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The Great Eight: Unlikely Notables Against Marijuana Prohibition

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director August 16, 2010

    Every summer NORML’s office in Washington, D.C. is a buzz with 6-8 interns. As their much-appreciated volunteer time concludes and they point their compasses back to their respective schools, they’ve been turning in some of their summer assignments. After reviewing some of NORML’s extensive archives, undergraduate Nick Sibilla penned a blog entry reflecting his surprise that a number of politically conservative and notable Americans in fact support an end to cannabis prohibition.

    Interested in a NORML internship? Click here.

    Nick Sibilla, NORML summer intern, 2010

    With legalizing marijuana on the ballot in California, cannabis is finally becoming mainstream. But while some supporters are pretty obvious, others can be quite surprising.

    8. Glenn Beck
    Not only is Glenn Beck one of Fox News’ more (in)famous anchors, he is also a leading figure of the burgeoning Tea Party movement, a renowned linguist and vocal thespian as well. Yet in a recent show, Beck declared, “I think it’s about time we legalize marijuana.” He added, “We have to make a choice in this country. We either put people who are smoking marijuana, behind bars, or we legalize it…[banning cannabis] is not helping us, it’s not helping Mexico, and it is causing massive damage on our southern border.” In that episode, he also interviewed Andres Rozenthal, a former Deputy Foreign Minister of Mexico, and expert on the drug violence down south. Rozenthal determined that around 60% of the Mexican cartels’ profits come from trafficking cannabis to the United States. Legalizing marijuana would then greatly undermine one of their revenue streams.

    7. Milton Friedman
    As an ardent advocate of the free market and a Nobel Prize winner in economics, Milton Friedman was hardly a tie-dye-in-the-wool hippie. But due to his belief in limited government, he was one of the most prolific critics of America’s failed “war on drugs.” He also headed a petition of 500 other economists to promote the fiscal benefits of legalization, which, according to their calculations, would amount to almost $14 billion nationwide.

    6. Rick Steves
    He is one of America’s better-known travel writers, authoring over 50 guidebooks on visiting Europe. But he is also dedicated to reforming this country’s marijuana laws, and even serves on the Advisory Board of Directors for NORML. “Last year over 800,000 Americans were arrested on marijuana charges — a 100% increase since 1980. Well over 80% of these arrests were for simple possession.” This, in his view, tarnishes “the credibility of parents, teachers, police and our government.”

    5. Art Linkletter
    Art Linkletter was an icon of 1950’s culture and exemplified mainstream family values. He was most famous for hosting the original Kids Say the Darnedest Things, and later marketed the hula-hoop and Milton Bradley’s “Game of Life.” But he also backed reforming America’s unjust marijuana laws, because he was against a system that turns “ordinary, decent kids” into “criminals.” He even held a press conference with NORML in 1977 to voice his support for decriminalizing cannabis.

    4. Montel Williams
    Montel Williams hosted the originally named The Montel Williams Show for nearly two decades and even won an Emmy in 1996. He also served in the military for 22 years and retired as a decorated Lieutenant Commander of the US Navy. But in 1999, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a painful, neurological disorder. After traditional painkillers like Percocet, Oxycontin, and Vicodin failed to manage his pain, Williams settled on a more controversial (but effective) treatment: medical marijuana. He is now a proud medical marijuana advocate and wants to remove cannabis from its Schedule I listing (alongside PCP and heroin), so that doctors nationwide could prescribe it.

    3. Ann Landers
    Arguably America’s most famous advice columnist, Ann Landers was the nom de plume for Eppie Lederer, who penned the column for almost 50 years. Yet she also supported decriminalizing marijuana. In 1999, she addressed “A Sad Mother in VA,” whose son was charged with possessing cannabis: “I have long believed the laws regarding marijuana are too harsh. Those who keep pot for their own personal use should not be treated as criminals.”

    2. Pat Buchanan
    A conservative heavyweight, Pat Buchanan has advised the administrations of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan. He is also a seminal political commentator and a three-time presidential candidate, making him the Bizarro Ralph Nader. But troubled by the harrowing, drug-fueled violence in Mexico, he asked in a recent Human Events column, “How does one win a drug war when millions of Americans who use recreational drugs are financing the cartels…?” In his view, “There are two sure ways to end this war swiftly: Milton’s way and Mao’s way. Mao Zedong’s communists killed users and suppliers alike, as social parasites. Milton Friedman’s way is to decriminalize drugs and call off the war.” While he still strongly condemns drug use, he nevertheless wants to put these dangers into context: “Which is the greater evil? Legalized narcotics for America’s young or a failed state of 110 million on our southern border?”

