Bill O’Reilly's Misguided $10,000 Bet with John Stossel Against California's Chances of Legalizing Pot

On Oct 19 on the O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly bet guest John Stossel $10,000 (to a charity of the winner’s choice) that Proposition 19, the California ballot measure that would make marijuana legal for all adults, will fail. Stossel, who supports Prop 19, said that it’s time to end marijuana prohibition because “it’s a war on our own people.”


“A war on our own people?” asked a bewildered and defiant O’Reilly. “What does that mean? They’re breaking people’s doors down?”

Yes, Mr. O’Reilly, that’s exactly what it means. Below is video of a Feb. 11 raid in Columbia, Missouri, in which a SWAT team broke down a family’s front door, terrorized a 7-year-old child, and shot and killed one of the family’s dogs. The reason for such tactics? The officers found a pipe and a small amount of marijuana.

More than 800,000 Americans – nearly one every 37 seconds – are arrested every year for possessing marijuana, something that’s safer than alcohol. It is a war on our own people, Mr. O’Reilly.

In another poor and puzzling attempt to defend our failed status quo, O’Reilly tried to compare marijuana to tobacco, by saying “marijuana is exactly as addictive as tobacco.”

Once again, he’s wrong. From TIME magazine yesterday: “Estimates vary, but compared with tobacco, which hooks about 20% to 30% of smokers, marijuana is much less addictive, coming in at 9% to 10%.” According a 1999 report from the federal government’s Institute of Medicine, “Compared to most other drugs … dependence among marijuana users is relatively rare … [A]lthough few marijuana users develop dependence, some do. But they appear to be less likely to do so than users of other drugs (including alcohol and tobacco), and marijuana dependence appears to be less severe than dependence on other drugs.”

More importantly, tobacco is responsible for killing more than 400,000 Americans every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Marijuana kills no one. But tobacco is legal – and few families have their doors broken down, children terrorized, and pets murdered because a parent is in possession of a cigarette.

And according to the most recent poll, it looks very likely that Mr. O’Reilly could soon be out $10,000. SurveyUSA shows Prop 19 leading among California voters 48 to 44.

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