Why Pot Smokers Owe a Lot to the Progressive Era

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel March 30, 2015

    While it may not be apparent to casual observers of the current drive to legalize marijuana in America, we are truly the beneficiaries of political reforms adopted during what is generally referred to as the Progressive Era.

    This period of social activism and political reform in America is generally defined as beginning in 1890 and running through 1920.

    The principal objective of the Progressive movement was eliminating corruption in government, and to accomplish that goal, proponents sought ways to take down the powerful and corrupt political bosses and to provide access to ordinary Americans in the political system – a concept called direct democracy, as contrasted to representative democracy.

    On the national level, progressivism gained a strong voice in the White House with the election of Teddy Roosevelt as president in 1901. Other national proponents included Robert La Follette and Charles Evans Hughes on the Republican side, and William Jennings Bryan, Woodrow Wilson and Al Smith on the Democratic side.

    It was during this period that the concept of direct primaries to nominate candidates for public office, direct election of US senators, and universal suffrage for women gained traction; and most important to our work, the procedures know as referendum and initiatives began to be adopted in several states.

    To read the balance of this column, please go to Marijuana.com.

    68 responses to “Why Pot Smokers Owe a Lot to the Progressive Era”

    1. Bob Constantine says:

      Pot smokers don’t owe anything to anybody other than what they as individuals have agreed to on a voluntary and consensual basis, just like anybody else.

      Liberty and freedom are not provided or protected by government. That will be evidenced when some form of “legalization” happens nearly everywhere.

      Rather than simply being decriminalized, pot use will be converted into a “permission based” privilege and government will demand a cut…money.

      Paying somebody to exercise freedom, is oxymoronic and Orwellian. Free people don’t need permission to control their own body.

    2. Julian says:

      Thanks Keith for the historical perspective.
      A good government teacher once told me that “U.S. Presidents due to their ever increasing executive power are capable of some of the best and worst decisions in history.”
      Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence but he also owned slaves.
      Theodore Roosevelt’s progressive side brought us voter initiatives but then his imperialist side invaded Panama and brought us our first Vietnam in the Philippines with the Spanish American war.
      Lyndon B Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act but he also staged the Gulf of Tonkin and let the French drag us into Vietnam.
      Today, Obama’s executive orders on reducing Federal sentencing combined with his memos to the DOJ over marijuana policy remain one of the most Progressive records in U.S. history. And yet, if I may criticize his strategy, we’re currently helping the Sunni Saudis attack Al Qaeda in Yemen and the Shi’a Iranians attack ISIS in Iraq, or as Jon Stewart puts it, we have “finally after decades of conflict in the middle east between the Shi’a-Sunni conflict figured out how to punch ourselves in the d!(*.”
      Fortunately, if we legalize cannabis in the U.S. we might just get the U.N. to help farmers in Afghanistan to replace their poppy fields with hemp and keep ISIS from destroying marijuana farms in Syria. I din’t know about you, but I would love to end conflict in these areas by using hemp to bring back the traditional Afghan hand made rug industry and try some Syrian marijuana (if we can trace chemicals in it first under a legally regulated international marijuana market).
      How’s that for progressive?

    3. William Levy says:

      Nice post on pot. I liked it.

    4. CommonlyKnownAs Blue says:

      Are these the same ‘Progressives’ who banned alcohol, ushering in the era of Mafia control and FBI predominance? Just askin’.

    5. CommonlyKnownAs Blue says:

      Oh – And allowed the conditions to develop that contributed to the Wall St Crash and Great Depression…

    6. End of the Rope says:

      While at IU Southeast I had the honor of being a student to Dr. Katulick, a political science teacher that made us all excited about the details of governments and people of all kinds. Every time he spoke he’d give me a reason to research more and to think about what is truely important. Reading the articles and comments here on NORML takes to that same spot. Thank You Keith Stroup and all that have joined you.

    7. Gweedo says:

      Yeah well it’s also the same system which villified cannabis and has managed to keep it illegal for some 75 years.

    8. Dave Evans says:

      That is exactly why I vote Progressively. If you can’t add to but just take away, you are not getting my vote.

      Liberals and Conservatives can suck it! Opposites and equal only in their disorder. You’re not interested in making a better America, just promoting yourselves.

      Bob, you’re right, but I don’t think you’re realizing that the America you love and value so much hasn’t yet been built…

    9. The end of an era, known as prohibition, would be the best damn thing to happen to this world! Progressivism is still alive and well today, but will we one day bring back the Progressive Era, or will we, as a nation make an even better movement? It very well could happen in our lifetime, the great Liberation Era.

    10. khh says:

      The Progressive Era also brought nationwide drug and alcohol prohibition. Drugs were legal in the US prior to this. The federal war on marijuana wouldn’t come until later, but its demonization was well underway.

      Progressives own prohibition.