Dana Rohrabacher is a 68-year-old Republican Congressman from California, and he recently admitted to using marijuana while in office. He still does, in fact. Don’t catch reefer madness yet, it was merely a medical marijuana rub. Rohrabacher didn’t go so far as to admit to, say, actually enjoying the substance recreationally. He did, however, say that the topical wax greatly helped with the arthritis pain that he suffers, which has lately been stopping him from enjoying surfing.
Once again, this is a middled-aged Republican who has been in Congress since 1989 admitting to using marijuana. He also more or less came out for recreational legalization in 2014. Rohrabacher was one of the most powerful forces behind the legislation that defunded the Department of Justice’s anti-federalist meddling, thereby mandating that it respect statewide marijuana laws and not send federal agents in as has happened under the last several presidents.
This, my friends, is part of what progress on the War on Drugs looks like.
Marijuana (to say nothing of other drugs) has a long way to go before full legalization. People are still suffering because of warped laws. However, there are twin pillars holding up this bad. One is policy. The other is PR–simply how people and politicians feel about the drug.
Now, for many decades people have used marijuana in spite of its illicit status. A government survey suggested at least 100 million people in the U.S. have tried it as of 2009. The percentage of people who wanted it legalized recreationally hit 50 percent in 2011 and has kept climbing in the past five years. Medical marijuana is shockingly popular and is now legal in more than half the United States.
The 2012 election was historic for one key reason–voters in two states voted to legalize the sales of recreational marijuana. Marijuana’s ubiquitousness was a key part of this finally getting somewhere, but it seems that the U.S. finally hit a tipping point on draconian punishments for weed. We haven’t done anything so crazy as to legalize it federally, or even get to half a dozen states. But my God, if the U.S. isn’t getting somewhere.
You can admit to smoking marijuana in the past, if you’re a politician (hell, even the Drug Enforcement Administration will let that one slide). You can claim you “did not inhale” like Bill Clinton, who later claimed that was a joke. You can say you “inhaled, that was the point” as candidate Barack Obama said, in a better joke. On the Republican side, you can admit you smoked weed if it was literally decades before you ran for president. Or, you can be like former Gov. Gary Johnson and admit you like weed but then be doomed to run as a Libertarian, because the Republicans are not ready for you.
There is still a line of acceptability with the drug war debate among mainstream politicians. You can say, yes, the state should decide, or even that the federal restrictions should be abolished, that America should stop throwing people in jail over weed-related crimes, or that mandatory minimums have got to go. But for someone in office to say that a marijuana product helped them, as Rohrabacher has, that’s maybe not breaking new trail, but it’s whacking the weeds away and moving us a little farther towards a country not plagued by the deluded belief that outlawing something will make it vanish, and that any cost is worth it if you have good, Puritan intentions.