NewsBriefs BUTTONS

Shalala Knocks Marijuana Legalization, Cites Need to Protect the Kids


October 1995

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala wrote that marijuana legalization must be rejected ("Say 'No' to Legalization of Marijuana," Wall Street Journal, August 18, 1995, p. 10).

She wrote that at a recent HHS-sponsored conference, new evidence of the danger, addictiveness, and growing use of marijuana was presented. Marijuana is an extremely harmful drug, she wrote:

First, marijuana is a problem in our country because it is harmful -- not because it is illicit. Research continues to show that it damages short-term memory, distorts perception, impairs judgment and complex motor skills, alters the heart rate, can lead to severe anxiety, and can cause paranoia and lethargy.

Shalala wrote that marijuana leads to increased costs to society at large as well. Legalization would only amplify these problems as more people would become addicted:

We face a national challenge, and our young people are watching closely to see how we respond. We must not blink. As we tighten our federal belts and rethink the scope and role of the federal government, we must never forget that the drug issue is about our national future. It is about real human beings, young people who have within them both a galaxy of gifts and a fragility that leaves them vulnerable to foolish choices and risky behavior. We must be there for them. We must do what is right for them and the nation.