On Tuesday, January 21, 2014, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson and Harris County Republican Party Chairman Jared Woodfill participated on a Channel 11 news panel to discuss President Obama’s remarks that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol or tobacco. Also appearing on the panel was Ernest Patterson, Program Director at Memorial Herman Prevention and Recovery Center and Jerry Epstein from the Drug Policy Forum of Texas.

The segment opened with a question to Mr. Patterson about comparing the dangers of marijuana use to heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. He said that many adolescents that use marijuana show signs of impaired judgment, learning disabilities and are less motivated. He then stated that kids in school drink alcohol less frequently than they smoke marijuana. Could it be that alcohol is harder for them to access since it is tightly regulated compared to the black-market of marijuana?

District Attorney Devon Anderson stressed that her issue with the President’s comments was the message being sent to youth that marijuana is no big deal. She reminded everyone that marijuana is illegal and prosecuted in Harris County. Asked about the dangers of marijuana, she referenced capital murder cases related to marijuana. Again, this outcome was more likely because of the black-market nature of marijuana deals, not the dangers of the plant itself.

While murder rates have generally decreased over time, the rate of solved murder cases has steadily declined and the number of drug arrests has increased. When law enforcement officers are taken off the streets for simple possession charges, serious crimes are being committed by violent criminals and remaining unsolved. We encourage the Harris County District Attorney’s office to enforce the Texas law as it relates to cite and release for possession of two ounces or less of marijuana.

It’s often said the most dangerous thing about marijuana is its legal status as a Schedule I drug. Some researchers have suggested that the “gateway” to harder drugs is actually the effect of prohibition. Responsible users are pushed into situations with black-market dealers that often sell more dangerous drugs. “Marijuana’s illegal status means that an arrest for marijuana possession, and the collateral educational and employment consequences that come with it, could lead to later substance use.”

Mr. Jerry Epstein with the Drug Policy Forum of Texas has over forty years of experience researching drug policy and its effects on society. He stated that “All drugs are potentially dangerous and alcohol is responsible for 80% of addiction.” Epstein referenced the infamous Schaefer Report, the National Commission on Marijuana from 1972, which found marijuana to be significantly less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco. “The current position of the National Academy of Sciences says prohibition makes marijuana more dangerous to children”, said Epstein. Furthermore, Veterans returning home from war are hurt by not being allowed marijuana for medical use.

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Next up was HCRP Chairman Jared Woodfill. Take a look at these quotes from his segment:

“It’s illegal, it’s bad and kids shouldn’t take it.”

“In Texas I believe we’re firmly committed to making sure that marijuana is not legal.”

“(Marijuana) shouldn’t be legal because it’s a gateway drug that leads to other substances.”

“Kids don’t use it, don’t take it.”

As leaders of RAMP we do care deeply about the children, they are our future. However, the children are being hurt by the misinformation attributed to ignorance of scientific fact and the propaganda of the War on Drugs.

It is immoral, irresponsible and unacceptable for our elected officials to make misleading statements and not discuss marijuana policy in a serious way. The answer to the question “Should children use marijuana?” is a resounding “No.” No one is arguing to legalize marijuana for children.

After nearly two decades of medical marijuana in a growing number of states, studies have shown no evidence of an increase in teen marijuana use. The debate that medical marijuana will “send the wrong message to young people” and increase teen marijuana use is not substantiated by the evidence.

District Attorney Anderson and Chairman Woodfill failed to take their arguments beyond the conversation most parents have with their children about drugs, including alcohol and tobacco. Our laws should favor compassionate use for medical marijuana patients and acknowledge the irresponsibility and wastefulness of our Criminal Justice system.