    1. William F. Buckley
    As the founder and editor-in-chief of the conservative National Review, Bill Buckley criticized and agitated the American left for decades. But there was one issue where he and his opponents could find common ground: legalizing marijuana. Since banning cannabis has not prevented consumption, he quipped, “It requires less effort for a college student to find marijuana than for a sailor to find a brothel.” He also mocked those who argue that cannabis is a “gateway drug,” since that would be “on the order of saying that every rapist began by masturbating.”

    35 Responses to “The Great Eight: Unlikely Notables Against Marijuana Prohibition”

    1. Elizabeth says:

      Yeah Nick!!! Great piece, well done!

    2. Dave says:

      George Will also recently stated on “This Week” that the most sensible way to stop the Mexican drug cartels would be to legalize marijuana.

    3. Rev. J. Shaffer says:

      ‘Just as bootleggers were forced out of business in 1933 when Prohibition was repealed, making the sale of liquor legal (thus eliminating racketeering), the legalization of drugs would put drug dealers out of business. It would also guarantee government-approved quality, and the tax on drugs would provide an ongoing source of revenue for drug-education programs. An added plus: there would be far less crowding in our prisons due to drug-related crimes. It’s something to consider.’ ~ Abigail Van Buren

      This statement is credited to Dear Abby on May 3, 1994. . .

    4. Don M says:

      I’d like to add another name to this list. One that surprised me, most pleasantly, when I learned about him. One of my heroes in the scientific world – Carl Sagan!!! He was and is considered to have been a true genius and he was a closet toker! It really botheres me that there are those out there in our world that would have had him incarcerated for it! It also bothers me greatly that there are those out there that chuckle at the thought of legalization…

    5. Ben says:

      A comparison that I had never even heard before, but Buckley’s last statement is so true.

      “He also mocked those who argue that cannabis is a “gateway drug,” since that would be “on the order of saying that every rapist began by masturbating.”

      It’s such a perfect comparison that explains it well.

    6. Patriot says:

      You can add these people to the list:

      John Stossel – watch his wonderful show on Fox Business

      Judge Andrew Napolitano – also has a show on Fox Business

      Congressman Ron Paul – has been fighting for our freedom for years in Washington

    7. J says:

      This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Legalizing marijuana is more in line with the professed values of the American right than the American left. Marijuana legalization as a left-wing issue is the result of the historical accident of the hippies being the major popularizers of marijuana in American culture.
      Pat Buchanan makes an excellent point (there’s something one doesn’t hear everyday…) by saying that Mao led the only successful campaign in history to enforce drug prohibition by using the “kill everyone even suspected of involvement at any point in the chain from growers to users” strategy. I would like to point out that the second most successful anti-drug campaign in history has been carried out in the US. This is of course the campaign to persuade people to give up tobacco (which remained legal) through education and taxes….

    8. Mara says:

      Great article, especially for those unaware of these ardent anti-prohibitionists. I loved the William F. Buckley quotes!!!

    9. fishcreekbob says:

      Can anyone say Snap? This is the greatest scam of the century. Proven safe “Show Me A Body”.Free enterprise, Hemp the Trillion dollar Crop. Please,the truth of why it’s illegal.

    10. Matt says:

      The idea that conservatives are for marijuana prohibition and liberals are against it is mistaken. Most of the liberals concerned with “urban” problems will come out against it (wrongly citing the effects of prohibition as the effects of usage). The ones who aren’t locked into the “social worker/beat cop” mindset (i.e. completely brainwashed) are more open to reform though.

      The same is true across the isle– the hardline religious right idiots are usually against ending prohibition (because legislating morality will, somehow, ensure a more– let’s be honest– christian country). They make no sense. But, the smaller government, constitutional type of conservative (usually libertarians) is much more open to talking about the harms of prohibition.

      Note that both of the two groups I pointed out as against reform are the ones known most frequently to cry “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?!?!?!”

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