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Is it Ok to Out Prohibitionist Politicians for Past Pot Use? Yes.

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When Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman regurgitated ONDCP anti-pot propaganda, he got more than he bargained for. It all began with this statement from the senator:
"I oppose the legalization of marijuana because, as noted by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, marijuana can have serious adverse health affects on individuals. The health problems that may occur from this highly addictive drug include short-term memory loss, anxiety, respiratory illness and a risk of lung cancer that far exceeds that of tobacco products. It would also make our transportation, schools and workplaces, just as examples, more dangerous." []
Unfortunately for Coleman, NORML board member Norm Kent was hip to his hypocrisy. Having partied and protested alongside Coleman in college, Kent crafted an open letter to the Senator exposing his marijuana use and fundamentally undermining Coleman's reckless characterization of the drug's risks:
Dear Mr. Coleman,

My friend Norman.

Years ago, in a lifetime far away, you did not oppose the legalization of marijuana. Years ago, in our dorm rooms at Hofstra University, you, me, Billy, your future brother-in-law, Ivan, Jonathan, Peter, Janet, Nancy and a wealth of other students smoked dope.

Sure, we had to tape the doors shut, burn incense and open the windows, but we got high, and yet we grew up okay, without the help of the Office of National Drug Control Policy's advice...

Truly, nothing could better refute Norm Coleman's attacks against marijuana than the life of Norm Coleman. He smoked marijuana in college – like so, so, so many others – and now he is a U.S. Senator. He does not have lung cancer or schizophrenia.

As a general rule, I don’t think it's our business who smoked pot in college. But so long as a great and terrible war is waged against marijuana users, we cannot always afford to take the moral high ground. Kent's letter reveals Coleman as a shameless liar in far fewer words than it would take to explain that marijuana doesn’t cause cancer or idiocy.

Most importantly, Norm Coleman's public humiliation sends a message to other politicians that flagrant lies and rank hypocrisy will not be tolerated in the marijuana debate. Until our leaders finally get the message that Americans don’t want this war, cheap political posturing will continue.

If a little narcing of our own can help silence other would-be drug war demogogues, I say let 'em have it.

Update: In hindsight, the above doesn't exhibit much respect for individual privacy, which is an important value that must always be considered even when dealing with dishonest folks. As Kent's letter notes, Coleman mentioned getting high in the school newspaper and used marijuana defiantly on the roof of a school building during a protest, so he'd already sacrificed any expectation of privacy.

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It is so uncool to see politicians endorsing jail for us, but they give a great big pass to themselves for smoking a little pot. And the politician can stuff his hypocritical mea culpas for smoking the pot: lets hear him apologize for jailing potheads, which is the fundamental injustice here.

norm coleman's hypocrisy and the repugnikkkans

well norm coleman is a bozo without an excuse!!! he has smoked pot in his college years!!! i am sure he even "slept around"!!! how many other repugnikkkans possess that "skeleton in the closet"? i am sure there are many who possess those credentials!!! i want to see the dirt on them!!! i want to see those hypocrites cringe when a fellow pot smoker or bed mate comes forward with the evidence!!! it would be funny if an ex-lover exposes the bedroom habits of a current repugnikkan!!! i would get a laugh out of seeing them get exposed!!!! its long overdue for sure

exposing Coleman

No doubt in my mind this should be done when appropriate. I think exposing hypocrisy is always a virtue. Not just a hypocrite but a liar: "A risk of lung cancer that far exceeds that of tobacco products."

I agree

Just like in the gay community, it's acceptable to out someone who's closeted and fighting against gay rights, such as Ted Haggard. Exposing their hypocrisy just shows how their arguments make no sense.

puregenius's picture

Definitely needed

The moral high ground doesn't have much use when drug warrior worms are always slithering around under you. Every single one of these hypocrites needs it. Bush needs it most. We know he had an alcohol problem and likely one with cocaine. If someone like that can reach the highest office in the land, there's no limit to what a former drug user or abuser can achieve.

I am above the influence, the influence of drug war propaganda

People Do Mature

My, but your attack on Norm Coleman is vicious. Can nobody change? With all the mud-slinging, did you ever think that Mr. Coleman may have matured past his youthful experiment with pot? Matured and grown smarter. Perhaps he regrets those experiments with drugs he made long ago.

re: people do mature

No, it's Coleman's attack on marijuana that is vicious ("a risk of lung cancer that far exceeds that of tobacco products"- what a baldfaced lie). And wanting to send people to jail for the same thing you did and never owned up to is hypocritical, nothing mudslinging about attacking that.
If you can use alcohol, why can't other folks use marijuana? Got a reasonable answer?


I don't disagree that it is OK to out politicians for past drug use (legal or illegal), but I think our calculus on the issue is ignoring a major factor:

Past use of drugs for prohibitionist politicians gives them more, not less, credibility.

Think about it: When is the last time a politician (especially a drug warrior) was humiliated or forced to change on the basis of past drug use?

What seems like clear inconsistency to us is easily dismissed as "I used this stuff, so I *know* we need to do something to save our country from it" to many people.

It is no longer taboo to have used illicit drugs - especially marijuana. Very few voters find politicians to be less credible as a result of their use, and more probably find them to be more credible.

- Justin

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