Next Tuesday voters in Ohio will decide whether to legalize marijuana. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, is a vocal opponent of the idea, so his reaction when the subject was broached at last night's debate was hardly surprising. But his ungrammatical, barely coherent statement nicely illustrated the brain-dead dogmatism of pot prohibitionists:
Sending mixed signals to kids about drugs is a disaster. Drugs is one of the greatest scourge in this country, and I spent five years of my administration working with my team to do a whole sort of things to try to rein in the problem of overdoses, and it goes on and on. We could do a whole show on that.
Please don't. Three sentences about drug policy from John Kasich are more than enough. Unpacking his meaning is a bit challenging, but let's give it a try.
Kasich says legalizing marijuana would send "mixed signals to kids," which would be a "disaster." Or as he put it on Tuesday, "When you run around telling kids not to do drugs, young kids, and then they read that we might legalize marijuana, I just think it's a mixed message. It's not good." The unspoken premise of that argument is that it's dangerous to let adults do things children should not do. I'm not sure Kasich has thought through the implications of that position.
Kasich also says legalizing marijuana would be reckless because "drugs is [sic] one of the greatest scourge [sic] in this country." Drugs (including the legal ones) are also an important source of pleasure, as demonstrated by the fact that people like them so much. Contrary to Kasich's implication, this pleasure is mostly harmless. But I gather he thinks it's dangerous to let people do things that can cause harm when done to excess. Again, I suspect that covers a lot more ground than even Kasich would be comfortable with.
Kasich's inconsistency is also apparent in his reference to overdose deaths, which is not a problem with marijuana (the subject of the question) but is a problem with alcohol, a drug he presumably does not want to ban. If he gave any thought to the relative hazards of marijuana and alcohol, he might realize how arbitrary the distinctions drawn by our drug laws are.
Then again, he might not. Like Ben Carson, Kasich thinks the main problem with the war on drugs is that it has not been waged enthusiastically enough. "If I happened to be president," he told Hugh Hewitt last April, "I would lead a significant campaign down at the grassroots level to stomp these drugs out of our country." Kasich good. Drugs bad. Kasich stomp. Drugs flee.