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Even Lady Gaga knows pot is not harmless

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Story highlights

William Bennett, nation's first "drug czar," believes legal marijuana is bad for society

Bennett says Lady Gaga agrees that pot is addictive and not just a harmless plant

Bennett: Medical studies find chronic use leads to abnormal brain structure, bad memory

Bennett: Colorado and Washington will come to regret decision to legalize pot for adults

Editor’s Note: William J. Bennett is the author of “The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood.” He was U.S. secretary of education from 1985 to 1988 and director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George H.W. Bush.

CNN —  

President George H.W. Bush appointed me as the nation’s first director of national drug control policy – or “drug czar” – in 1989. We took on many big fights, the largest of which was the cocaine epidemic spreading from the jungles of Colombia to the streets of the United States. We conducted an all-out assault on drugs through tough enforcement measures and public education. Contrary to “war on drugs” critics, drug use and addiction dropped across the country.

The issue of marijuana legalization was far less prominent than it is today, although even then, some argued that we should experiment with legalization. I told them not on my watch; the cost to society would be too great.

If you don’t want to take my word that it can be harmful, perhaps you’ll take Lady Gaga’s.

In a recent interview, the world-famous pop star admitted she was heavily addicted to marijuana. “I have been addicted to it and it’s ultimately related to anxiety coping and it’s a form of self-medication and I was smoking up to 15 or 20 marijuana cigarettes a day with no tobacco,” she said. “I was living on a totally other psychedelic plane, numbing myself completely.”

William Bennett
William Bennett

Lady Gaga said she was speaking out to bust the myth that marijuana is just a harmless plant. “I just want young kids to know that you actually can become addicted to it, and there’s this sentiment that you can’t and that’s actually not true.”

Today a fully functioning experiment in legal marijuana for adults is going on in Colorado and another one is set to begin later this year in Washington. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once remarked that in our democratic Republic, the states are the laboratories of democracy. We are running a few labs now and shall see what happens.

But, as with any public debate, we need to hear all sides. So far, the advocates of marijuana legalization have dominated the public arena. It’s certainly had an effect. According to a new CNN poll, a majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana. But where are the voices of the wounded? Where is the outrage from the families who have been hurt?