Marijuana-law reform has been on a roll. Four states and the District of Columbia have approved recreational cannabis, 26 states and DC have legalized medical marijuana (Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Ohio joined the party in 2016), and polling indicates that a majority of Americans favor legalizing pot. Despite the good vibes, however, it’s important to remember that there are still many hardline anti-pot crusaders out there, and they’re not going away anytime soon. For every Melinda Haag or Michele Leonhart that fades away, another misinformed or disingenuous stooge is waiting to take their place. Below is a list of eight particularly hateful pot prohibitionists who should be on your radar. It is by no means a comprehensive list, so please add your thoughts on other anti-cannabis crusaders attempting to derail pot’s progress in the comments section below.
CARLA LOWE: As a substitute teacher in the 1970s, Lowe noticed that some of her students “with long hair… weren’t focusing” on their lessons and decided “they were probably smoking pot.” Since then, she’s made it her life’s mission to fight against dealing with marijuana rationally. In 2010, Lowe founded Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana (CALM) in response to California’s legalization effort, Proposition 19. Now, six years later, Lowe and CALM are at it again, spreading prohibitionist propaganda in hopes of sinking California’s current legalization effort, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. CALM erroneously reports that marijuana causes permanent brain damage, testicular cancer, mental illness and birth defects – and, of course, has no medicinal value.
JAMES LANKFORD: In 2014, the Justice Department issued a memorandum granting permission to Native American tribes to grow and sell marijuana on their lands. This didn’t sit well with Oklahoma Senator James Lankford, who proposed a bill that would punish tribes growing or selling pot by stripping their federal funding. According to Lankford, the bill – which seeks to fuck Native people out of a sustainable and potentially lucrative revenue source – is necessary because “The Native American community experiences the highest drug-induced death rate in the country.” See? Lankford is just protecting indigenous people from pot. He even refers to his bill – the Keeping Out Illegal Drugs Act – by the cloying and shameless acronym “the KIDs Act.”
NANCY GRACE: Shrieking bag of Southern poo Nancy Grace amps up her unique brand of faux moral outrage when discussing marijuana on her eponymous HLN talk show. Grace is an opportunistic ratings whore who cherry-picks stories of terrible crimes involving pot and holds them up to her gullible audience as being representative of marijuana use as a whole. And if a guest is brave enough to disagree with her, Grace will indignantly squawk “You’re stoned!” at them. But perhaps we’ve seen the last of Grace for a while, since the network just announced that her show, mercifully, will be ending in October.
KEVIN SABET: No list of prohibitionists would be complete without Kevin Sabet. The co-founder of Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) has been incredibly successful at gaming the media, which is famously obsessed with point/counterpoint “reporting,” into airing his marijuana misinformation. Sabet often goes on television to assert that cannabis “significantly decreases IQ,” “is 10 times more dangerous than the marijuana of the ’60s,” and “addicts one out of every six children who ever try the drug.” All lies – but Sabet wears a suit and speaks authoritatively, so idiots believe him. And media outlets keep inviting him back.
CHUCK ROSENBERG: Last year, national embarrassment Michele Leonhart was forced out as head of the DEA. Leonhart once famously refused to acknowledge that heroin is any worse than marijuana when questioned before Congress. So it seemed reasonable to hope that her replacement would be an improvement… Enter new DEA chief Chuck Rosenberg, who appeared eager to display the ignorance that earns you the top job at the DEA when he went on the record saying, “What really bothers me is the notion that marijuana is also medicinal – because it’s not… We can have an intellectually honest debate about whether we should legalize something that is bad and dangerous, but don’t call it medicine – that is a joke.”
SCOTT PRUITT: Colorado voters passed Amendment 64 in 2012, legalizing recreational pot. Governor John Hickenlooper decided not to block the will of the people, and the federal government opted not to interfere with the state’s constitutional amendment. But this isn’t really about the citizens of Colorado – it’s about Scott Pruitt, the prohibitionist attorney general in the nearby state of Oklahoma. Pruitt, along with the AG of Nebraska, another neighboring state, led a lawsuit asking the feds to overturn Colorado’s historic law and make cannabis illegal again. Although the Supreme Court recently refused to consider the suit, Pruitt won’t quit: He’s now attempting to join a case opposing legal pot in a Denver-based appeals court.
DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: True, the Florida congresswoman hasn’t devoted her life to thwarting marijuana-law reform – but while much of her party favors legalizing pot, Wasserman Schultz opposes legalizing even medical marijuana. “I just don’t think we should legalize more mind-altering substances if we want to make it less likely that people travel down the path toward using drugs,” she opined in a recent interview, adding: “There is a huge heroin epidemic.” That’s right, the recently deposed chair of the Democratic National Committee subscribes to the thoroughly debunked gateway theory, implying that medical pot will somehow encourage people to use heroin. Thankfully Schultz has been forced out of her position heading up the DNC. Now she faces a tough primary that could lead to her ouster from the House.
JEFF SESSIONS: Apparently, old drug warriors don’t change; they just double down. But while their position on pot is at odds with a country that increasingly favors legal weed, at least the US Senate provides a platform for them to rage against the dying of the light. At a recent masturbatory hearing on the Justice Department’s handling of marijuana legalization, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions got a chance to dust off some vintage ’80s anti-pot rhetoric, bemoaning the fact that legalizing weed would “reverse the progress that we’ve made… trying to send that message with clarity, that good people don’t smoke marijuana.” Perhaps it’s time voters send Jeff Sessions the message that his services are no longer required.