs, and even if drugs were legalized, no one is advocating children should be able to use them.
This does not excuse the fact that government agencies have become public relations firms that attempt to manipulate public opinion rather than simply implement policy. Should government be self-servingly selective in the studies they rely on?
For instance, a study by the University of California at San Francisco found that marijuana was effective to relieve pain. “If marijuana were a new discovery rather than a well- known substance carrying cultural and political baggage, it would be hailed as a wonder drug,” wrote Dr. Lester Grinspoon, a Harvard psychiatrist.
Yet drug warriors have decided that adults cannot make decisions regarding marijuana for themselves because somewhere, somehow, it might get into the hands of children â€” and that, of course, never happens today.
As you read this, the Office of National Drug Control Policy is conducting a series of regional “summits” hoping to convince educators that random drug testing of your children is a great idea.
No doubt, they will brandish their most recent study as evidence that action must be taken. And no doubt many children will have their first taste of unnecessary government intrusion.
Then again, it could actually, sorta, maybe work. Right?
Reach columnist David Harsanyi at 303-954-1255 or firstname.lastname@example.org.