On Hardball, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews joined the growing chorus of Beltway pundits who are terrified of the potential consequences of legal marijuana. Taking aim at President Obama’s statement that marijuana is “no more dangerous than alcohol, Matthews lamented:
But the fact is I don’t think he’s right on this one because I think people have addictive personalities and some people react to freedom differently than others and we better be ready for it because it’s coming now.
I think dope, marijuana makes you sort of vague out, and sort of lose interest in tomorrow, two weeks from now, two months from now.
Earlier this month, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough said smoking marijuana “makes you dumb”. David Brooks, at the New York Times, also penned a jeremiad warnings us of the dangers of legalized marijuana, arguing that it would turn us into the type of people we don’t want to become.
Yet for all their moralizing concern, the Beltway baby Boomers who make their living as pundits, are out of step with medical reality and public opinion. Obama’s controversial statement on marijuana was actually a tremendous understatement. Marijuana is considerably less dangerous than either alcohol or tobacco. For example, a British Columbia Mental Health and Addictions Journal study found that health related costs per user were eight times greater for alcohol than for marijuana. Tobacco smokers incurred health related costs forty times as great per user. In addition, the World Health Organization concludes that the health risks posed by marijuana are significantly lower than the risks associated with consuming alcohol or smoking tobacco.
While many public officials and media personalities continue to embrace marijuana myths, depicting it as a dangerous drug, the public is buying the false hype. Approximately half of adult Americans have smoked cannabis. This experimentation no doubt has helped discredit the scare tactics that were once employed by anti-pot crusader Harry Anslinger and other drug warriors who followed in his footsteps. The Reefer Madness movie which first aired in the 1930s, presenting marijuana as a deadly drug that would drive people to criminality and insanity, is now justifiably ridiculed for its absurd representation of the dangers of pot smoking. The American public has wised up to the propaganda campaign, but the Beltway establishment is still acting dopey about dope, as Chris Matthews latest concerns illustrate.
Last year, a Pew research survey found American support marijuana legalization by a 52-45 majority. Millennials (ages 18-32) favor legalization by almost 2 to 1. Last year Colorado and Washington State passed ballot measures legalizing marijuana for recreational use. However, the push for legalization is extending well beyond the playgrounds of the left in Seattle and Denver. A Public Policy Polling survey from 2013, also found that voters in Texas would overwhelmingly favor a similar law to those that were recently passed in Colorado and Washington. By a 58-38 margin, Texas voters say they would support a law that regulates and taxes marijuana so that residents 21 and older can purchase it legally for recreational or medical purposes.
Chris Matthews may not agree with Barack Obama on marijuana, but most of America now does. More importantly, medical science agrees with the President as well. Matthews represents an outdated view on the dangers of marijuana that no longer holds up in the face of evidence or public opinion. His opposition to legalization is going up in smoke.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.