Legalizing Marijuana: Drug Policy Reform and Prohibition Politics

By Rudolph J. Gerber | Go to book overview

2
PRESIDENTIAL POT POLICIES

Over the past four decades, our government’s policies toward pot have largely reflected the opinions of the occupant of the White House, who in turn has usually mirrored the strongest voices within his constituency, particularly his drug advisors. Presidential administrations hostile to marijuana share several convictions: First, they believe that pot users eventually become addicts en route to harder drugs like heroin and cocaine, the so-called “gateway” theory. Militant presidential campaigns also emphasize that marijuana use primarily occurs among cultural deviants who undermine the nation’s ballast of “establishment values.” Hostile administrations have also reflected a self-righteous religious conviction about the sinfulness of using pot, a modern replay of biblical Sodom and Gomorrah.

The opposing picture, though less dramatic, is more charged with frustrated plans. Moderate presidents seeking to lessen penalties have almost invariably fallen well short of their convictions. Usually their failures have resulted not from a changed personal conviction but because policy change on drugs engenders opposition from conservative politicians, entrenched law enforcement, and occasional militant parents groups. These exogenous opponents reflect not only the difficulty of relaxing reefer laws but also the fact that many such groups stand to lose power and financing with any change in the status quo policy.

At a philosophical level, some presidents have opposed pot on consequentialist grounds, finding its evil not in its moral but in its social and cultural effects. Others have taken a more deontological turn, finding reefer morally wrong in itself independent of its social consequences. This clash can be seen as degrees on a Nietzschean scale between the poles of “Apollo” and “Dionysius,” uniform rational morality versus the

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Legalizing Marijuana: Drug Policy Reform and Prohibition Politics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Legalizing Marijuana - Drug Policy Reform and Prohibition Politics iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Introduction xv
  • 1: History of Demonizing Drugs 1
  • 2: Presidential Pot Policies 17
  • 3: Enforcement Practices 61
  • 4: Health Effects 77
  • 5: Seeds of the Medical Marijuana Movement 91
  • 6: The People’s Counterattack 105
  • 7: The Medical-Legal Conflict 121
  • 8: Conclusion: Lessons in Political Unscience 135
  • Notes 155
  • Bibliography 173
  • Index 183
  • About the Author 189
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