Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made newsthis week when the Associated Press reported an interview Schwarzenegger did with the British edition of GQ where he said marijuana is not a drug, it's a leaf. The Governor's press secretary quickly tried to do damage control and claim that he was joking and made the comments in a lighthearted context. This is not the first time that the Governator has had to address marijuana. There is the famous scene in the documentary Pumping Iron where he smokes a joint on screen.
America (and Arnold) has a paradoxical relationship with marijuana. Tens millions of Americans have smoked or continue to smoke marijuana. Arnold's reefer smoking in Pumping Iron not only didn't hurt him when running for Governor, it probably helped him. And Schwarzenegger is far from being in the minority of elected officials who have smoked marijuana. Many successful politicians have admitted to smoking marijuana, including Al Gore, Barack Obama, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and Newt Gingrich to name just a few.
Marijuana smoking is often portrayed throughout pop-culture, like movies and music, in a positive light. Marijuana use does not usually preclude someone from running for office. There are millions who think that heroin and cocaine are real drugs, but marijuana is just a leaf. However, the war on marijuana is very real. According to FBI statistics, about 800,000 of the roughly 1.8 million annual drug arrests are for marijuana -- 88 percent for possession alone. While getting busted smoking a joint may not land you in jail for a serious amount of time, the collateral consequences are very serious. A drug offense, including marijuana possession, will make you ineligible for finical aid for school. Smoking marijuana can also keep you from dozens of others professions that drug test their employees.
I appreciate the Governor's candor and even humor when talking about marijuana. But if he wants to live up to his image of an action hero who has the courage to take on the hard issues, he could start by going after the irrational and inhumane war on marijuana, which he knows is a joke.