Story Time With Mark Souder


At a drug policy hearing yesterday, Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) repeatedly held up a copy of It's Just a Plant: A Children's Story About Marijuana, which he evidently considers proof of the drug policy reform movement's moral poverty. The picture book, written and illustrated by Ricardo Cortes, is a bit heavy-handed, and some of the characters–especially the kindly cop who lets a few pot smokers off with a warning and the wise doctor who explains marijuana's medical uses–seem implausibly knowledgeable and enlightened. But the message is both accurate and responsible, suggesting the irrationality of marijuana prohibition while emphasizing that the drug is not for everyone, especially not for kids.

The suggestion that it's possible to have an honest conversation about marijuana with your children is anathema to Souder, one of the most vociferous drug warriors in Congress. To give you an idea of Souder's interest in having a calm, reasonable, and balanced discussion of drug policy, the title of yesterday's hearing, held by a subcommittee Souder chairs, was "Harm Reduction or Harm Maintenance: Is There Such a Thing As Safe Drug Abuse?" A transcript of the hearing is not available yet, but subcommittee staffer Malia Holst says her boss cited It's Just a Plant, which he said he would read into the Congressional Record, as part of his attempt to discredit witnesses affiliated with the Drug Policy Alliance, which helped fund the book.

It's not as if DPA has tried to keep this connection a secret: The support is noted in the acknowledgements, the back cover carries a blurb from DPA Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann, and the book (which DPA sells on its site) includes an epilogue by Marsha Rosenbaum, director of DPA's San Francisco office. In any case, Souder, who considers anyone who tells the truth about marijuana disreputable, is the one who should be embarrassed.