Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made news when the Associated Press
reported an interview Schwarzenegger did with the British edition of GQ where he
said marijuana is not a drug, it’s a leaf. The Governor’s press secretary
quickly tried to do damage control and claim that he was joking and made the
comments in a lighthearted context. This is not the first time that the
Governator has had to address marijuana. There is the famous scene in the
documentary Pumping Iron where he smokes a joint on screen.
America (and Arnold) has a paradoxical relationship with marijuana. Tens
millions of Americans have smoked or continue to smoke marijuana. Arnold’s
reefer smoking in Pumping Iron not only didn’t hurt him when running for
Governor, it probably helped him. And Schwarzenegger is far from being in the
minority of elected officials who have smoked marijuana. Many successful
politicians have admitted to smoking marijuana, including Al Gore, Barack Obama,
New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and Newt Gingrich to name just a few.
Marijuana smoking is often portrayed throughout pop-culture, like movies and
music, in a positive light. Marijuana use does not usually preclude someone from
running for office. There are millions who think that heroin and cocaine are
real drugs, but marijuana is just a leaf. However, the war on marijuana is very
real. According to FBI statistics, about 800,000 of the roughly 1.8 million
annual drug arrests are for marijuana — 88 percent for possession alone. While
getting busted smoking a joint may not land you in jail for a serious amount of
time, the collateral consequences are very serious. A drug offense, including
marijuana possession, will make you ineligible for finical aid for school.
Smoking marijuana can also keep you from dozens of others professions that drug
test their employees.
I appreciate the Governor’s candor and even humor when talking about marijuana.
But if he wants to live up to his image of an action hero who has the courage to
take on the hard issues, he could start by going after the irrational and
inhumane war on marijuana, which he knows is a joke.