More Conservative Fearmongering on Marijuana

A few years ago, conservative drug warriors heavily promoted a study that linked marijuana use with psychotic disorders. I’m sure I addressed that somewhere in the 100-plus articles I have written on the drug war. I have addressed specific conservative arguments for the war on drugs in general (e.g., here) and marijuana prohibition in particular (here, here, and here).

Now comes more conservative fearmongering on marijuana.

Naomi Schaefer Riley, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, “where she focuses on child welfare and foster care issues,” recently wrote an op-ed for the New York Post about “how newborns are becoming victims of legalized marijuana use.”

Actually, just one newborn. And there is no way to prove that legalized marijuana should be blamed.

Back in 2021, Chanetto Rivers smoked marijuana a few hours before she gave birth. The Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) in New York instructed the hospital not to release the baby to the mother—but not because both she and the child tested positive for marijuana.

Turns out that “Rivers had two other children previously removed from her custody because of incidents involving drugs and alcohol and because she failed to obtain medical care for one of them.”

According to a lawsuit filed by Rivers in federal court the ACS has engaged in “pervasive discriminatory practices.” Rivers, a woman of color, maintains that the ACS removed her newborn baby from her custody as part of the agency’s “disparate treatment of Black families” which “cause[s] lasting, intergenerational trauma.”

Given Rivers’ history, Riley doesn’t buy the racism argument. But she uses this incident to say:

As more states legalize drug use, child welfare agencies are having a harder time detecting when such usage puts children in harm’s way — and intervening when necessary.

Police departments are also investigating far fewer reports of drug use, making it that much harder to identify at-risk kids.

Even when they do, progressive social service agendas do little to hold these parents accountable.

There is a strong link between mothers using drugs while pregnant and the subsequent maltreatment of their children.

The point of the article is obvious: Marijuana legalization is bad because more mothers will smoke pot while pregnant and harm their babies or be more likely to mistreat them. By implication, if you support the legalization of marijuana, then you don’t care about children.

But if conservatives really cared about children, then they would demand the prohibition of alcohol. Who has not heard about fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs)? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

FASDs can occur when a person is exposed to alcohol before birth. Alcohol in the mother’s blood passes to the baby through the umbilical cord.

There is no known safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy or when trying to get pregnant. There is also no safe time to drink during pregnancy. Alcohol can cause problems for a developing baby throughout pregnancy, including before a woman knows she’s pregnant. All types of alcohol are equally harmful, including all wines and beer.

To prevent FASDs, a woman should avoid alcohol if she is pregnant or might be pregnant. This is because a woman could get pregnant and not know for up to 4 to 6 weeks.

And according to the Mayo Clinic:

Fetal alcohol syndrome causes brain damage and growth problems. The problems caused by fetal alcohol syndrome vary from child to child, but defects caused by fetal alcohol syndrome are not reversible.

There is no amount of alcohol that’s known to be safe to consume during pregnancy. If you drink during pregnancy, you place your baby at risk of fetal alcohol syndrome.

Why are conservative drug warriors silent about the dangers of alcohol consumption during pregnancy? Do they not care about the nation’s at-risk children? Alcohol is so much easier to obtain and abuse than marijuana. As a consequence, it is far more dangerous to unborn children than marijuana. Just like alcohol is far more dangerous to adults than marijuana. According to the CDC:

Excessive alcohol use led to more than 140,000 deaths and 3.6 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) each year in the United States from 2015 – 2019, shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 26 years.1 Further, excessive drinking was responsible for 1 in 5 deaths among adults aged 20-49 years.

Long-term health risks of alcohol include: high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, digestive problems, cancer, learning and memory problems, dementia, poor school performance, depression, anxiety, lost productivity, family problems, unemployment, and alcoholism.

If they were consistent, conservative drug warriors would also demand that the government ban alcohol. But consistency was never one of their strong points, was it?

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