Last year the British drug policy reform group Release launched a publicity campaign that seeks to promote rational debate by destigmatizing consumption of politically incorrect intoxicants. One part of the campaign is photos of ordinary-looking people holding signs (or wearing T-shirts, stickers, or badges) declaring that "Nice People Take Drugs." Another is a deck of cards featuring 52 political figures who have admitted using illegal drugs (mainly marijuana), including quotes from them on the subject. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the Queen of Clubs, shares this bit of insight:
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.
Unfortunately, that quotation, which sounds like a parody of a hypocritical drug warrior, seems to be apocryphal. The same words appear on page 394 of Martin Booth's 2003 book Cannabis: A History, where they are unsourced and placed in italics rather than quotation marks, as if they might be Booth's paraphrase:
When Gingrich admitted his marijuana experience, he tried to justify his action. When I smoked pot, he was quoted as having said, 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. Quite how the morality of marijuana had changed Gingrich did not care to elucidate.
Nothing like this quote/paraphrase shows up in Nexis, and none of the Google hits for it cites an original source. But Gingrich really did say this regarding his youthful pot smoking: "That was a sign we were alive and in graduate school in that era." Since Gingrich retained that blasé attitude about his own behavior even while attacking the Clinton administration for including too many former drug users (a.k.a., "counterculture people"), his hypocrisy was especially striking.
The extremely fishy statement attributed to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (the King of Hearts) likewise sounds like satire rather than an actual quotation:
I was smart enough to use pot without getting caught, and now I'm on the Supreme Court. If you were stupid enough to get caught, that's your problem. Your appeal is denied.
As with the Gingrich quote, I cannot locate an original source, and it is hard to imagine in what context a Supreme Court justice would say anything like that out loud or in writing. The other quotes attributed to American politicians are genuine, which shows there's no need to make stuff up when you're trying to make drug warriors look bad. As the author of a book called Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use (great Christmas gift!), I obviously sympathize with Release's goals, but I wish it would be a bit more careful in pursuing them.
[via the Drug Policy Alliance's Tony Newman at Alternet]