Hypocrisy: The Anti-Drug


The Office of National Drug Control Policy has a full-page ad in today's New York Times that shows a coffee mug labeled "#1 Hypocrite." The text below the photo reads:

So you smoked pot. And now your kid's trying it and you feel like you can't say anything. Get over it. Smoking pot can affect the brain and lead to other risky behaviors. So you have to set the rules and expect your kid to live drug free, no matter how hypocritical it makes you feel. Because to help them with their problem, first you have to get over yours.

Part of this message is unobjectionable, if hackneyed: People do stupid things when they're teenagers; that doesn't mean they shouldn't try to stop heir kids from making the same mistakes. But there's more to the dilemma of former pot smokers who become parents. It's not just that they themselves have tried marijuana; it's that they know from personal experience that the consequences are typically benign.

That doesn't mean there are no dangers. But legal consequences aside, the risks of smoking pot are not fundamentally different from those posed by drinking, which "can affect the brain" (the whole point, I always thought) and "lead to other risky behaviors." Yet parents know they're not supposed to counsel their kids about marijuana the same way they counsel them about alcohol. Their "problem"–the reason they feel dishonest, if not hypocritical, when delivering the government-approved message on drugs–is that no one has ever satisfactorily explained why.