WASHINGTON, May 20 (UPI) -- Allegations in Rolling Stone magazine that Jenna and Barbara Bush enjoy an occasional toke should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the proclivities of 21-year-olds, especially those as notoriously predisposed to partying as the "first twins."
But while allegations of the first twins' pot smoking is hardly surprising, its implication with regard to political policy should not go unnoticed.
Whether the allegations are confirmed, the extraordinary fact remains that their father's administration has now overseen the arrest of more than 640,000 Americans for engaging in such "youthful indiscretions" -- even going so far as to prosecute medicinal marijuana patients and their providers in states where the use of physician-approved pot is legal.
Unfortunately, drug-warring politicians have a long history of adhering to the "do as I say, not as I do" philosophy, particularly when it comes to their children.
Take California Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham. He co-sponsored legislation mandating the death penalty for "drug kingpins," but pleaded for mercy when his son Todd was convicted for smuggling 400 pounds of pot. The seven-term Republican, known for his career-long vitriol against "soft on crime" judges, found himself begging a federal judge to waive his son's five-year mandatory sentence. Fortunately for the San Diego Republican, the judge was "soft" enough to give Todd 30 months in prison -- half the federal "mandatory" minimum.
Similar treatment was given to Dan Burton II, son of the 11-time Indiana congressman. He was arrested several times for marijuana and firearms felonies in the mid-1990s but never received more than community service and probation. Prosecutors jumped through hoops to keep Burton's kid out of jail, including underestimating the total weight of the 30 plants he was caught with as only 25 grams, thus reducing his charge to a misdemeanor.
His son's brushes with the law apparently meant little to the elder Burton, who following his son's arrest voted against legislation to expand drug treatment as an alternative to prison for qualified drug offenders.
And of course there are the escapades of Noelle Bush -- niece of President George W. Bush and daughter of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush -- whose run-ins with the law made national headlines last year. First, the 25-year-old got popped attempting to purchase tranquilizers with a forged prescription. That charge alone could have netted her five years in prison, but authorities sentenced her to drug rehab instead -- a move her father lauded, despite previously opposing a ballot initiative mandating treatment instead of jail for other people's daughters facing similar non-violent drug charges.
But Noelle's special treatment didn't end there. While in rehab, she was caught again with unauthorized prescription drugs -- another felony, or in her case, a minor transgression punishable by three days in jail.
After returning to rehab, she was busted a third time; this time allegedly with crack cocaine. However, her father's lawyers filed a successful motion with the courts forbidding the police from gathering evidence or statements from the rehab facility's staff about the incident. Noelle ultimately served a total of 13 days in jail for her bevy of drug charges, while her father denounced allegations that she received preferential treatment.
It is possible that Jeb Bush believed he was telling the truth. After all, if the sons and daughters of the political elite never face the brunt of their parents' Drug War, maybe the president, the Florida governor and their politico brethren assume nobody else's children do either.
Which brings us back to Jenna and Barbara Bush and their alleged pot smoking.
Chances are the White House will refer to the alleged incident as a private matter. But with an astonishing 250,000 Americans now behind bars for drug offenses, it is painfully obvious that the matter has become quite public -- that is, for other people's children. Until this reality changes, expect the children of the political elite to keep on smoking, and expect the Washington to keep dropping the hammer -- on someone else's kids, of course.
-- Paul Armentano is a senior policy analyst for the NORML Foundation, a group that supports the liberalization of America's marijuana laws, in Washington.)
-- Outside view commentaries are written for UPI by outside writers who specialize in a variety of important global issues.