Opinion: Pot, Paul and Prejudice by James Bell

rand_paul3The Republican Party’s new shooting star Sen. Rand Paul may be shooting himself in the foot when it comes to addressing the issue of legalization of marijuana. Unlike his father, former Congressman Ron Paul, who supports legalization and/or medicalization of marijuana and drugs, Rand seems to draw the line.

To his credit Sen. Paul has stated that jail and prison time for possessing and using cannabis is not the solutions to the issue, calling incarceration a “bad mistake”.

But recent statements by Rand has ruffled the rolling papers of a few marijuana legalization advocates that view his statements on cannabis consumers as naïve and even ignorant.

In an interview Rand said  “I think people who use marijuana all the time lose IQ points, I think they lose their drive to show up for work.” His comments were interrupted to be “pot smokers are dumb and lazy”.

Advocates of legalization are quick to point out that the laws that created cannabis prohibition decades ago where based on false, racist and ignorant claims that Mexicans were dumb and lazy because they smoked marijuana. Claims were also made that cannabis made black folks disrespect white folks and even made white women fall in love with black men and ever worse, it caused women to pat their foot to jazz music. I’m not joking – it’s true! Congressional minutes recorded this nonsense.

So let’s get to the issue. Does smoking marijuana “all the time” make you dumb and lazy?

Like with all things in our lives we should practice moderation – except for playing on Facebook, watching the Stanley Cup playoffs and perhaps gossiping about Paula Dean.

In contrast, what impact does drinking alcohol “all the time” have on a person? It depends on if you’re a happy drunk, a sad drunk, or a violent drunk. We should all recognize there is a difference between use and abuse of any substance.

So let’s follow Sen. Paul’s logic. What if smoking marijuana did make you dumb and lazy? Is it any of his business how you wish to live your life? After all he is “Mr. Libertarian” – “Live your life as you see fit as long as you don’t harm others”.

So is becoming dumb and lazy a crime? If so, most in Congress would be in handcuff and hauled off to the nearest federal prison.

Rand’s comment fails to take into consideration millions of self motivated, successful business owners, artists and professionals who smoke or otherwise ingest cannabis with little or no adverse effects on their lives or community.

Let’s look at some rather famous pot heads.

I have to list one of America’s most famous icons – Willie Nelson. Not exactly a dumb or lazy individual. He never met a joint he didn’t like.

Also on the list is Sir Richard Branson, the 236th richest person in the world. He didn’t get wealthy by sleeping in and being late for work – but he is rich enough to do both!

Then there’s Michael Phelps. You know the most successful Olympian of all time! Obviously he doesn’t smoke marijuana “all the time” but he does enjoy a few puffs. Perhaps it was the bong hits that helped to expand his lung capacity.

How about Michael Bloomberg? The rich guy-New York mayor who outlawed large soda drinks. When asked if he has smoked marijuana he said “You bet I did. And I enjoyed it!” He’s not exactly Cheech or Chong!

Let’s not forget about Ted Turner – the billionaire visionary tycoon and Time’s Man of the Year. He grew marijuana in his college dorm room.

Montel Williams – TV personality turned to cannabis after his 1999 diagnosis for Multiple Sclerosis. He claimed it was prescription drugs that were adversely affecting his life.

Stephen King – he’s only written 50 novels and sold some 500 million copies around the world. He has been an outspoken advocate for legal marijuana saying “it should be a cottage industry.”

Rick Steves – he’s the travel guy on PBS. He has consumed cannabis around the world.

I would mention President Bill Clinton, but he never inhaled. And then there’s George W. Bush – well what can I say – he never figured out which end of the joint to light, so I can’t list him.

So last but certainly not least, there is President Barack Obama. Yes, he had a few puffs. In fact he was a member of the pot smoking Choom Gang. I wonder what he would have been in life if he had been arrested and convicted for marijuana. His vice today appears to be beer and tobacco addiction.

Back to Rand Paul – If he thinks making such stereotypical, derogatory and dumb comments is in some way pandering to the conservative right, he needs to think again.

Even conservatives smoke pot! They just smoke a little less.

James Bell is a libertarian activist in Atlanta and advocates for marijuana law reform