What is Congressman Mark Souder Smoking?

Press Release February 11, 2007

Congressman Mark Souder (R-IN), the ranking Republican on the House subcommittee that oversees federal drug war policies, said last week that smoking marijuana is not that much different from doing lines of cocaine or smoking crack in terms of the dangers. He made the comments on national television while appearing on MSNBC’s “Tucker.”

Drug prevention groups warn that by equating marijuana with powder cocaine and crack cocaine it sends the wrong message to teens. Millions of teens have used marijuana with no negative effects. By saying that marijuana is as dangerous as crack cocaine it suggests that cocaine use is no more dangerous than marijuana use.

“I can’t imagine a better way to convince teens to try cocaine then to say it’s just like marijuana,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Congressman Souder’s comments are Exhibit A on why the federal government’s drug prevention programs are doing more harm than good.”

When asked by the show’s host, Tucker Carlson, why the government is wasting so much money on marijuana instead of more dangerous drugs like methamphetamine, Souder responded:

“the THC content of BC Bud, Quebec Gold and this marijuana that’s currently on the streets isn’t like the Cheech and Chong marijuana. It’s more like cocaine…;In other words, the THC of ditchweed and what was happening when I was in college in the late ’60s and early ’70s had a THC of 4 to 8 percent, maybe as high as 12. Now we’re looking at 20, 30, 40 percent. And the kick and the addiction you get, the destruction in your brain cells, is more like coke or crack than it is like the old-time marijuana.”

(full transcript available)

Rep. Souder made the comments as he was defending the Bush Administration’s request for more funding for anti-marijuana TV ads that have been shown to actually increase youth marijuana use. One of the reasons the campaign has backfired is that the ads make ridiculous statements that teens reject, such as equating marijuana use with terrorism and suggesting that smoking marijuana will lead to one to kill people.

“It is ironic that, while defending the government’s drug ads–so outrageous that teens reject them, that Rep. Souder advances a new series of utterly outrageous claims,” said Piper. “It would be funny if it wasn’t for the fact that some teens might actually believe him when he says there’s no difference between smoking marijuana and smoking crack cocaine.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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