Chris Matthews Spews Clueless Attack on Obama for Pointing Out the Truth About Marijuana
Obama's statement to the New Yorker this week that "marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol" was not only a powerful rebuke to the 40-year war on drugs, it also happens to be 100 percent true, as Paul Armentano has pointed out repeatedly. It was safe to assume that prohibitionists and right-wingers might have jumped on Obama's quote, but attacks from a "liberal" like MSNBC's Chris Matthews come as something of a surprise.
Matthews recently devoted an entire segment to going after Obama. His fellow Baby Boomer guests, Christopher Lawford and Patrick Kennedy, joined him in blatantly ignoring the bounty of scientific evidence to the contrary as they spewed ad hominem guesses as to what potential worries legalization might bring about. None offered more than speculation, and all echoed the stereotypes and fear-mongering of war on drugs propagators.
“The fact is I don't think he's right on this one because I think people have addictive personalities and some people react to freedom differently than others and we better be ready for it because it's coming now," Matthews said on the show.
Whether it’s possible to be addicted to marijuana depends on one's definition of addiction. If we are defining addiction in terms that do apply to marijuana—which most likely means defining substance dependence, not actual physical addiction— the vast majority of users do not reach that point. Marijuana is the most popular drug in the U.S., and out of all of the most commonly used drugs it’s the least likely to cause dependence.
As AlterNet noted in a 2011 article: “The estimate most often cited, based on a NIDA-supported survey from the early 1990s, is that 9 percent of people who use marijuana will develop dependence at some point in their lives, compared with 15 percent for alcohol, 17 percent for cocaine, 23 percent for heroin, and 32 percent for tobacco.”
The rest of Matthews’ argument consisted of “Obama is wrong on this” because “marijuana makes you sort of vague out, and sort of lose interest in tomorrow, two weeks from now, two months from now.”
The lazy, detached stoner stereotype is both tired and flat-out inaccurate. Some of the most influential people in the world—Oprah, Bill Gates and John Kerry among others—either smoke pot, or used to. More than 14 million people admit to using marijuana regularly, and plenty of them function normally—they plan for the future and everything.
The marijuana-smoking activists and lawyers who successfully got the herb legalized in Colorado and Washington last year would also beg to differ with Matthews. Their dedicated planning and organizing efforts in recent months made historic strides in ending the war on drugs, which incarcerates millions of people for mere possession of pot—the majority of them black and brown men from impoverished neighborhoods. It is estimated for example that the legalization of cannabis in Colorado has already kept thousands from being arrested for possession, and saved the state anywhere from $12 million to $40 million over the last year by removing criminal penalties.
On the show, Lawford argued that since alcohol and tobacco—which he called "dangerous drugs"—were already legal, adding marijuana to the gamut would only make things worse. Lawford apparently failed to register the well-distributed fact that a total of zero people ever have died from using marijuana. Meanwhile, alcohol kills more than 37,000 in the U.S. each year and tobacco is the cause of 1 in 5 deaths the world over, according to the CDC.
Marijuana is not even nearly as dangerous as alcohol (or tobacco) and President Obama is right to agree with that fact.
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