The Great Eight: Unlikely Notables Against Marijuana Prohibition

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.

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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 thoughts

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

  2. ‘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. . .

  3. 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…

  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. 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….

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

  8. 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.

  9. 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?!?!?!”

  10. Reference to #2 of blog falls in line with many people I know. Marijuana is for profit to the cartels and finances the more dangerous concoctions produced south of the border. If the local, state and federal laws were relaxed or deemed a threat to national interests then the American user could buy American and effectively take the profit from mass producers such as the cartels as well as open up commercial use and application of hemp fiber to durable goods.

  11. check out montel’s book “climbing higher” to read about his discovery of marijuana, and his struggles with other medications before finding MMJ.

    hes really quite a hero.

  12. Very nice. Even those I find repugnant have at least this little bit of common sense to them. Good quotes. Thanks!

  13. 3 of these guys are dead. worst of all your number 1 is dead. Hell I think the number one guy should be Beck after all he has the most influence with the conservative right and right now they are the people that need to be swayed in our favor the most.

  14. This is definitely a place where different political philosophies can connect. It is only one of few instances that libertarianism equates common sense.

  15. It’s just a damn shame that most politicians (Mexican included) wait until they are out of office to make it known that they are basically for legalization. Politicians are our own worst enemy, tell one thing in private, too little statesmanship in public.

  16. Anybody with a brain not living under a rock knows the cannabis/hemp herb is 99% positive leaving the 1% construed negative, left for the abusers. FREE THE WEED

  17. I don’t see why Milton Friedman is considered a “surprise.” After hearing parts of his show and excerpts from his writings I assumed he’d be the first in line against the drug war.

  18. I was around age 24 when president Jimmy Carter legalized “home-made wine”, “home-made beer”, and use of cannabis. Any way one liked – as Pres. Carter put it, what an adult wants to ingest is their business, not governments.

    I don’t if it was legal for an hour or a day, before the DEA was all over him – and I think Congress formed an emergency session and blocked the cannabis clause… letting the first two through. That’s what I remember.

    Make your own wine or beer, or curious how small brewer’s came back in business in the 1980’s… thank Pres. Carter.

    The worse harm from “marijuana” are the laws!

  19. @23 – I’m 54 now and can say that Jimmy Carter is the only president I have really liked in my lifetime! I thought Pres. Obama was going to be a great president and I helped vote him in for the change he promised… I didn’t know about Pres. Carter legalizing marijuana though. Now, I think all the more of him. As for the DEA, it was and is a mistake for our country and for the world. Most people that get busted by them do not have a real problem other than them! Those that do actually have any kind of abuse problem should be able to get medical attention.

  20. @ #7

    you say:” 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.”

    historical accident !!?? you don’t know what you’re talking about. we luv u anywaze.

    roll yourself a phatty. take a look around.

  21. Glenn Beck is no friend of Cannabis. Sure, he gives it lip service but he ran a hit piece on Rob Kampia that said the opposite.

    Also, the topic rages so why is he so quiet on it (one show on it in years?!)

    He is a total flake, he’s just smart enough to know that you cannot argue coherently for Prohibition, so he fakes it to sidestep the issue.

  22. Art Linkletter was a truly great man in many ways. He was absolutely right (as we all know) that MJ prohibition creates criminals out of otherwise good law abiding citizens. Unfortunately, when he made his beliefs known, we as a country, were suffering from the effects of the Nixon presidency.

    Nixon hated the hippies and chose to ignore any and all evidence about the effects of marijuana since the hippies liked it. That is one of the main reasons why the war against tokers has continued.

    Pres. Reagon was another nail in the coffin for those who wanted to end prohibition. Him and Nancy’s “Just Say No” garbage coupled with spending uncounted billions on the so-called “War on Drugs” was crippling! Ironically, these actions came into fruition by someone who was once a spokesperson/posterboy for big tobacco…

    Smart people realize the futility and wrongness of continued prohibition and, hopefully, minds are changing on the subject. We should all be doing everything we can to educate the masses about all the lies they have been told about marijuana because they more they know, the more likely it is that it will be legalized again.

    One more thought on the subject I want to share. It is just a crying shame that most of the people who have been busted for marijuana can’t vote. They lost that right when they got busted; assuming they were convicted of a felony which, I understand, is not at all uncommon. A felony is serious. That is a legal term that is associated with murderers, rapists, child molesters, robbers, illegal arms dealers, etc… I’m pretty confident that Cali’s Prop 19 would have absolutely no problem passing if all the Californians that have been busted for marijuana, and lost the ability to vote, could vote!

  23. Glenn Beck must have felt a true twinge of libertarian thought for brief instant but reverting back to his usual nonsense.

    You know every time that “social justice” is said, a communist gets a pitchfork… be afraid… be afraid…

  24. A nice and hopeful piece, yet several of these great 8 are long deceased. A more effective piece would have 8 living advocates who are actively fighting prohibition. Add to that ways to assist them and build a grassroots coalition and you would have a truly effective article that would help end prohibition.

  25. California voters can go online to register to vote:
    http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_vr.htm
    or to vote by mail
    http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_m.htm

    South Dakota citizens can go online to register to vote, and you can vote as an absentee if your a SD citizen who is currently out of state (e.g., a student):

    http://www.sdsos.gov/electionsvoteregistration/registrationvoting.shtm
    Other states: Google your state name and “voter registration.” It takes 5 minutes to change the world.

    College students can usually register as residents of the place they live while in college OR, if they are from elsewhere, they can register as a citzen of their “home town.” The choice is theirs, so college students, you might want to think about where to make your vote count the most.

    And as a side note: If you’re not already registered or if you’re just not sure, do it today. Most states have a deadline that’s a few weeks BEFORE the election, so don’t delay!

    (And also: If you didn’t vote in 2008, there is a good chance you are no longer registered; in some states you have to re-register if you miss an election or two, so make sure you’re registered, and if you have a chance to vote early (either by mail or in person at a polling place, jump on it!)

    Register. Vote. Change things. Share the links.

  26. I am getting conflicting signals on the Mexico connection. I’ve heard that the US is virtually self-sufficient in marijuana now. In that case, the Mexican cartels are dealing mostly in higher end stuff.

    Here is another point. Law enforcement types like prohibition, because if they can’t pin anything else on some poor bastard, there is always a chance of nailing him for possession. And perish the thought that they might be taking bribes for looking the other way or anything like that. That would never happen.

  27. Marijuana was made illegal due to business interests. Dupont (that billion dollar company) Backed the illegalization of Marijuana for their own greedy money needs.

    Dupont had a huge investment in cotten back in the day. Switching to a hemp based material would have bankrupted this huge business. So what better of a way to keep the money in your pocket but to give Henry Anslinger stock options in return for making cannabis illegal.

    It came down to money and tainted media info about this “drug”

    Look at the Gulf Oil Spill, if you havn’t figured out there is a MEDIA BLACKOUT going on.

    Look at “Reefer Madness” – for anyone that has ingested cannabis of some form knows that that film is completely false to the 99% of users.

    Factual evidence, thanks to the internet, is coming to light about cannabis. More and more people are figuring out that pot heads don’t beat their wife or die of lung cancer. They fall asleep eating ice cream.

  28. I love hemp..it is so healthy and I make money while being involved in a big movement! We need to go back to what our Founding Fathers thought was important and they knew the value of hemp. Check it out by clicking on my name Karen. Its huge and we can make a difference together while getting well.

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