Tuesday, January 28, 2014

White House Deletes Blog Post Warning Against Marijuana Legalization; Since Restored [see update]

    Monday morning, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) blog at Whitehouse.gov posted an entry entitled: "Support for National Association of School Nurses' [NASN] Position on the Legalization of Marijuana."  However, the original link for the post is now meet with a "Sorry, the page you're looking for can't be found" message, and the most recent post on the ONDCP blog is dated January 20.
    The main thrust of the deleted entry is that the NASN agrees with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) that "the overwhelming evidence" is that "any change in the legal status of marijuana, even if limited to adults, could affect the prevalence of use among adolescents."
    The president raised eyebrows recently by downplaying the dangers of marijuana, even by young people:
As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.
    The president went on to say in the same New Yorker interview that it is "important for [legalization of marijuana] to go forward":
[President Obama] said of the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington that “it’s important for it to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished."
    The deleted blog post is still available via a Google cache, which shows how it appeared on Whitehouse.gov for part of the day on Monday:

    The full post reads as follows:
Support for National Association of School Nurses' Position on the Legalization of Marijuana 
Posted by David Mineta, Carolyn Duff and Mary Louise Embrey on January 27, 2014 at 09:00 AM EST 
The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) joins school nurses across the country to express our support for efforts that promote wellness and good health outcomes for our Nation’s children, including the prevention of substance use disorders. ONDCP shares the concerns of school nurses regarding the harmful effects of marijuana use among young people. Given research indications that marijuana is harmful to the developing brain,[1] we are especially concerned about the repercussions of use on the health, safety, and education of adolescents. On January 27, 2014, based on overwhelming scientific evidence, the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) Board of Directors adopted an official position statement[2] outlining the negative impact of marijuana legalization on the health of students. ONDCP supports NASN in bringing attention to this issue.
School nurses are present in 75 percent of the Nation’s schools, so many are in touch with substance use trends within the school and greater community and are able to make educated assessments when students visit their offices.  The school nursing profession has more than 100 years of experience, and school nurses know first-hand that healthy, drug-free children learn better! As more and more states consider the legalization of marijuana, school nurses are compelled to continue providing their students with the facts on the multiple physical and behavioral health consequences of marijuana use. Access to marijuana by young people and the impact of its use on the developing brain continue to be matters of concern for both ONDCP and NASN. 
Together, we recognize that adult influencers, including parents, school nurses, teachers, counselors, and other support personnel in the academic setting, are key to helping adolescents understand the connection between good health practices and educational achievement.  There is grave concern that marijuana use, given its impact on cognitive development, motor skills, and attention, will be detrimental to the learning environment for our young people. We encourage professionals in all health fields, parents, educators, and communities to get involved with this issue. We all must work together to reduce marijuana use and prevent substance use disorders among our young people. 
David Mineta is Deputy Director for Demand Reduction at ONDCP. Carolyn Duff is President of the National Association for School Nurses, and Mary Louise Embrey is the NASN Consultant on Substance Abuse Prevention.

[1] Meier MH, Caspi A, Ambler A, Harrington H, Houts R, Keefe RS, McDonald K, Ward A, Poulton R, Moffitt TE.  Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012, Aug 27. 
It is the opinion of the NASN that marijuana is properly categorized by the DEA under Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substance Act.  NASN recognizes the overwhelming evidence that “any change in the legal status of marijuana, even if limited to adults, could affect the prevalence of use among adolescents.”
    The ONDCP's fact sheet on marijuana on the White House website says:
The Administration steadfastly opposes legalization of marijuana and other drugs because legalization would increase the availability and use of illicit drugs, and pose significant health and safety risks to all Americans, particularly young people.
    Emails to the White House press office and to the National Association of School Nurses inquiring about the deletion of the blog post have so far gone unanswered.

UPDATE: A public affairs official at ONDCP emails to say that the post is now back up: "Saw your post on the standard re: our blog on school nurses.   Was an administrative issue - It was posted prematurely by our web team ahead of the resolution, but it’s back up now that the resolution formally passed.  Here’s the link: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/01/24/support-national-association-school-nurses-position-legalization-marijuana"

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

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