In my syndicated newspaper column this week, I follow up my recent Pando report about marijuana legalization by firing up the flux capacitor and taking readers back to the front lines of the drug war circa 2006. It is worth taking a moment to go a little deeper in this space, because there is a key “you gotta see/hear it to believe it” revelation that doesn’t fully translate in a written recounting of that era.
Back then, in a precursor of what was to come under President Barack “Choom Gang” Obama, President George W. Bush was intensifying the federal government’s specific crusade against marijuana, a drug Dubya had suggested he personally used. Yet, in their eagerness to demonize cannabis and make it seem uncool, Bush and the hard-core prohibitionists in his drug czar’s office accidentally admitted that marijuana isn’t all that dangerous.
In fact, that’s understating it — in a national television ad called “Pete’s Couch,” the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy suggested that using marijuana is “the safest thing in the world.” Yes, that’s a direct quote. If this seems hard to believe, watch the ad for yourself, and listen carefully to the government’s teenage narrator:
Now sure, you can try to claim that the drug czar was merely saying that sitting on Pete’s couch is the “safest thing in the world.” But, of course, the narrator explicitly insists that sitting on Pete’s couch is the only serious effect of smoking pot. In other words, by the drug czar’s own logic, marijuana doesn’t kill people (“nobody died”), isn’t a gateway drug (“I didn’t O.D. on heroin the next day”) — but does end up resulting in people doing the “safest thing in the world” (sitting on the couch).
No doubt, the federal government overstated things a bit. Smoking weed probably isn’t the single “safest thing in the world,” although the hyperbole was based on a core truth. Simply put, when considering data about of overdose-related deaths, statistics about the gateway theory, and rates of other negative side effects, consuming marijuana isn’t egregiously dangerous. In fact, it is far less dangerous than consuming a drug like alcohol, which is not only legal and widely available, but also cheerily promoted by anti-pot politicians and anti-pot media figures alike.
In so openly acknowledging those truths, this 2006 ad is particularly relevant right now. Indeed, as Colorado becomes the first state to end the marijuana prohibition experiment, “Pete’s Couch” is a government-sponsored message debunking the drug warriors’ recent sky-will-fall fear mongering about cannabis.
Click here to read my whole syndicated column about what’s happening in Colorado today, and make sure to check out my Pando report about how the alcohol-marijuana contrast was the key disruption strategy in drug reformers’ successful efforts in this state.