Unfortunately, I am quoting him completely out of context. In my column last week, I described Romney as uncommitted on the question of whether he would stop the DEA's medical marijuana raids if elected president. His answer to a general question about the war on drugs from drug policy activist Matt Simon at a recent forum in New Hampshire makes his position pretty clear:
It's been disappointing to see the trajectory of the war on drugs. Are we making progress in some areas? Yes. We spend about $750 million in Colombia alone to help them eradicate the growth of cocaine there. We're spending a substantial amount in Afghanistan to try and replace that crop. Um, we're spending a lot to try to keep drugs from growing around the world. We're not doing a terrific job in helping kids decide not to try drugs, and that's one of the frustrations I have. People talk about medicinal marijuana, and, you know, you hear that story: People who are sick need medicinal marijuana. But marijuana is the entry drug for people trying to get kids hooked on drugs. I don't want medicinal marijuana. There are synthetic forms of marijuana that are available for people who need it for prescription. Don't open the doorway to medicinal marijuana.
The New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy has Simon's recording of Romney's meandering response here. In addition to strongly suggesting that Romney would continue to snatch marijuana from the hands of patients in states that have approved the plant's medical use, his answer reveals him to be ill-informed and utterly unimaginative when it comes to drug policy. He equates inputs with outputs: If "we're spending a lot," we must be "making progress." He accepts the Joe Fridayesque myth that teenagers typically smoke pot because they're tricked into it by "people trying to get kids hooked on drugs." After condemning medical marijuana, he goes on to endorse the canard that drug use rises under Democratic presidents and falls under Republican presidents because Democrats are degenerate dope smokers and Republicans are fine upstanding teetotalers who set a better example. He concludes that we need to "reinstitute a campaign as powerful as Just Say No was."
As I've said before, the story Republicans want to tell about why drug use has gone down and up and down since the late 1970s does not fit the facts very well: Self-reported drug use began to fall well before Just Say No, and, after climbing at the beginning of the Clinton administration, it began to fall again three years before George W. Bush took office.
[Thanks to Dale Gieringer for the tip.]