The White House has taken an irresponsible detour from the important fight against illicit drugs. In a stark departure from efforts such as the “Just Say No” campaign that raised awareness among youth about the dangers of drug use, substance abuse and addiction, the Obama administration is blowing smoke through the nation’s criminal justice and financial systems and putting the public health at risk.
Earlier this year, the president said in an interview that smoking marijuana is just a “bad habit” and no more dangerous than drinking alcohol. This reckless point of view undermines the moral authority of the presidency and even worse, undercuts parental authority in households across the country.
Unfortunately, the president is doing more than paying lip service to this misguided mindset. Last August the Justice Department announced it would not challenge state laws legalizing the cultivation, trafficking, sale and recreational use of marijuana, paving the way for increased availability of the drug to young people. Moreover, the Obama administration’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, an organization with the mission of keeping the proceeds of crime out of our financial system, recently issued guidance to financial institutions intended to assist marijuana businesses with depositing money into the system. The Administration also is supporting legislation that would weaken mandatory minimum drug sentences for drug dealers and importers, a key tool used by prosecutors who say the mandatory minimums help them keep drugs off our streets.
Let’s consider Colorado. The Department of Justice apparently concluded that so long as the states that legalize marijuana for recreational use create effective regulatory regimes, federal enforcement priorities wouldn’t be undermined. Those priorities include the prevention of violence, increased use among minors, and diversion of marijuana to other states. But what is happening on the ground doesn’t reflect an effective regulatory regime at all.