David Borden, Executive
Director, [email protected]
Years after candidate George
Bush's non-answers to questions about his possible drug past fueled controversy
and a sense that he indeed had such a past, proof for some of it at least
has at last emerged. Taped excerpts from a conversation, released
by the author of a new book, reveal the future president essentially admitting
to past marijuana use and explaining why he would never acknowledge it
On one level, the educated
reaction to this news is something along the lines of, "so what?"
Tens of millions of Americans have used marijuana during their lives.
It wasn't a big deal for most of them. Even the more dangerous drugs
aren't a problem for most of their users -- that's not the strongest argument
for legalization of them, but it's true. All the more so for marijuana.
Bill Clinton used marijuana. Al Gore used marijuana. It did
not and should not have disqualified them from the nation's top job.
Nor does it disqualify George Bush.
On other levels, however,
the information is troubling, for two reasons. One is that candidate
Bush criticized his opponent, Al Gore, not for having used marijuana but
for having admitted to it. "I want to lead," he explained, and "I
don't want some little kid doing what I tried." He couldn't criticize
Gore for having used drugs because he had also used drugs. So instead
he criticized him for being open and truthful.
There is a level on which one could legitimately hold that it is counterproductive for kids to be keenly focused on the drug use of famous role models; this is an area on which reasonable people can hold varying points of view. But the way to accomplish that would be through legalization and treating private drug use as not a big deal. And that is not what George Bush has advocated.
Which leads us to the second reason, one
of hard policy. As governor, Mr. Bush escalated sentences for some drug
offenses, putting other people in prison for longer time periods for things
that he himself had done or supported. As president, under his authority
the federal government has targeted medical marijuana cooperatives, escalated
the war on pain doctors, campaigned against drug policy reform initiatives
or legislation, promoted drug testing and vastly overreaching drugged driving
laws, gone to court against any reform to drug policy that it could no
matter how modest.
So if marijuana use in the
distant past is not relevant to judging the president, hypocrisy on the
drug issue is very relevant. And if not being open or candid about
one's own youth is not exactly the same as lying to children, it verges
on that. Not to suggest that his predecessor and failed opponents
have stellar records on the issue by any means; they most certainly don't.
But they're not president right now.
So if it is unimportant that
George Bush used marijuana, it is kind of sad that he opposes honesty about
it. And it is very sad that he continues to support cruel and repressive
drug policies -- policies which could have ruined his life if they had
been in place back then, but realistically only in theory.
I am glad, therefore, that
now there is proof of George Bush's drug use. If only by providing
one more bit of rhetorical ammunition, it will make it slightly harder
for the drug warriors to continue to escalate their pogrom against the
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