Gore Vidal Advocated Marijuana Legalization 42 Years Ago


Gore Vidal, pictured here in about 1970, died on July 31, 2012 at the age of 86. He was famous for his biting political critiques and acerbic take on American society.

Author, playwright and activist Gore Vidal’s death on Tuesday brought a worldwide expression of gratitude for a life well lived; millions are remembering the liberal author’s contributions to culture and politics.

What’s not as well known is that, decades ago, Vidal took a brave stand in favor of marijuana legalization, as pointed out on the Huffington Post by Tony Newman of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Back on September 26, 1970, Vidal wrote an op-ed column, “Drugs: Case for Legalizing Marijuana,” for The New York Times. The column examines the need to legalize marijuana and the utter futility of drug prohibition, showing clearly that Vidal was a man far ahead of his time.
For historical context, remember that when Vidal wrote the piece, the beginning of President Richard Nixon’s War On Drugs was still one year in the future. Nixon was already at war with the counterculture, though; just a few months before, four students had been gunned down in an anti-war protest at Ohio’s Kent State University.
“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,” Vidal wrote.
“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,” Vidal wrote.
“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 laws in the United States,” Vidal wrote.
“The same thing is happening today,” he wrote. “But the government has learned nothing from past attempts at prohibition, not to mention repression.”
But Vidal, writing in 1970, was not particularly hopeful the situation would soon change. And, of course, his deep pessimism is confirmed by the fact that, 42 years later, we are still fighting for the goal of legalizing marijuana in the United States.
“Will anything sensible be done?” Vidal mused. “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,” Vidal presciently wrote.