Drug war hypocrisy

July 16, 1991

President Bush is right, though boldly audacious, in insisting that Clarence Thomas' experimentation with marijuana in college and law school should not disqualify his nomination to the Supreme Court. The nation, after all, virtually conceded that four years ago, after discovering that Douglas Ginsburg, President Reagan's choice for the high court, had smoked pot while he was a law school professor. The Ginsburg revelation sparked confessions of youthful pot-smoking from Baby Boomers from Main Street to Capitol Hill. Although Ginsburg withdrew, a great moral conundrum remained: If college-age drug use was grounds for rejecting candidates, it would "disqualify most of an entire generation" from public service, as one Reagan administration official succinctly put it.

Nonetheless, the Bush administration has publicly maintained a punitive, lock-'em-up approach -- arguing that casual drug users

are just as guilty as the drug barons in Colombia who murder and maim for their profits. Its newest tactic in the domestic war on drugs is to take away student loans from those caught using illegal substances -- even if they, like the young Thomas, only took "a few puffs." Ironically, had this policy prevailed when Thomas, 43, was a student at Holy Cross College, the Supreme Court nominee would have been kicked out right away, lost any hope of financial assistance, possibly been jailed and probably never heard from again. That Bush can condemn and punish students who today experiment with marijuana and simultaneously dismiss Thomas' behavior as "inconsequential" is the height of hypocrisy.

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