“The Colbert Report” dedicated about a third of last night’s episode to a lively discussion about Prop 19 in California – and it was chalk full of gems. After rallying his audibly excited audience with an overview of where the measure stands (“If Prop 19 were a human, it would be the most popular candidate in California”), host Stephen Colbert turned to two guests – Joseph Califano, of the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson – to argue for and against making marijuana legal.
Califano opposes Prop 19. The entire debate over marijuana, he said, comes down to children:
“We have two legal drugs in America – alcohol and tobacco – and we’ve had no success keeping them out of the hands of kids. So if you legalize pot in California, all the kids will have access to it.”
Yeah, I know. My head hurt when I heard this, too. It’s amazing how twisted, bankrupt, and dishonest a statement that is. First off, Califano conveniently ignores the fact that young people already have access to marijuana – better access than they do to alcohol and tobacco, because marijuana dealers aren’t required to check IDs. (On the same day this segment aired, a report from the International Centre for Science and Drug Policy said that despite decades of increased arrests, seizures, and enforcement efforts, marijuana remains “universally available” to young people.) Secondly, there has been a great deal of progress in recent years in lowering the use rates for alcohol, and especially tobacco, among young people. That success has come about through sensible regulations and fact-based education campaigns – not the criminalization of tobacco users.
If Califano truly believes we need to “change the culture” surrounding marijuana the same way society changed the culture surrounding tobacco, he should embrace the regulation of marijuana, accompanied by science-based education. But doing so could negatively affect the bottom line for the substance abuse centers Califano represents – and who depend on court-ordered entries for arrested marijuana users for a great deal of their business.
Luckily, Gary Johnson was there to inject some honesty into the conversation.
“I just think that there should be truth in this. I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t smoke pot, but I’ve drank alcohol and I’ve smoked pot, and I can tell you there’s a big difference between the two, and that is that marijuana is a lot safer than alcohol. I think you can introduce truth into the equation; we can tell our kids the truth regarding this. When it comes to the truth and my kids, I love them. I’d rather see them smoke marijuana than alcohol – but I don’t want them caught. I don’t want them subject to the criminal justice system when it comes to marijuana.”
Bravo, governor. It takes courage to say something like that, and by doing so on national television, Gary Johnson is making it easier for other public figures to follow suit.
How’s that for changing the culture?
Watch the entire segment below:
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Proposition 19 - Joseph Califano & Gary Johnson<a>|