The Thistle Volume 13, Number 2: Sept./Oct., 2000.

Tough Questions Regarding Marijuana Policy

The following questions concerning marijuana were taken from the website of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML,

1.Last year, nearly three quarters of a million Americans were arrested for marijuana offenses, 87% for simple possession. The overwhelming majority of these individuals were otherwise law abiding citizens who work hard, raise families, pay taxes and contribute to their communities.

    a. While society has a self-evident interest to discourage abuse, what is the rationale for punishing a responsible adult using marijuana in the privacy of his or her home?
    b. If an adult is caught in their home with a small amount of marijuana, what, if any, should the appropriate penalty be?
    c. If you make a distinction that the responsible use of alcohol is different than it’s abuse, why can’t you make the same distinction with marijuana?
    d. How many Americans would you be willing to arrest before considering alternative policies?
    e. Should candidates be disqualified for “youthful indiscretions” involving marijuana use? If not, should other people who have been arrested for marijuana use be pardoned and released from jail?

2. Tobacco use in the U.S. has dropped by half since 1970. This was accomplished without arresting a single tobacco smoker, through public education and prevention—not the criminal justice system. Why can’t a similar public policy be instituted for marijuana, where we discourage it’s use by young people while allowing responsible adult use?

3. 85% of high school seniors consistently report that pot is “easier to get than alcohol.”

    a. What specifically is wrong with legally treating marijuana like alcohol, with similar age and use restrictions?
    b. Why specifically, when alcohol and tobacco are taxed and legal for adults, is marijuana still illegal?

4. Alcohol Prohibition was a public policy disaster which resulted in an increase in crime, violence and public corruption, and which was repealed within 10 years. Marijuana Prohibition has led to the same problems—an increase in crime, violence and public corruption—but remains in place after more than 60 years.

    a. Do you favor making alcohol illegal for adults to use in private?
    b. If alcohol prohibition didn’t work, why do you believe marijuana prohibition will work?

5. It’s estimated that 70 million American have smoked marijuana at some time in their lives (32% of the adult population), and 10-20 million are current users. What do you say to those people to gain their vote?

6.By popular vote, six states have approved the medical use of marijuana for cancer, AIDS and other seriously ill patients.

    a. Do you know anyone who has used marijuana as a medicine? If so, do you believe that the person should be arrested and jailed?
    b. What are your thoughts on the medical use of marijuana and will you, as the Clinton administration has done, oppose state initiatives that seek to exempt seriously ill patients from state marijuana laws?

7. Industrial hemp—a non-psychoactive version of marijuana—is an environmentally friendly crop with many commercial uses. It is legally grown in Canada, Europe and throughout much of the world, and can legally be imported into this country, yet our own farmers are prohibited from growing it. Would you support legislation legalizing the cultivation of industrial hemp by American farmers?


The Thistle Volume 13, Number 2: Sept./Oct., 2000.