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Maia Szalavitz

Maia Szalavitz

Posted February 3, 2009 | 08:52 AM (EST)

Marijuana Blues: If All Americans Had Phelps' Press Experience, The Drug War Would Be Over


Let's try a thought experiment. Imagine that there was a substance that on one given day caused the faces of anyone who had ever smoked marijuana to turn blue for a few hours. At least 40% of Americans over 12 would have a blue face that day (that's the proportion willing to admit it anonymously to government interviewers, the real proportion may well be higher).

Maybe, just maybe, we'd realize how stupid the war on drugs is.

Imagine how the economy would grind to (even more of!) a halt if we tried to arrest and incarcerate all of these people. Imagine the chaos if we just tried to fire all of them from their jobs and suspend the students from school.

Of course, such a chemical doesn't and can't exist. But if every person who ever smoked marijuana simply spoke out honestly about their experience one day, we'd have a much more sane discussion of drug policy. The truth about the effects of this drug--that it is less damaging to health than alcohol and tobacco--would become as evident as those hypothetical (and many hypocritical) blue faces.

And the truth about who marijuana smokers are--your grandfather, your dentist, your accountant, your senators and Presidents and yes, even some of your Olympic athletes--would be revealed. Not just scary outsiders or hairy hippies--but millions every day Americans from all walks of life.

Once that occurred and we saw that the enemy in the war on drugs is ourselves, perhaps we'd discover that we have more important battles to fight.

But that can't happen if we continue to demand ritual hypocrisy from people like Michael Phelps who are forcibly "outed." We'll just go on talking past each other till we're blue in the face...