How Potheads Replaced Cigarette Fiends

Tobacco used to be the weed that made you stupid and lazy.


In Going to Pot, his thoroughly unpersuasive defense of marijuana prohibition, former drug czar Bill Bennett warns that cannabis makes people lazy and complacent, preventing them from realizing their potential. There must be something to that allegation, he suggests, because no one has ever said tobacco saps motivation and undermines productivity. But as I explain in my latest Forbes column, that's not true:

In his 1997 book The Selfish Brain, Robert DuPont, the first director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, describes marijuana's impact on its users' life prospects. "Unlike cocaine, which often brings users to their knees, marijuana claims its victims in a slower and more cruel fashion," DuPont says. "It robs many of them of their desire to grow and improve, often making heavy users settle for what is left over in life…Marijuana makes its users lose their purpose and their will, as well as their memory and their motivation….[Cannabis consumers] commonly just sink lower and lower in their performance and their goals in life as their pot smoking continues. Their hopes and their lives literally go up in marijuana smoke."

In his 2015 book Going to Pot: Why the Rush to Legalize Marijuana Is Harming America, William J. Bennett, the first director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, quotes that passage from DuPont's book in the course of arguing that cannabis is much more dangerous than commonly believed. "Has anyone alleged anything like the foregoing with tobacco use?" ask Bennett and his co-author, Robert A. White. Since they assume the answer is no, Bennett and White clearly do not realize that early opponents of cigarette smoking claimed it produced symptoms very much like those that DuPont attributes to marijuana.

According to those critics, who included celebrities such as Henry Ford and Thomas Edison , cigarettes made young people stupid, suppressed their motivation, ruined their academic performance, turned them into ne'er-do-wells and delinquents, and rendered them virtually unemployable. The striking parallels between the anti-cigarette propaganda of the early 20th century and the anti-pot propaganda that prohibitionists like DuPont and Bennett continue to disseminate suggest that responses to drug use have less to do with the inherent properties of the substance than with perennial fears that are projected onto the pharmacological menace of the day.

Read the whole thing.

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  1. Shocking, drug warriors make up reasons to fight a drug war.

  2. To be fair- anecdotally- this CAN happen.

    1. Eh, most people I knew that this happened to, it was likely to happen to them anyway. There have been enough people that this *didn’t* happen to (they smoked pot but were also motivated and successful) that- anecdotally- there simply isn’t a causal relationship.

      1. yes. I was talking about cigarette smokers though…

        Man, I need to work on tone when I type.

  3. Dave’s no here.

  4. There are many similarities between pot smokers and those who commit the sin of Onan. Both are a scourge on the world and I pray the light of divinity will cleanse this world of their evil. Until that happens, it is up to us to use the law to ensure that everyone contributes their utmost to the works of the lord.

    Have you ever seen the true face of God, exile?

    1. I think pot smoking would lead to screwing your brother’s wife.

      1. well, now, that depends on the wife…

        1. So, polygamous marriages?

          1. technically, that might be polyandrous.

    2. “those who commit the sin of Onan.”

      I crush my enemies before me, listen to the lamentations of their women, and I apologize to no one. I was born this way.

  5. Know who else was anti-tobacco?

      1. My local DARE officer?

    1. The Mufti of Egypt?

    2. The entire state of California during the one year I had the misfortune of living there?

      1. Oh, this.

        When I smoked (*and i’m not sure i ever really did… i was one of those people who could go weeks without a cigarette, but when having beers with friends suddenly *needs* one) I visited San Francisco… and I think that was as close as I could ever get to ‘experiencing racism’. People looked at me like i was in the late stages of leprosy and was trying to infect everyone else before i melted into a puddle of filth.

        One guy walking a poodle crossed the street just to tell me that “smoking was bad”. And then crossed back as i gave him a very dramatic, slow round of applause.

        1. It was the same thing in The Peoples’ Republic of Boulder. I remember one time not having a light and standing on the sidewalk asking passers if they had one. After five minutes I gave up. I’m surprised the cops didn’t show up.

