Advocates of the constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana for medical use are criticizing the head of a new committee formed to oppose the amendment, citing statements he reportedly made in 1986, as head of drug policy in the Reagan White House, that marijuana use can cause homosexuality and therefore AIDS.
Carlton Turner denies he ever said that, and contends widespread reporting of the quote is actually a distortion of statements he made on how parents should deal with drug abuse by their children.
A 28-year-old magazine article, however, calls his denial into question.
“The newly formed Drug Free Florida committee has somehow managed to choose as its chairman a messenger with even less credibility than its message,” said a news release from the United For Care Organization, which is backing the amendment.
Turner “once stated that marijuana ‘leads to homosexuality...and therefore to AIDS.’ This statement is as offensive as it is inaccurate and should call into question any claim made by Mr. Turner in the course of this campaign.
“There is no place for bigotry and ignorance in the debate over compassionate medical marijuana policy in Florida.”
Turner responded, “I never said it,” calling the accusation “so outrageous it probably doesn’t deserve a response.”
The quote has been widely reported to have come from a 1986 article in Newsweek magazine.
Turner said its origin was an interview he did with a Washington Post reporter, in which he said parents of children with drug abuse problems “have to be aware of things in their kids lives they won’t approve of, including homsexuality,” when dealing with drug abuse.
“I never said smoking marijuana will make you gay -- I said if you’re in the subculture, you’re going to be exposed to this.”
He said he also linked drug abuse to AIDS “not because drug abuse caused it,” but because AIDS sometimes came from needle sharing.
He said repetition of the misquotation is the drug culture’s attempt to harm his reputation.
“If you don’t have anything to talk about you stoop to personal castration.”
The Oct. 27, 1986 issue of Newsweek magazine, however, does include an article, on page 95, headlined, “Reagan Aide: Pot Can Make You Gay.”
In the story, Turner doesn’t say exactly that. But he does say, in paraphrase, that when he visits drug treatment centers for patients under 18, some 40 percent have engaged in homosexual activity.
He’s then quoted directly as saying, “It seems to be something that follows along from their marijuana use,” and, “My concern is, how is the biological system affected by heavy marijuana use? The public needs to be thinking about how drugs alter people’s lifestyles.”
The article then quotes him in paraphrase as saying marijuana can depress the immune system, making someone more vulnerable to AIDS, though he adds, “No one is saying that marijuana will cause AIDS.”
It’s also been reported Turner resigned his position as an assistant to Reagan for drug abuse policy because of controversy over the comments.
Turner denied that, citing “The Reagan Diaries,” a compilation of Reagan’s personal notes, in which the president described Turner’s resignation as being because he was working too many hours and losing contact with his two young children.
“I resigned in December 1986, effective January, 1987,” after asking to be moved to a different job and being turned down, Turner told the Tribune.
He said First Lady Nancy Reagan “was very upset with me for resigning, but I told her I’m very tired, I needed some rest, needed to spend more time with my children.”