Newt Gingrich Rips Marijuana Use, Shows Historical Ignorance
THIS QUOTE by Newt Gingrich is A HOAX: “See, when I smoked pot it was illegal, but not immoral. Now, it is illegal AND immoral. The law didn’t change, only the morality… That’s why you get to go to jail and I don’t.”… even if it accurately sums up his beliefs!
During a town hall-style appearance inConcord, the former House Speaker said he had no interest in exploring drug decriminalization, arguing that such efforts haven’t worked in Europe, said HuffPo.
The Netherlands = 30 years of soft drug tolerance. Adult and youth use rates of hard and soft drugs are half that in the United States. Portugal = 10 years of decriminalization of all drugs. Adult hard drug addiction has fallen in half. Drug use statistics in Portugal are generally “below the European average and much lower than its only European neighbour, Spain,” according to the European drug agency that studied the decriminalization.
Pushed a bit later on the incarceration rate related to petty drug crimes, Gingrich responded, “I think the best thing is to get young people not to do drugs and then you won’t be dealing with criminals that you just described.”
Remember, Mr. Gingrich, you were just one drug bust away from being “Newt the Drug Criminal” yourself. Remember this 8/8/1996 Wall Street Journal interview?*
Mr. Gingrich initially answered the drug question in 1987, saying that 19 years earlier, in 1968, he smoked marijuana at a party and “never went back and revisited it.”
“That’s not true,” says Larry Bowie, a friend during Mr. Gingrich’s days as a West Georgia College professor. “I know for a fact that he sat and smoked with me” in about 1973. “He didn’t like the way it made him feel.”
Mr. Gingrich’s spokesman, Tony Blankley, says the speaker denies Mr. Bowie’s allegation. But the more important point, Mr. Blankley adds, is that Mr. Gingrich “has said publicly many times that he tried marijuana when he was in college. He thinks it’s wrong for people to have done so and wants to make it clear that he thinks it’s a mistake.”
Gee, Newt, do you think you should have been imprisoned, fined, arrested, or even harassed by the government for your youthful marijuana use?
A third resident of the “live free or die” state argued that the founding fathers had been far more lenient about marijuana than the current political class. “I think Jefferson or George Washington would have rather strongly discouraged you from growing marijuana and their techniques with dealing with it would have been rather more violent than our current government,” Gingrich replied.
Newt Gingrich, as Speaker of the House introduced a bill called the “Drug Importer Death Penalty Act of 1996“. It would have enacted a death penalty for anyone caught smuggling two or more ounces of marijuana into the United States. Yes, two ounces, not the 67 tons you currently need to qualify for the death penalty**. So, what, does he figure the Founders would have executed pot smokers on sight?
The fact is that George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and many other Founding Fathers and their contemporaries were hemp farmers. Far from discouraging its cultivation, the early presidents demanded its cultivation:
“Make the most of the Indian Hemp Seed and sow it everywhere!” – George Washington
“We shall, by and by, want a world of hemp more for our own consumption.” – John Adams
“Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth & protection of the country.” – Thomas Jefferson
Now I’m sure Gingrich would complain that they were growing an industrial crop of hemp, not a drug crop of marijuana. However, it isn’t as if the Founders were strangers to intoxication. John Adams famously had a pint of strong beer every morning. Many colonists enjoyed beer and rum and cider to excess. Benjamin Franklin wrote at length about drunkards. And based on the Federalist Papers and The Bill of Rights, it would be hard to believe that the Founders would have though the proper exercise of state power was to prevent citizens from getting wasted.
Though “smoking pot” is a 20th century thing and “medicinal cannabis” was well-known and much-used in the 19th century, there isn’t much record on 18th century American use of cannabis as a recreational substance. We do have these quotes, however:
“The artificial preparation of hemp, from Silesia, is really a curiosity.” – George Washington (referring to hashish, used only as a drug)
“…began to separate the male from the female (hemp) plants,” – George Washington’s farm diary (one reason to separate males from females to get more potent buds)
By the 19th century, presidents James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, and Franklin Pierce were either known to have smoked hashish (Monroe) or smoked cannabis with their troops in wartime (Pierce wrote that smoking marijuana in the Mexican-American War was ”about the only good thing” about that war.)
* By the way, the WSJ Hilary Stout interview of Newt Gingrich is cited all over the web for this quote: “See, when I smoked pot it was illegal, but not immoral. Now, it is illegal AND immoral. The law didn’t change, only the morality… That’s why you get to go to jail and I don’t.” It’s a hoax. There are enough true Newt marijuana quotes without killing our credibility repeating this one. See also Abraham Lincoln’s “Two of my favorite things are sitting on my front porch smoking a pipe of sweet hemp, and playing my Hohner harmonica.” (Hohner didn’t open for business until two years after the alleged quote.)
And Lincoln’s “Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.” was a fake posted by a Georgia “wet” leader to win the “negro” vote.) And Jefferson’s “Some of my finest hours have been spent sitting on my back veranda, smoking hemp and observing as far as my eye can see.” is also unable to be attributed to any of Jefferson’s writings or speeches.
** You did know that the United States is one of the eight countries that has execution for marijuana importers and sellers, right? We’re in league with those bastions of freedom Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Singapore, and China. Sure, we haven’t done it yet and it is probably unconstitutional, but it is on the books and at least one California dispensary owner claims he’s eligible for three death sentences.