Anyone who watches Bill Maher's HBO show, Real Time with Bill Maher, knows that one of his biggest passions is marijuana legalization. Almost every week he talks about our country's absurd war on drugs. Last week he did his best rap ever on the drug war that was both hilarious and blood-boiling.
Bill Maher pegs his passionate monologue with the recent "news" that Congressman Ted Cruz of Texas and former Governor Jeb Bush of Florida both admitted to smoking marijuana when they were young. He asks why the media even asks this question as it is clear that almost every person who has run for office has smoked weed, from Sarah Palin to Rick Santorum to Al Gore to our current President Barack Obama.
Maher goes on to ridicule the "youthful discretion" apology that the politicians think they need to say. We heard it all before: I made a mistake when I was in college and I would never do it again. The humor turns to righteous outrage as he points out that 700,000 people are arrested for marijuana possession every year in the United States, something that all of our leaders admit to doing. He has special anger for Jeb Bush, who used and possibly sold marijuana in school, but then pushed for harsh sentences for drug offenses when he was Governor of Florida. That is except for his daughter Noelle, who he wanted compassion for when she was busted for crack cocaine in 2002.
Maher addresses racism in the drug war when he sarcastically says we should have honest drug education and warn young people that if they are going to experiment with drugs, they should first make sure they are white and well connected.
Maher closes the segment by calling not just for marijuana legalization, but big action from President Obama. "Obama should acknowledge that putting people in jail for nonviolent drug offenses was a giant mistake in the first place, and then he should use the power of the presidential pardon and free them all." Maher points out that past presidents have given mass pardons and clemencies to Southern Confederates and Vietnam War resisters.
Maher's segment was brilliant. I laughed and chuckled but also felt anger and outrage. It is time to stop arresting people for drug use. It is also time to bring our brothers and sisters who are behind bars home.
Tony Newman is the director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance (www.drugpolicy.org)
This piece first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance Blog.