DNC Head Debbie Wasserman Schultz Clearly Knows Squat About Drugs

By Zachary Siegel 01/08/16

The Florida congresswoman displayed a profound ignorance of drugs and addiction in an interview with Ana Marie Cox.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Wiki Commons

Ana Marie Cox of New York Times Magazine recently interviewed the Democratic National Committee’s chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. During the Q&A, some profoundly idiotic things were said about drugs, specifically marijuana, by Schultz to Cox.

Let’s go through each question and answer regarding drugs one-by-one.

Cox: You’re one of a dwindling number of progressive politicians who oppose legalization of even the medical use of marijuana. Where does that come from?

Schultz: I don’t oppose the use of medical marijuana. I just don’t think we should legalize more mind-altering substances if we want to make it less likely that people travel down the path toward using drugs. We have had a resurgence of drug use instead of a decline. There is a huge heroin epidemic.

The second sentence is Schultz’s meandering opinion: if drugs are legalized more people will do them. It’s an old hawkish stance that’s kept the drug war alive for a century. There is a real-world counterexample to Schultz’s opinion. After Portugal decriminalized drugs, everyone thought Libson would become a drug using mecca. But the number of problematic drug users—mainly heroin injectors—was cut nearly in half. Secondly, cannabis was also decriminalized and the rates of marijuana use over 10 years later are about the same as the rest of the European Union.

The second to last sentence, where she said America is seeing a “resurgence” of drug use instead of decline, is plainly wrong. According to the most recent Monitoring the Future study, illicit drug use among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders have leveled off, remaining stable or in some cases even declining.

She then makes a quantum leap, in what should be regarded as the biggest non-sequitur of the year: saying she opposes marijuana legalization because there is a “huge heroin epidemic.” When it comes to commonalities, marijuana and heroin share close to zero. It’s like me asking why you don’t like velcro, and you answering because there is a heroin epidemic.

Cox doesn’t let this nonsense slide, evidenced in her brilliant follow-up question.

Cox: Heroin addiction often starts with prescribed painkillers. Pill mills were a problem in Florida, but the state didn’t make prescribing opiates illegal.

Schultz: There is a difference between opiates and marijuana.

Schultz is aware opiates and marijuana have zero in common. But this still doesn’t make any sense. Abusing pain pills may lead to addiction and potentially heroin, but marijuana remains a plant that—for reasons she can’t quite articulate—she wants kept illegal.

It gets worse, though.

Cox: Still, your opinion on this does seem like an outlier.

Schultz: It’s perfectly O.K. to not be completely predictable. I am a person, and I have individual opinions that may not line up ideologically. They’re formed by my personal experience both as a mom and as someone who grew up really bothered by the drug culture that surrounded my childhood—not mine personally. I grew up in suburbia.

Of course Schultz is a person and not a political-bot synthesized in a D.C. lab for the sole purpose to make Hillary Clinton president. She is allowed to disagree with the party all she wants. But what on earth are you saying? You were bothered by the drug culture that colored your childhood, but you clarify there was no drug use in your childhood because you lived in “suburbia?” Drugs are all over suburbia. If it wasn’t your childhood personally, then whose was it?

You would hope that during an election year the DNC would bring their A-game. Instead, you get a faux-progressive who is afraid of drugs, and makes the rest of the country pay for her childhood fears.

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.