As public servants and ambassadors of public will, politicians have the unenviable task of being ever present in the public eye. In this age of extreme political partisanship and digital journalism, government officials are at a risk every time they open their mouths. This might result in simply offending the public, being taken out of context or utterly misrepresenting an organization in a number of ways.
On the flip side, this age of information has created an unforeseen benefit for the people. Never has such a wealth of information been available at your fingertips. As a result, politicians who attempt to connive, deceive and misrepresent the facts are now able to be systematically fact-checked and exposed for their unethical actions as never before.
6 Ridiculous Things Politician Said About Weed
No plant has been more vilified over the past century…. step aside poison ivy (Image via KY3)
For a number of self-serving purposes, Cannabis is a plant that has been constantly vilified and slandered by politicians over the past century. Although often out of ignorance, these lies are occasionally told for more insidious purposes…perhaps to appeal to a conservative base of voters or because the individual stands to financially profit.
Misleading the public (as we’re about to see) isn’t just hilarious… it’s dangerous too. Lies by political figures spread ignorance, deny crucial medicines to people in need and resulted in the jailing of non-violent citizens.
This article will explore some of the most egregious and laughable claims made by politicians about weed.
“Every one of the bastards that is out for legalizing Marijuana is Jewish”
Is there a politician more synonymous with scandal? From Watergate to attempting to prolong the Vietnam war, it’s hard to believe President Nixon was once regarded as having an impeccable reputation.
Perhaps one of the largest stains on his presidency was his destructive campaign known as the war on drugs that has been ravaging communities on and off for nearly a half-century.
With the signing of CSA (Controlled Substances Act) in 1970, the war began. Fast forward to the 21st century and 47% of all people in federal prisons in the United States are locked up for drug offenses of some sort. Many of these people were nonviolent and are disproportionately black.
All in all this destructive policy failed to fix anything and has caused a great deal of harm. The Nixon administration also placed cannabis in schedule 1 for narcotics, the category reserved for the most dangerous drugs with no purported medical uses.
Unfortunately for President Nixon, in the oval office, the recorder was always on. And this quote would be one of many nuggets of gold captured in his infamous conversations with white-house staff.
What’s Wrong with it
This statement doesn’t reflect some sort of inaccuracy about cannabis. It is, however, hilarious and more than a bit, cringingly, old-worldy racist. This should come as no surprise as from its onset the war on drugs has had a suspiciously racist flavor to it.
In a 1990 interview with John Ehrlichman, a top aide within the Nixon administration, he would confirm these suspicions beyond a reasonable doubt.
You want to know what this was really all about. The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying. We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.
Suppression of ones political opponents is an affront to democracy… But the indirect suppression of the black community through this sort of targeted policy is an affront to human rights.
Nixon’s comment about the Jewish community is simply the icing on the racist cake.
Although to be fair, the former President did later admit that “all the great psychiatrists are Jewish”, this is no getting out of jail free card, and his statement on weed has caused quite a bit of damage.
Police Chief Daryl Gates
Casual drug users “ought to be taken out and shot”
Jesus Christ Daryl put the gun down… chill out and smoke a joint, would you? If this man’s name sounds familiar its because he was the police chief at the time of the infamous Rodney King disaster.
You might also remember him from such abominations as the DARE program. As the man behind the monstrosities, the Chief was one of the key authors behind one of the largest failed drug education plans of the century. For those previously unacquainted DARE was a program that brought officers into schools to educate the youth about the dangers of drugs.
In fact, one study concluded that kids involved in the DARE program were actually more likely to do drugs than the general population.
This particular statement was given by Chief Daryl at a Senate hearing in 1990 on the first anniversary of the Bush administration’s war on drugs. What I have paid to be a fly on the wall there… All the crusty old neo-cons must have been sweating bullets and awkwardly shuffling about in their seats as Daryl threatened more than half the country with Pablo Escobar style justice. I’m going to need you to bring the violence level from a ten back down to a 2 Chief.
What’s Wrong With It
Where to begin… sociopaths aside, I’m sure we can agree that summarily executing casual drug users is an affront to civil society… I’m looking at you President Duterte. However, there is an underlying mentality that buttresses these statements that is common among advocates of prohibition and the anti-drug crowd.
The statement “war on drugs” implies a conflict in the military sense. As such many people in underprivileged neighborhoods have begun to view their relationship with police as adversarial. One study conducted by the Washington based think tank, The Urban Institute, found that only 30% of people in such neighborhoods believed police would respect their rights.
Wars need enemies Daryl himself was quoted as saying, “We’re in a war,” and even casual drug use “is treason.” As a wise man once said, “when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail.” While certain aspects of the drug issue might be dealt with effectively by the criminal justice side of things, history has proven that America cannot arrest its way out of its drug problem.
