Rick Steves on Marijuana

Rick Steves is my favorite travel author. If you are going to Europe his books are the go to resource. His travel show on PBS is also a great watch even if you aren’t going to Europe. What is less well known about Rick are his progressive, reasonable, and compassionate views on Marijuana. Rick and I are both members of NORML- the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Here is a letter Rick sent out to the membership today. Compare his views with the taxpayer funded cannabis propoganda on ONDCP.

TV Host Rick Steves: NORML, Good Citizenship and You!
December 31, 2007
Hello NORML Supporters!

I’ve found a great niche in life. I love to travel and I love to teach travel. Travel carbonates my life. When we travel, we find new wonders and new ways of looking at things. And travel is a great teacher. By traveling, I’ve learned that the costly prohibition against marijuana is a uniquely American crusade. In Europe these days, a joint is about as exciting as a can of beer.

As author of thirty best-selling travel guidebooks and host of the popular TV series, Rick Steves’ Europe, I’m a public person. I pride myself on being honest; open to other viewpoints, and caring. These are all reasons why I speak out publicly against the counter-productive and wrong-minded US prohibition against marijuana.

It’s striking to me that here in America, a nation which has championed freedom since even before the French Revolution, 40,000,000 citizens smoke pot recreationally yet so few will admit it publicly. People call my outspokenness on pot courageous.

If it takes courage to speak the truth, then it is even more important to do so.
For the better part of the past five years, I’ve served proudly on the Advisory Board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) – America’s leading drug law reform group.

During my NORML tenure, I’ve said loud and clear that I believe responsible adult use of marijuana is a civil liberty; that the current prohibition against pot is as counter- productive and costly to our society today as the prohibition against alcohol was back in the 1920s and 30s. I’ve said that if the goal of our nation’s drug policy is harm reduction (rather than locking people up), problem cannabis use should be treated as a health problem rather than a criminal problem. (That’s the pragmatic European approach.) Further more, I believe that if our government managed to lock up every pot smoker in the USA, our country would instantly become a much less interesting place to call home.

I’ve enjoyed sharing these ideas during my keynote speeches at national NORML Conferences and I shared my thoughts on drug policy reform in a recent Los Angeles Times editorial. In fact, in my lectures all over the USA, I share frankly and openly how America’s “War on Drugs” is failing while Europe’s more pragmatic approach is much more effective.

In America you can be hard on drugs or soft on drugs. Europe offers a third choice—smart on drugs.

Many of my friends and workmates are concerned that my speaking out against America’s failed pot policies is dangerous. But you don’t need to smoke pot to oppose a law that criminalizes it. As an American, I insist on the freedom to oppose a law I think is wrong. As a businessman, I’ve found no real backlash. As a parent, I have credibility with my children on drug abuse issues.

I’ve explained my beliefs on countless radio and TV interviews. Invariably, those interviewing me express admiration for my common-sense stance—but only after the mic is turned off. (Candor would threaten their jobs.) My political representatives understand and respect my viewpoint – even if they are afraid to make it an issue in today’s political environment. And personally, I am embracing one less lie than most of my countrymen. That’s a good thing. It just feels right to speak publicly about the wrongness of making the responsible adult use of marijuana a crime.

When it comes to smoking pot, the only shame I feel is how our nation treats its citizenry.
I feel shame when I read that 80,000 Americans are in jail today on marijuana charges. I feel shame that the US arrests over 800,000 Americans a year for marijuana—90 percent for simple possession. I feel shame when I listen to America’s Drug Czar parrot administration lies about the effects of pot so that our government can continue to deny its therapeutic use for seriously ill patients who so vitally need it. I feel shame when I learn about the billions of taxpayers’ dollars our government spends targeting and jailing non-violent marijuana smokers, while at the same time it denies needed funding for necessary social programs such as health care, education, and treatment for victims of hard drug abuse. And I feel frustrated here in “the land of the free and the home of the brave” that I am one of just 3 or 4 paltry (no offense, boys) celebrities with the nerve to admit publicly that they smoke pot.

I believe the mature adult recreational use of marijuana is a civil liberty
Our responsible, adult, pot-smoking friends and workmates should not be criminals. That’s a big reason why I’ve chosen to devote my time, energy, and financial resources to supporting NORML’s tireless efforts. Today I’m asking you do the same.

Together, supporting groups like NORML, we are making substantial progress toward ending the prohibition of our age. Over 4 million Americans are tuning into NORML’s daily podcast and more than 375,000 people have recently signed up to support NORML on the social networking website Facebook. However, these totals still represent only a fraction of the tens of millions of Americans who – like me – understand that marijuana is best treated as a soft drug—taxed and regulated like alcohol and tobacco.

NORML is not a charity…it’s a service, fighting our battle in Washington, DC.
If you agree with me, support NORML financially with an end-of-the-year gift. If you’re reading this letter you’ve given money to NORML in the past. Thanks for your support. We need to continue giving…again…and again…until pot smokers are no longer criminals in the USA. We must work together and support the dogged and heroic struggle NORML is waging. Together, we can bring an end to a prohibition that is bringing far greater harm to our nation than the problem it is trying to address.

Matching Grant—Double Your Donation!
Please join me in making a tax-deductible donation of $100 or more to NORML. Your end-of-the-year contribution will help to assure that NORML can continue its vital work. Plus, thanks to support of longstanding NORML funders, the amount you donate to NORML today will be matched dollar for dollar (up to $30,000) – making your contribution go twice as far and work twice as hard.

As 2008 approaches, let me propose a New Year’s resolution. Let this be the year you educate your friends about the importance of bringing sanity to our drug laws and to challenge those who believe that the responsible and recreational adult use of marijuana is a civil liberty to join NORML. Here’s a New Year’s challenge: Make a commitment to encourage at least three friends to become paying dues members of NORML.

In this political season, if responsible citizens who enjoy a little marijuana recreationally spoke honestly and publicly about this, perhaps our nation’s leaders would realize it is not political suicide to advocate pragmatic European-style drug policy reform.

Thank you again for your financial support of NORML. Together we can teach America that by taking the crime out of marijuana, our nation will be a better place.

Happy travels (even if you’re just staying home),
Rick Steves
NORML Advisory Board
Edmonds, Washington

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One response to “Rick Steves on Marijuana”

  1. <img src="http://www.blogge says:

    Nice blog. I love defense attorneys….Stanley Topek of Houston saved me all kinds of trouble as a youth. I am dropping a line because I share your views concerning marijuana and plan on adding your site to my site’s blogroll. I am from Texas and plan on checking in here for your posts frequently. Check my blog and let me know if you’d be interested in a link exchange. Thanks.

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