Monday, February 03, 2003

Federal Department of Lying to Your Kids

According to the Drug Czar… okay, hold on for a minute, I can't finish that sentence without inserting a quick rant. Doesn't the Constitution of the United States forbid the granting of titles of nobility? And is not "Czar" a title of nobility? Yeah, I know, "Czar" isn't the man's real title. It's really "Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy." But nobody calls him that. And the fact that a government official in the American democracy is regularly referred to as a Russian monarch should give us pause, don't you think?

Back to the top. According to the Drug Czar, it's a good idea to lie to your kids about drugs -- specifically, about your own past use of drugs. I think Amy's take on this is exactly right, so I won't belabor it. I will, however, point out a couple of misleading claims in Czar John Walters's comments.

First, he says that parents who smoked marijuana "should warn their children that the dope being peddled today is much more potent than what the older generation smoked." While that's true, it erroneously implies that people who smoke now are getting more high than before, whereas in fact the evidence indicates that marijuana smokers seem to aim for a "target" level of intoxication, and now it just takes less weed to get there than it did before. (I found that out from Mark Kleiman's blog a few weeks or months ago, though his archives don't seem to be operative at the moment.)

Second, Walters says that "of the 6 million Americans undergoing drug treatment today, about 60 percent are marijuana-dependent." Notice the clever wording. He does *not* say that 60 percent of people undergoing drug treatment are undergoing treatment for marijuana. What the statistic really shows is that, for every ten people undergoing treatment for *some* drug, six of them also use marijuana. This is not surprising -- someone who uses crack might very well like weed, too. But the crack, not the weed, is most likely the reason they're in treatment.

I disagree with the Czar's notion that lying to and misleading your children is a good policy. But I'll give him this much credit: at least he's leading by example.

UPDATE: Mark kindly sent me the link to his comments on marijuana potency. Aside from the point above (that pot smokers seem to aim for a target high), it also turns out that Walters's factual claim about the potency per ounce is also bogus, for reasons Mark explains.

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