" 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.
-- 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
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"
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
I've talked to parents all over the country who lost children to drug abuse -- not to marijuana alone; though in many cases it was a gateway drug or part of their deadly drug concoction People have been deeply hurt by drug related accidents or spent thousands of dollars on drug rehabilitation We need to hear their voices.
During my tenure as drug czar, I traveled to more than 120 communities to see firsthand the impact of illegal drugs Among those visits was a trip to Boston to take part in drug busts in some of the city's most broken and dangerous neighborhoods Not once during that visit did a parent or community leader advocate for legalization or loosening drug restrictions Rather, they wanted the drugs confiscated and drug dealers locked up They knew the damage drugs had inflicted on their children and communities
That same evening Harvard University held a discussion on drugs and law enforcement There I listened to scores of academics argue for legalizing or decriminalizing drugs
It's hardly an exercise in intellectual rigor for those in the middle- and upper-class who live in areas with little crime and violence to be willing to experiment with drug legalization They live far removed from the realities of the drug trade
But travel to its core, to the slums and projects run by ruthless drug dealers, and these intellectuals may rethink their position
It's a myth that marijuana, because it is not as harmful as cocaine, heroin or some other illegal hard drugs, is safe or safe enough to warrant legalizationOpponents contest that marijuana hasn't ravaged communities or that the drug itself isn't to blame
But that's not true It's ravaged the community of the young.
Marijuana is the most widely used drug in the country, especially among young people According to the , "of the 73 million persons aged 12 or older classified with illicit drug dependence or abuse in 2012, 43 million persons had marijuana dependence or abuse," making marijuana the drug with the largest number of people with dependence or abuse
The medical community has warned about the danger
In its own report arguing against marijuana legalization, the American Medical Association said: "Heavy cannabis use in adolescence causes persistent impairments in neurocognitive performance and IQ, and use is associated with increased rates of anxiety, mood and psychotic thought disorders"
The country can ill-afford a costly experiment with drugs While we are undergoing a national debate over improving health care costs and education performance, legalizing marijuana will undercut those vital missions
We will wait and see what Colorado's and Washington's experiments hold, but I expect that after several years, we will see marijuana use rise dramatically, even among adolescents The states will come to regret their decisions.