When Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., was in college, he smoked pot. If his former college roommate is to believed, he smoked a lot of it.
Angered by a letter from Coleman that expressed support for continued prohibition on marijuana, Norm Kent sent a letter back to Coleman and copied it to the website CelebStoner.com.
“Years ago, in a lifetime far away, you did not oppose the legalization of marijuana. Years ago, in our dorm rooms at Hofstra University, you, me, Billy, your future brother-in-law, Ivan, Jonathan, Peter, Janet, Nancy and a wealth of other students smoked dope,” Kent said.
Kent detailed a number of alleged times Coleman smoked marijuana, including at a number of protests. And he blasted Coleman for being hypocritical for changing his tune now.
“How about admitting that if the Rockefeller drug laws were applied to Norman Bruce Coleman on Long Island in 1968, or to me, or to our friends, and fellow students, you, I and others we knew and loved might just be getting out of jail now?” asked Kent. “How about recognizing that for too long too many have been wrongly arrested, unjustly prosecuted and illegally incarcerated for unconscionable periods of time?”
Kent’s missive to his former friend is interesting for its lack of uniqueness. Many of our leaders dabbled in pot as college students, and many more had friends who did. And yet these people survived to live productive lives, instead of getting hooked on drugs.
I’ve never smoked pot. Indeed, aside from the times I drank when I was underage, I’ve never ingested any illegal drugs. But I have friends who smoked pot in college, friends who smoked pot around me. And they’ve grown up to be successful and productive members of society. Most of them have quit smoking pot, but a few still do once in a while, and somehow they manage to survive from day to day.
There are drugs out there that need to be outlawed. Heroin and methamphetamines and cocaine are tremendously addictive and extraordinarily bad for people, and there’s no reason for them to be made legal anytime soon. But the message about these drugs’ dangers is blunted by the government’s continued war on pot, whether it be in fighting recreational users or in going after those using marijuana to treat chronic illness.
Let’s be honest, folks: Marijuana is not a major health hazard. Oh, it’s not particularly good for you, but neither is alcohol or tobacco or French silk pie. But it’s arguably no worse for you than alcohol; indeed, it’s arguably better.
And yet we still as a society make the penalty for using pot draconian. If Norm Coleman had been busted for possession at age 19, he may have avoided jail time — but he would have lost his financial aid, a casualty of our continued war on drugs, which makes any conviction on drug charges an automatic disqualifier. More than a few students today are facing the reality that they can’t go to college anymore because they did the exact same thing Coleman did at their age. Which future senator are we disqualifying?
As a society, we need a good reason to make something illegal. If pot was meth, making people paranoid and self-destructive and dangerous, then that would be a good reason. But pot is more like alcohol: a mild drug that people use for personal enjoyment. If Norm Coleman’s former roommate is to be believed, Coleman did just that many times, and he grew up to be a U.S. senator. Al Gore used pot liberally, and grew up to be vice president.
I don’t care if these men, or dozens of others of our leaders, smoked dope. Indeed, with Norm active in the 60’s counterculture, I would only have been surprised if he’d claimed not to have done so. What I do care about is that these people, who have actually used these drugs and know their effects, choose to continue arguing that these drugs are uniformly bad. If Coleman wishes to expound on why pot was a serious negative in his life, he should do so. But if it wasn’t a negative in his life, he should have the guts to admit it and the guts to start working to focus our drug laws on the real threats to our society.
(Crossposted from Minnesota Monitor)