Drug use has existed since the dawn of humanity across almost all societies… even animals have been known to get into the fun. Drug users are human beings (and occasionally animals), some just want to experiment with their consciousness, others people in desperate times and dire straits who are looking for a release.
But even the most afflicted by addiction are more worthy of sympathy than violence. Drug addiction is a public health problem, not a war and casual drug use is not a problem… especially not one tantamount to treason. So many of humanity’s problems have been caused by making another out of our fellow human being.
In this instance, Daryl who undoubtedly saw first hand the devastation of the crack epidemic in LA in the 80’s was understandably filled with anger. Perhaps had a little nuance and scientific literature trickled into drug policy and education, and we wouldn’t be dealing with the same problem in the same ways… a half-century later.
In 2016 Australia joined its CANZUK sisters in legalizing cannabis for medicinal purposes. Britain, Canada, and New Zealand now all allow varying degrees of cannabis for recreational and medicinal purposes.
Recently it has been suggested by Richard Di Natale, leader of the aptly named Greens that Marijuana should be legalized. As a doctor of drugs and alcohol, Di Natale is keen to point out the failures of cannabis prohibition.
As a drug and alcohol doctor, I’ve seen that the ‘tough on drugs’ approach causes enormous harm. It drives people away from getting help when they need it and exposes them to a dangerous black market.
However, the country’s highest medical practitioner, Federal health minister Greg Hunt had different ideas about the legalization of cannabis.
What’s Wrong With It
This is not a unique claim. In fact, many people have claimed weed is a gateway drug… and falsely so. Whats most disconcerting about Hunt’s claim is that it was issued in 2018. How long it will take for this myth to die is anyone’s best guess.
In the meantime, proponents of cannabis legalization are still having to play the role of myth-buster on the lazy, slippery slope logic behind the war on drugs (depicted below).
The delicate nature of the legalization of cannabis in Australia is also worth noting. In some instances, the political climate of wee in Australia can take a ‘hard right turn’. A recent proposition doling out two-year jail sentences for cannabis possession confirms this. Perhaps Australia as a nation isn’t ready for legalization, despite a slight majority being in favor of it. Especially when the existing political framework seems intent on halting notions of progress.
“Good people don’t smoke marijuana”
On the campaign trail, Donald Trump stated that he would leave the decision of cannabis legalization up to the states. However, since then, his actions have been more indicative of how he plans to treat weed.
Cabinet appointments such as Jeff Sessions as Attorney General have not been reassuring… especially to states that have done away with cannabis prohibition and those that hope to join them. Ever a strong opponent of weed, Sessions had this to say at an April 2016 Senate hearing.
What’s Wrong With It
Can you think of a more polarizing statement to pit proponents and opponents of legalization against each other? Okay, maybe Officer Daryl Has him beat… Admittedly its okay to have a dissenting view on legalization. Based on their personal biases and the data they’ve gathered, different people will reach different conclusions. This goes without saying.
What should follow, however, is a civil discourse over the benefits and negatives of legalization. Thus a consensus or at the very least some common ground might be found. This is a constructive approach to dissenting views.
Sessions approach on drug policy, however, reeks of the sort of moralistic, fear mongering that blossomed from the panic surrounding the 1980’s crack epidemic. His statements regarding what he perceived as Obama’s softness towards drugs pays homage to what should be a bygone era in drug enforcement.
It reverses 20 years almost of hostility to drugs that began really when Nancy Reagan started ‘Just Say No’
Ultimately Sessions statements have not been well received by those good people who do smoke Marijuana. Who would have thought that demonizing 52% of America wouldn’t be a dandy idea…
“I didn’t like it and didn’t inhale”
On the campaign trail, then aspiring presidential candidate Bill Clinton was asked a pointed question during an interview. Many thought this would sink his chances at the presidency. Were they ever wrong…
What’s Wrong With It
I tried drinking once and I didn’t like it. I sloshed it around in my mouth for a bit and spit it out. Do you see how this wouldn’t qualify me to talk to you about being drunk? Pretty ridiculous right? Old Bill… if you were going confess to smoking weed, you could have endeared yourself to a lot of people with a genuine confession rather than a bizarre half-truth.
If you think President Clinton was telling the truth, keep in mind this is the man who claimed that his white house fun with Monica Lewinsky didn’t qualify as sexual relations. By the way… has anyone ever sounded more square while confessing to smoking weed?
Herein lies a second problem. These statements came at a time when the war on drugs was alive and well. Presidents such as Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and George Bush were at liberty to enjoy their youth, take illegal risks and expand their consciousness. This is not a liberty many underprivileged youths and African Americans get to take.
Mass incarcerations of non-violent drug offenders continue to be a dire Issue in the United States. Unless these presidents are of the opinion that their experimentation should warrant them a retroactive jail sentence then they must be regarded as hypocrites.
