The Nation: Concerning Pot and Man at The National Review

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It came as something of a surprise last week when the Consumer Union, an independent, nonprofit organization, published a 623-page study that advocated complete legalization of marijuana as well as a nationwide methadone program (see BEHAVIOR). "Marijuana is here to stay," said the report. "No conceivable law-enforcement program can curb its availability." But American conservatives may have arched their eyebrows well above the hairline when they glimpsed the latest issue of William F. Buckley Jr.'s staunchly nonpermissive National Review. There on the cover was the headline: THE TIME HAS COME: ABOLISH THE POT LAWS. Inside, Richard C. Cowan, a charter member of the conservative Young Americans for Freedom, sets forth his arguments that the criminal penalties for marijuana possession and use should be stricken from the books. Cowan contends that pot is comparatively harmless, demonstrably ubiquitous and that the laws against it only alienate the young and breed disrespect for American justice.

Just last spring, Buckley had testified against changing the pot laws. But now, in a commentary on the Cowan piece in the same issue, he writes, "I flatly agree with him." Buckley would not legalize pot, but would remove the criminal penalties for use. It seems, in fact, that Buckley has smoked grass himself—but only on his sailboat, outside the three-mile limit. His verdict: "To tell the truth, marijuana didn't do a thing for me."