Marijuana laws in America are a running joke. By now, you could be forgiven for forgetting to laugh, but it’s undeniably true. Everyone knows it. Look at the blatant incongruity, always fodder for humor:
Marijuana is federally illegal in all 50 states, yet is sold openly in licensed, taxable transactions in over a dozen of them. Cannabis is legitimate medicine, a fact proven time and again by scientific method as well as personal anecdote, yet is officially classified as more dangerous and less medical than cocaine and methamphetamine. The government could shut down and seize all the assets of any one of the many marijuana businesses generating tens of billions of dollars of economic activity every year for being illegal—but demands they pay federal taxes in the meantime, all in cash. And state-legal marijuana use can get you fired and get your kids taken away from you—that is, if you can actually find any.
And all this is for your own good! We’re the government, we’re here to help.
You could go on and on. You could easily go on for 17 minutes, as comedian John Oliver did on his show Last Week Tonight on Sunday.
Very little of the absurdity surrounding America’s long, drawn-out, and ultimately completely futile prohibition on cannabis went untouched as Oliver built towards his ultimate point: Federal cannabis law needs a drastic overhaul. (We even got to hear Attorney General Jeff Sessions quote Lady Gaga again!)
“If you have marijuana right now, even if you are acting completely legally according to your state, you may still be in serious jeopardy,” he said. “You could lose your home, job or possessions. This story is genuinely worth worrying about.”
We know nothing about federal marijuana prohibition makes any sense, but Oliver lays out the problems in a way that nobody could deny—not even true believers in the DEA.
We have military veterans like Kentucky’s Danny Belcher, a Vietnam vet who is able to survive his PTSD episodes, get up at 6 a.m. to work out and then volunteer at the local V.A., as long as he’s able to use marijuana. By the way, this makes him a “criminal.”
“So for all the talk you hear of marijuana being a gateway drug, in his case, that gateway led to peaceful sleep, rigorous exercise and community service,” Oliver said. “Pretty nice fucking gate it turns out. Nice one to walk through if you get the chance.”
And, Oliver argues, this is something everyone in America—everyone in the world!—should be worried about, whether or not they’re one of the 60 percent of Americans who thinks cannabis should be legalized.
“Marijuana laws affect everything, from environment regulations to international treaties,” Oliver said. “All of this is a lot of work, which is why we should start right now.”
Preach, Johnny. Here’s the full clip, in all its reasonable, rational and blinkered glory.