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“I did,” he said.

President Obama, then running for his second term, admitted that he not only tried marijuana, but that he, unlike former President Bill Clinton, had also inhaled. He also said that if the “best way to relieve pain and suffering is through medicinal marijuana,” then he would be willing to accept that fact.

He’s not the only one. Newsweek compiled a list of various politicians who admitted to trying marijuana at least once in their life, which has since been expanded upon by Rare:


  1. Michael Bloomberg
  2. George W. Bush
  3. Lincoln Chafee
  4. Bill Clinton
  5. Ted Cruz
  6. Andrew Cuomo
  7. John Edwards
  8. Newt Gingrich
  9. Al Gore
  10. John F. Kennedy
  11. John Kerry
  12. Barack Obama
  13. Sarah Palin
  14. George Pataki
  15. Rand Paul
  16. Bernie Sanders
  17. Rick Santorum
  18. Clarence Thomas

This is by no means even close to being a complete list. Though not everyone on this list is against the federal legalization of marijuana – there are actually some avid supporters on this list – there are, indeed, many hypocrites in politics. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich once introduced a bill in 1996 calling for the death penalty for those convicted for importing various controlled substances.

The Administration steadfastly opposes legalization of marijuana and other drugs because legalization would increase the availability and use of illicit drugs.

The hypocrisy has made it all the way to the White House, even among the last three administrations. Though conversation is shifting in favor of legalization, the ones with the power to fix the wrongs of the past, who themselves have escaped the same standards of ‘justice’ for their actions, refuse to budge. From the White House’s website:

The Administration steadfastly opposes legalization of marijuana and other drugs because legalization would increase the availability and use of illicit drugs, and pose significant health and safety risks to all Americans, particularly young people.

This statement alone is problematic. The appeal to emotion for the sake of young Americans is a fallacy. The Denver Post shared a study tracking teenage use of marijuana following the state’s legalization of the drug’s recreational use. According to the study, teen use of marijuana remained level. The Washington Post shared a study concluding similar results, even noting that the usage rate had lowered since 2009.

The White House’s resources on marijuana follow this disturbing trend of presenting cherry picked information to reaffirm its decision to stand steadfastly against legalization. In an attempt to answer frequently asked questions about marijuana on the issue of cartel influence, for example, the White House fails to answer truthfully:

Q: Wouldn’t legalizing marijuana remove a major source of funding for Mexican drug trafficking organizations?

No, violent Mexican criminal organizations derive revenue from more than just marijuana sales. They also produce and traffic methamphetamine and heroin, continue to move significant amounts of cocaine, and conduct an array of criminal activities including kidnapping, extortion, and human trafficking.  Because of the variety and scope of the cartels’ business, and its illicit and purposefully obscured nature, determining the precise percentage of revenues from marijuana is problematic, but we can be confident that even the complete elimination of one of their illicit “product lines” will not result in disbanding of their criminal organizations.

The existing black market for marijuana will not simply disappear if the drug is legalized and taxed.  Researchers from the RAND Corporation have noted a significant profit motive for existing black market providers to stay in the market, as “as they can still cover their costs of production and make a nice profit.”

With this in mind, it is crucial to reduce demand for marijuana in the United States and work with the Government and people of Mexico to continue our shared commitment to defeat violent drug cartels.

The effort to bury the serious impact legalization could have on cartels has not gone unnoticed. The Washington Post reports the full story. With all of the facts considered, the situation appears to be more significant than many had realized. Legal marijuana is affecting the value of Mexican marijuana, so much so that one Mexican marijuana grower reported a drop in price from $60 to $90 per kilogram down to $30 to $40 per kilogram, due to the quality of American marijuana:

If the decline in border seizures is any indication, however, it appears that Mexican growers are having difficulty competing with domestic production. Some federal authorities are beginning to believe this is the case. Noting the decline in border seizures, Michael Botticelli, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, told a Senate committee last year that “given the increase in marijuana use among the American population, this suggests that people using marijuana in the United States may be increasingly obtaining marijuana from domestic sources…”

Still, there’s no question that drug production south of the border is changing. The DEA has even found evidence that the flow of illegal marijuana is starting to reverse, with some cases of U.S. marijuana being smuggled into Mexico.

The cartels, of course, are adapting to the new reality. Seizure data appears to indicate that with marijuana profits tumbling, they’re switching over to heroin and meth.

Cartels being forced to adapt is a positive, and there are arguments for legalization in other areas where cartels are involved. With legal marijuana come dispensaries and other safer forms of exchange between producers and consumers. And while the black market will never fully disappear, what exactly is the harm of reducing its influence as much as possible?

So long as elitism continues to mix with appeals to emotions, partisanship and misrepresentation of facts, Americans will continue to be unnecessarily hurt by drug laws that trample on their civil liberties.

The history of the “war on drugs”


This is part six of our series “Pardon,” examining the state of nonviolent criminal justice reform as the Obama presidency comes to a close.


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