Anti-Pot Activist Concedes Marijuana Is Safer Than Alcohol

Dan Riffle of the Marijuana
Policy Project points
that Patrick Kennedy, chairman of the anti-pot group
Project SAM, let this slip during his recent
CNN debate
with my colleague Nick Gillespie:

I agree with the president. Alcohol is more dangerous.

That is not what Kennedy said after Obama made that
in an interview with The New Yorker. Here
is what Kennedy said

We take issue with the President’s comparisons between marijuana
and alcohol, and we strongly encourage him—a president who has, on
many occasions, championed rigorous science—to work closely with
his senior drug policy advisors and scientists, who fully
acknowledge the growing world body of science showing the harms of
marijuana use to individuals and communities.

As I
pointed out
, Kennedy never actually said Obama’s statement was
inaccurate (as opposed to inconvenient). But he strongly implied
that the president needed to get his facts straight if he was going
around saying that marijuana is safer than alcohol. Yet here is
Kennedy, the day after Project SAM issued that press release,
saying exactly the same thing.

You can concede that marijuana is safer than alcohol and still
defend marijuana prohibition—just
not very convincingly
. Because if you concede that marijuana is
safer than alcohol, then you concede that the distinctions drawn by
our drug laws—distinctions that send people to prison—are
essentially arbitrary. Alcohol is legal and marijuana is not for
historically and culturally contingent reasons
that have nothing to do with the relative hazards of these drugs.
Kennedy acknowleges as much but, like Washington
Ruth Marcus
, argues that marijuana should be
illegal because it is illegal. 

Although Kennedy
seems to believe
that repealing alcohol prohibition was a
mistake, he figures that bringing it back would be politically
impractical, and he worries that resolving the inconsistency by
repealing marijuana prohibition will result in more drug-related
harm. That is not necessarily true, depending on substitution
effects and other factors, and it dodges the question of whether
such an uncertain calculus can justify the burdens imposed by
prohibition. Even if we accept Kennedy’s paternalistic premise, can
it be fair to treat suppliers of one drug as criminals while
treating suppliers of a more dangerous one as legitimate
businessmen? Should people lose their freedom for reasons that
Kennedy concedes are arbitrary?

from Hit & Run

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