NEW JERSEY: The Drug War continued its death rattle this week, loosening further still the iron-fisted grip it’s had on the American psyche since Reefer Madness turned pot into the devil’s weed back in 1936.
It’s been a week orchestrated seemingly in tandem, with both political leaders and influential public figures tossing their support not behind punishment, pain, and pharmaceuticals, but compassion, care, and — what else? — cannabis. The pot camp, meanwhile, has rejoiced.
I am talking, of course, about Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s flip to support on the medical marijuana issue, and Attorney General Eric Holder’s push for drug sentencing reform by way of discouraging mandatory minimum sentencing. One concession, while not concrete in terms of law, opens up the possibility for a massive perception swing in the U.S. regarding medical pot. The other could help keep more non-violent drug offenders out of jail, reducing the U.S.’s runaway prison population by as much as one half.
In the War on Drugs, this is what real progress looks like. Both events are indicative of the coming tide of legalization, revealing a sort of tacit comfort with marijuana (and perhaps drugs overall) blooming in the public and private sectors. And though while Holder’s announcement could eventually help reduce our ballooning prison numbers, his course of action seems too reserved to either give drug advocates what they want in terms of law or national perception. Gupta’s change, on the other hand, could be the pop culture tipping point for the marijuana movement.
Gupta’s excellent Weed documentary (below), which premiered Sunday preceded by a heartfelt op-ed about the doc’s pot flop, attracted a healthy 1.21 million viewers to CNN — that’s about double the ratings for CNBC’s influential Marijuana, Inc. doc from 2009. Now, to be clear, that’s 1.21 million people watching to learn why one man changed his opinion about pot — not a federal agency, not an influential health organization. One man. The political sway inherent in that proportion is staggering.