Right Opinion

Fighting Pot a Joint Effort in D.C.

Tony Perkins · Nov. 17, 2014

People in D.C. are still on a high after Election Day – but a handful of congressmen are hoping that high isn’t permanent. As part of the District’s ballot, voters gave the thumbs up to a marijuana proposal that just made the lame-duck session a little more interesting. Under Initiative 71, locals would have the right to both possess pot (two ounces) and grow it at home.

Oregon and Alaska passed similar policies last Tuesday, but unlike the states’, D.C.‘s measure is subject to Congress’s approval. And plenty of conservatives aren’t likely to give it. Before the District even planted the policy on last week’s ballot, Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) was trying to put the brakes on the push from D.C. Now, with a major funding bill on the docket, Congressman Harris might finally have a way to give the city the oversight it desperately needs.

Together with Dr. John Fleming (R-La.), Rep. Harris is hoping his fix can hitch a ride on the House’s most important piece of lame-duck business: the omnibus. Of course, the pro-legalization crowd won’t go quietly. On the Hill, members like California’s Dana Rohrabacher are insisting that marijuana support is growing faster than cannabis plants. Republicans need to “wake up and see where the American people are” on the issue, he told reporters.

But what about where the science is? This isn’t about the freedom to ruin your own life, but the potential to harm society. As FRC explained in a special brief on the subject, there’s a high correlation between marijuana use and many social and public health harms including: drugged driving, addiction, and long term cognitive impairment. And in younger people, the health risks are even more serious. The National Institute of Health has linked marijuana use to mental illness, psychosis, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and addiction.

Forty years ago, pot supporters tried to get around these objections by suggesting that dying cancer patients could benefit from smoking marijuana, mainly to help with nausea, Dr. Fleming explains. But somehow, “without any real science,” these popular ideas “morphed into the idea that marijuana is actually a safe, natural treatment for many illnesses and is otherwise harmless and non-addictive.”

Now, Dr. Fleming points out, “23 states and the District of Columbia have now legalized the medicinal use of marijuana – such that as of last year there were more medical marijuana dispensaries in Denver, Colorado than Starbucks and McDonalds combined. Areas of California were also reporting more pot dispensaries than Starbucks coffee shops.”

Even the Obama administration, for all of its radical ideologies, sides with us on marijuana, opposing it “because it flies in the face of a public health approach to reducing drug use and its consequences.” Let’s hope the President’s team gets off the sidelines and joins Rep. Fleming and Harris’s team in weeding out marijuana in D.C.

New Air Force Rules Cleared for Takeoff

Veterans’ Day may have been Tuesday, but it looks like the Air Force has a belated offering: more clarity in the debate over religious liberty. For two years, our friends in Congress have been calling on the branch to overhaul its language and better protect the freedoms our fliers are fighting to protect. Based on the latest news, it looks like the message is finally getting through to Air Force leaders, who just released a new document that, we hope, is a step in the right direction on an issue that should concern every American. In particular, the Air Force took aim at AFI 1-1, Sections 2.11 and 2.12, softening the tone that was immediately hostile to faith.

Now, under the new regulation, the branch has done away with the vague and confusing language, which shackled any Air Force leader from expressing their religious beliefs – even in an unofficial capacity. Several of our allies on the Hill, including House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Dr. John Fleming (R-La.), and Randy Forbes (R-Va.), have repeatedly called on the Air Force to revise their rules. Of course, we’ll only know what this means practically when leaders implement it.

“Congress made it clear in the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act that the Department of Defense needs to do more to protect the freedom of our service members to practice and express their religious beliefs while serving our country,” Sen. Lee said. “As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who has worked for these protections, I am encouraged to see the Air Force reassessing their own standards to bring them closer to current law. I hope that these new regulations will be implemented with adherence to Congress’s intent of protecting the constitutional rights of Airmen.”

To nudge the branch along, Rep. Lamborn had offered an amendment to the Defense bill calling on the Pentagon and Air Force to revise their regulations on religious liberty. Yesterday, he was on “Washington Watch” to talk to me about these developments. (To listen, click here.) These brave men and women risk their lives to defend America – the least we can do is provide them the clarity and support their faith deserves.

This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.

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