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Gore Vidal's Visionary Case For Marijuana Legalization 40 Years Ago

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Visionary author, playwright and political activist Gore Vidal passed away yesterday. Millions around the world are remembering his life's work. If you don't know much about him, you can learn a lot just by reading the obituaries and commentaries that are emerging in the wake of his death.

Apparently, though, there's one political issue that Vidal wrote about that has been overlooked: his opposition to the insane war on drugs. This morning, I just came across what Gore Vidal had to say about the need to legalize marijuana and the ineffectiveness of drug prohibition. This really drives home the point that he was way ahead of his time.

Here are a few excerpts from a column he wrote 42 years ago in the New York Times - just one year prior to President Nixon's launch of the war on drugs.

New York Times

Drugs: Case for Legalizing Marijuana

By GORE VIDAL

In the Long Run It Would Save Lives And End Hypocrisy

September 26, 1970

It is possible to stop most drug addiction in the United States within a very short time. Simply make all drugs available and sell them at cost. Label each drug with a precise description of what effect--good and bad--the drug will have on whoever takes it. This will require heroic honesty. Don't say that marijuana is addictive or dangerous when it is neither, as millions of people know--unlike "speed," which kills most unpleasantly, or heroin, which is addictive and difficult to kick.

For the record, I have tried--once--almost every drug and liked none, disproving the popular Fu Manchu theory that a single whiff of opium will enslave the mind. Nevertheless many drugs are bad for certain people to take and they should be told about them in a sensible way ...

It is a lucky thing for the American moralist that our country has always existed in a kind of time-vacuum: we have no public memory of anything that happened before last Tuesday. No one in Washington today recalls what happened during the years alcohol was forbidden to the people by a Congress that thought it had a divine mission to stamp out Demon Rum and so launched the greatest crime wave in the country's history, caused thousands of deaths from bad alcohol, and created a general (and persisting) contempt for the laws of the United States.

The same thing is happening today. But the government has learned nothing from past attempts at prohibition, not to mention repression.

Last year when the supply of Mexican marijuana was slightly curtailed by the Feds, the pushers got the kids hooked on heroin and deaths increased dramatically, particularly in New York. Whose fault? Evil men like the Mafiosi? Permissive Dr. Spock? Wild-eyed Dr. Leary? No.

The Government of the United States was responsible for those deaths. The bureaucratic machine has a vested interest in playing cops and robbers. Both the Bureau of Narcotics and the Mafia want strong laws against the sale and use of drugs because if drugs are sold at cost there would be no money in it for anyone ...

Will anything sensible be done? Of course not. The American people are as devoted to the idea of sin and its punishment as they are to making money--and fighting drugs is nearly as big a business as pushing them. Since the combination of sin and money is irresistible (particularly to the professional politician), the situation will only grow worse.