“Marijuana is infinitely more dangerous than tobacco”
With all the recent progress made in the field of cannabis rights in Canada, this may come as a surprise. Yes, there was a time when us igloo dwelling, maple syrup chugging, shiny playing canucks elected politicians who were this deceptive on the topic as Mr. Harper.
In the 2015 election, Harper faced off against the charismatic, youthful and dreamy Justin Trudeau. Trudeau threatened to unseat him by appealing to the liberal sensibilities of Canada’s youth.
Harper, realizing that fighting Trudeau at his own game would be a losing battle. He thus attempted to appeal the more conservative, 60 plus crowd who are generally the most consistent voters. As a result, his rhetoric took a polarizing, hard right turn. Mr. Harper had the above to say on weed. Below, you will find his valiant…. but very out of touch attempt to win over the youth.
However the dangers of tobacco, despite the best efforts of cigarette companies, have been documented fact for the past century. Harper lost the election and cannabis is set for legalization in October 2018… so much of the damage has been mitigated from this farcical statement.
However, who’s going to explain to our grandmas that we’re not on the brink of cancer and death when we come over to her house stinking of skunk. Shame on you mister Harper! You owe my grandmother a long explanation!
“Those who sell on the illegal market care very little about the health of their consumers and about the quality of their product… There are even people who told me that they (illegal sellers) had already started to incorporate fentanyl into cannabis. It’s really disturbing. I think people want a crown corporation that does not rely on profit, which is why they asked us not to go private.”
Many people… even within my native land of Canada might be unfamiliar with Lucie Charlebois (Quebec’s Minister for Rehabilitation, Youth Protection, and Public Health). Quite frankly, her statement sounds like that of a 50 something soccer mom who is clearly out of touch with reality.
To give a little background, the federal government under Justin Trudeau has legalized recreational weed which will take place in October 2018. What will legalization in the great white north look like? The answer is greatly varied. In an exercise in province (our equivalent of states) rights, Canadian provinces will be allowed to decide for themselves exactly how cannabis will be distributed.
The rest of the world should watch and take careful notes. A scientific, longitudinal study is unfolding in front of their eyes. Equipped with 13 lab rats (ten provinces and three territories) each exhibiting the costs and benefits of different kinds of Cannabis economies.
Some like Ontario have opted for privatization. Quebec however (Canada’s Francophone province) has opted for some bizarre legislative red tape surrounding legalization. Within the year only 15 dispensaries will be set up in a province with 8.5 million people. Clearly, this will not be able to supply the province’s demand for Cannabis… Black market drug dealers are undoubtedly licking their lips.
The above statement was defending the government’s position not to privatize.
What’s wrong with it
Before I attack her dubious fentanyl claim, let’s look at Lucie’s conflation of private sales and the black market.
Remember your last visit to the grocery store? Let’s say you popped into Sobey’s. As you perused the poultry section you noticed that the black market chicken salesmen had contaminated your chicken breasts. Those sons of bitches sold you a soggy hen, now you’ve got salmonella. If this doesn’t sound familiar its because private enterprise and the black market are in fact two different things
Even within the private enterprise, the government is capable of setting regulatory standards that are enforced by law. If not met, the culprits can face stiff penalties of jail time, forced closure, hefty fines and the ire of the buying public. I can’t believe I’m actually explaining this…
Regulatory bodies such as the FDA are the reason contaminated food is not a significant problem in North America. As a result, cost-cutting alcohol salesmen are not able to dilute their product with Windex or fentanyl. One can only assume private weed enterprise would function similarly under the watchful eye of government.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to distribute Cannabis through the government. In fact, there are plenty of arguments to support this position. However, that’s not to say that the private model doesn’t come without its benefits as well.
How Ms. Charlebois couldn’t draw this conclusion is frankly baffling. I trust that the public is intelligent enough not to allow it to dilute their view of private cannabis enterprise. However, her second statement regarding fentanyl is one that is as dangerous as it is false.
It, therefore, merits a dissection.
Quite simply this is a false claim which has been debunked. The risk of such a claim lies in its ability to cause a public health scare where there is none. Let’s look at a few of the implications of this statement… If it was to be taken at face value.
Hospital staff and first responders would have a frenzy every time someone called in because they got too high and thought they were going to die from lace weed. An immense amount of fear might be inspired in police officers who feel they might be risking their lives when dealing with simple calls for weed. Statements regarding fentanyl are not to be taken lightly.
Misinformation is dangerous and has implications far beyond the deceiver’s intended outcome. The larger the pulpit someone has, the more ears are listening… thus the greater the potential for damage. This risk requires us to hold these people in positions of authority to a higher standard of accountability for truth. Having a good laugh at their expense is always a good start.
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