  6. Their hopes and their lives literally go up in marijuana smoke.


    1. Says the guy who mocks people who point out the distinction between poisonous and venomous.

      1. Are you saying that some mushrooms aren’t venomous?

          1. exactly what I was thinking.

            1. Epi was once bitten by a mushroom. Or was it a penis? His details were hazy.

              1. His penis bit a mushroom.

                1. Ah, that’s it. I tried drinking to forget, but sometimes it is enough.

        1. I once pointed out that the people who get upset when others don’t observe the sex/gender distinction are like herpetologists who do the same about poisonous/venomous, and that I think both are a distinction without a real difference. Sarc decided that was good ammunition against me because…I’m not sure. Because he’s a deeply repressed homosexual? That’s my working hypothesis.

          1. I think it was probably because it was a horrible analogy…

            1. SIMILE NOT ANALOGY

              The point is that prescriptive grammar is not a “real” thing and is usually used for pointless dick-measuring contests. As you see here.

              1. saying two dissimilar things are like one another IS an analogy. It can also be a simile at the same time- but, literally, it is an analogy.

                1. Metaphors and similes are types of analogy, yes. WAY TO SPOIL THE JOKE

                  1. It’s what threadkiller does. Don’t hate us cause you anus.

          2. Because he’s a deeply repressed homosexual?

            When will you get the message? No, I will not go to a gay bar with you. Please stop asking.

            1. so straight to his motel room then?

    2. Like I’m going to listen to someone who compensates for his lack of intelligence with squats.


      1. For the poor unfortunates like me who know Warty in the real world, Bo thinking that he isn’t smart is just hilarious.

        Warty has a PhD in Killbotics. He could murder us all with a few lines of code.

        1. Killbiotics sounds like a bad knock off fighting game from the 90s that only came out on the sega genesis.

          1. He builds robots that slash and burn human flesh. And doesn’t go to jail for it.

            1. is the the background for the first character? The story is weak, but it does keep with the tradition of bad fighting game back-stories.

              1. When the Wartybots come for Spencer, he will not be missed.

                1. I’m not afraid. I always carry an EMP in my pocket just in case.

            2. I miss Robot Wars. That was a fun show.

              1. Battlebots is coming back… can this work as methadone to Robot Wars heroin?

                1. Nice! That will suffice.

        2. Warty’s kin, possibly he himself, hail from Western Pennsylvania. Did Einstein come from Western Pennsylvania? No, he didn’t. For a reason.

        3. He could murder us all with a few lines of code.


    3. He literally typed that in all caps.

  7. As someone who is very well equipped to comment on the effects of liberal pot smoking, I offer a bit of wisdom borne of experience:

    YES, weed can make one lazy. YES, it can keep you from reaching your individual potential. YES, it can affect your memory. The wisdom is thus: Moderation – in all things – is key.

    One can at least understand the Drug Warrior position on heroin, for example, in utilitarian terms despite the moral repugnance of such a paternalistic mindset – moderation is much more difficult with such drugs after all – but there is no logic in prohibiting a substance that is anecdotally- and empirically-proven time and again to be at worst equally dangerous as legal vices. When the monetary and social cost of pot prohibition is factored the tortured logic becomes mindlessly and breathtakingly cruel.

    Just as marxists confuse civil society with their parents and therefore seek to upend and defy it, Drug Warriors confuse government policy with good parenting practices.

  8. Jacob Sullum’s drug arguments are frequently childish, and of the smart-ass aspberger libertarian douche type; this whole article amounts to a “gotcha!”.

    Anybody with half a brain will know that this anti-cigarette movement was far from the majority way back when, and accetance and encouragement of smoking was much, much more common.
    Anybody with half a brain will also recognize that the anti-pot arguments actually have validity, based on pot’s effects (it’s nervous system suppressant as opposed to tobacco’s stimulant effect). Maybe the drug warriors overblow it, but the claims aren’t completely false.

    You know, facts. Why don’t we stick to those?

    Sullum’s gone beyond being anti-drug-war to being a childish jackass. Yes, the drug war is bad. That doesn’t mean that all drugs are completely harmless. Pot is the least harmful, sure, but that doesn’t mean it has no negative effects. A comparison to some anti-cigarette-war that barely even happened is meaningless.

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