Rick Steves: 'I Just Do What I Think Is True'

Rick Steves is a best-selling travel writer, tour guide, and host of the popular PBS show Rick Steves' Europe.


Q: What is your interest in Hempfest? Why do you come every year?

A: I think marijuana should not be criminal. I'm not here to promote marijuana; I just think it's a civil liberty if people want to use it.

I started speaking out when it was pretty scary [to do so]. And I spoke out because a lot of people agree with this. We're tired of the United States embracing just one more ridiculous lie. And I could speak out with no risk of being voted out of office or losing my job because nobody needs to vote for me and I'm self-employed! 

Q: Has your pro-legalization position affected your audience at all?

A: I don't really pay much attention to that. I just do what I think is true, and this is a matter of truth.

Q: Which country do you think has the best policy toward marijuana?

A: I don't know. What I try to do is inject a European sensibility into the discussion here in the United States. Europe has its drug problems just like we have our drug problems, and you can abuse marijuana. A lot of people argue it's addictive, it's certainly not for kids, and anybody who's driving intoxicated by anything should have the book thrown at them. These are just common-sense [policies], how you live in a community. But in Europe they take the crime out of the situation, they take the violence and the money out of it, and they treat it as a health problem and an education challenge.

We're not talking pro-drugs here, we're talking civil liberty. If somebody wants to smoke pot in a mature, adult way, just recreationally, I believe that's a civil liberty. Now if you're going to smoke pot and go drive your car and hurt somebody, that's not a civil liberty. The main thing is that there are 800,000 people arrested every year in our country for simple marijuana possession. These aren't rich white guys; these are poor people and black people and people who really can't handle a bump in the road like that. For the rest of their lives they've got a record, a criminal record, and that's a real tragic thing for our society. There are so many reasons to get smart about marijuana laws. I'm not saying be soft on drugs or hard on drugs; we need to be smart on drugs, like the Europeans are.