A few weeks ago, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said that there is no "responsible way to recreationally use marijuana."
Rubio's statement isn't wrong because it's unpopular. Plenty of people on every part of the political spectrum believe what he believes. It's wrong because it is flatly contradicted by millions of people who use pot both recreationally and responsibly. In this sense, marijuana is absolutely no different than intoxicants such as beer, wine, and alcohol.
Now that pot is fully legal in Colorado and Washington and a growing majority of Americans agree that marijuana should be treated similar to alcohol, it's more important than ever to drive home the fact that responsible drug use is not a myth but a lived reality for many successful people.
Here's a list of 10 really successful people who have admitted to using pot.
Hat tip: Marijuana Policy Project's "Top 50 Most Influentical Marijuana Users."
10. Gov. Sarah Palin. "I can't claim a Bill Clinton and say I never inhaled," the self-styled Mama Grizzly told The Anchorage Daily News in 2006. The iconic conservative didn't deny the statement when she ran for vice president on the Republican ticket in 2008. She doesn't support legalization—like Marco Rubio, she thinks that sends a bad message to society—but there's no reason to believe she thinks she and other users should go to jail.
9. Andrew Sullivan. Whatever you think of the controversial and trailblazing "blogfather," journalist Andrew Sullivan is an unabashed weed smoker who defies every slacker-pot-smoker stereotype imaginable. An incredibly hard worker who helmed The New Republic for years and now runs his own website, Sullivan was busted for possession in 2009 while vacationing at Cape Cod (the charges were dropped). Check out The Cannabis Closet, the collection of first-person accounts of responsible marijuana use that he edited in 2010.
8. Phil Jackson. One of the greatest figures in NBA history, Phil Jackson won 11 championships as a coach and two as a player. He almost never got a shot at coaching, though, because he readily admitted to smoking dope during his playing days. Though it's recognized as ubiquitous in today's NBA, 40 years ago, pot smoking was officially frowned upon. "In 1975," reports Salon,
he wrote Maverick, a memoir about his days playing in the NBA. Among other things, Jackson spoke frankly about marijuana use and experimentation with LSD. It was a critical success, but the book cemented a loose-cannon reputation that would alienate him from the NBA establishment for years.
7. Rick Steves. The beloved travel writer and PBS host is the go-to guy for information on authentic European getaways. He's also a longtime supporter and regular user of marijuana. "I'm a hardworking, tax-paying, kid-raising, church-going citizen of this country," Steves told Reason TV in 2011 (watch below). "And if I work hard all day long and want to go home and relax with a joint, that is my civil liberty."
6. Martha Stewart. In 2009, the felonious homemaker extraordinaire (who never should have been prosecuted in the first place) rapped about pot brownies on-air with none other than Snoop Dogg:
Snoop: "Trying to make some brownies, but we're missing the most important part of the brownies."
Martha: "Which is, which is, which is …"
Snoop: "No sticks no seeds no stems."
Martha: "You want green brownies."
Martha: "He wants green brownies. Brownish green brownies."
Snoop: "The greener the better!"
Last year, during an appearance at New York's 92nd Street Y, she told the audience, "Of course I know how to roll a joint."
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5. Margaret Mead. While it's unclear whether the legendary anthropologist was a regular user per se, she testified before Congress in 1969 that regular marijuana use was "not nearly as bad" as tobacco or alcohol. Discussing her study of pot's use in various societies, she said that people around the world "smoke to keep working and then they smoke to relax, and all of these things fall under this general question of whether that man has any right to use natural or distilled or pharmaceutically produced aids to permit him to live the kind of life that he wants to live, and in most cases we find this combines work and relaxation or religion, work and relaxation."
In the wake of her testimony, Mead was pilloried by many, including the increasingly reactionary Al Capp in his Li'l Abner comic strip as "the lady anthropologist" who "explained how harmless heroin is for children."
4. Michael Phelps. When the unparalleled swimming champion got caught smoking pot in 2009, two things were immediately clear. First, Phelps knew his way around a bong. Second, he was going to distance himself from his actions to preserve his prospects as a pitchman for various products and services.
"I've never made the same mistake twice," Phelps told Details in 2012 while discussing the flap concerning his pot use. You don't have to parse his language very much to realize he thinks the mistake was in getting photographed, not necessarily in using pot.
America's war on drugs is propaganda… I can't tell you how much bullshit I've been through because I will openly say that I smoke weed. People look at it like it's this crazy, hippy, fucked-up thing to do. And it's not! I hope they legalize it and when they do I'll be the first fucking person in line to buy my pack of joints.
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2. Gary Johnson. Back in 2001, when he was still governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson told Reason that he had quit "being a chronic marijuana smoker" when it started to interfere with his youthful goal of being a professional skier. The tee-totaling Johnson, the most successful Libertarian Party presidential candidate in over 30 years, is a staunch proponent of legalization and, as important, of recognizing the reality of responsible pot use.
From that 2001 interview:
Reason: You've obviously been a big success. How about your buddies that you smoked pot with in high school and college? Have most of them been successful?
Reason: Gone on to sort of normal lives.…
Johnson: Every one of 'em.
Johnson is currently heading up the Our America Initiative, which seeks to "redefine the liberty movement in America." For more information, go here.
1. Paul McCartney. If there's one person who defies all pot-related stereotypes, it's Paul McCartney, the most successful songwriter in human history.
Legend has it that Bob Dylan turned the Beatles on to pot in 1964 and Paul was by his own account a regular user through 2012. McCartney told Rolling Stone that as a 69-year-old father of a young child, it was time to call it quits. "I did a lot, and it was enough," he said, adding that cannabis was "such good stuff."
During his 48-year run as a pot smoker, McCartney was a hugely productive member of The Beatles and Wings and enjoyed an incredible solo career. He developed a reputation as a good guy, a dedicated husband, and a responsible business partner. He had repeated run-ins with the law regarding pot, even being deported from Japan in 1980 for carrying the stuff.
Would he have written such songs as "Yesterday," "Hey, Jude," "Let It Be," and "Maybe I'm Amazed" and recorded dozens of albums if he hadn't smoked pot on a regular basis? Perhaps, but the point is that he did smoke pot while creating one of the richest musical legacies of all time.
That's certainly not an argument to use marijuana, but it is a fairly definitive rebuttal to claims that there is no "responsible way to recreationally use marijuana."
If you need more convincing, the essential text on responsible drug use is Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use, by Reason's own Jacob Sullum.