Interview Marijuana’s Mature Minds


By Richard Farrell

Marijuana has been a common social pastime at American universities for decades. Given that the nation’s leaders passed through the same ivory tower, begs the question whether more will follow Obama into the daylight. Some like Eric Holder have been forthright and others prefer an oblique approach.

Roger Roffman, Professor Emeritus at University of Washington, bared his marijuana soul in his book “Marijuana Nation: One Man’s Chronicle of America Getting High: From Vietnam to Legalization.” In it, he travels the same personal road America has followed, and arrives at a high point where he preaches moderated control.

In an interview with the University of Washington, Roffman recounts his role as a social work officer with the 9th Infantry Division in 1967. Its units were threading through Mekong Delta’s rivers and canals. PTSD was generally misunderstood. The unwritten policy of the Army was that off-duty carousing was appropriate treatment. The official medium was alcohol and lots of it. Marijuana was so deep in the closet that soldiers caught with it could go to jail. Roffman was deeply troubled by the unjustness of this.

When his tour of duty ended, he chose an academic career while continuing to secretly enjoy his weed like so many other ex-servicemen. He dropped the habit in 1978 at his wife’s behest, and because it influenced his personal effectiveness. Consequently, Roffman is not a fan of uninhibited de-prohibition.

He did however act as intermediary supplier of medical marijuana to cancer patients in 1975, after the New England Journal of Medicine proposed that it could alleviate the side-effects of chemotherapy if administered in advance. Roffman remains comfortable with marijuana as palliative medicine, although his interview with the University of Washington reveals his support for a more cautious approach in regards to releasing social strains to the general market.

While having the input of an esteemed academic is extremely insightful, the input of former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is priceless enlightenment in the debate of legalizing marijuana. The Supreme Court of the United States recounts how Justice Stevens had an illustrious career from 1975-2010 before retiring on June 29, 2010. He has a reputation for a moderately conservative approach, teamed with a more liberal take on the fourth amendment and the death penalty.

Yesterday, National Public Radio discussed excerpts from Scott Simon’s recent interview with Stevens. In it, Stevens remarked that the distinction between alcohol and marijuana is so blurred that future generations will view suppression of cannabis as not worth the cost, like it’s predecessor prohibition. David Lynch, a journalist for International Business Times, commented that Stevens may believe it is time to recognize the shift in public opinion, but that Stevens’ position is merely symbolic considering he no longer has an active role in the federal government.

While Roffman speaks with evocative experience and Stevens speaks with a more cautious constitutional approach, their voices add necessary wisdom to the legalization debate. Some say that the old folks are the ones most likely opposing marijuana liberalization nationwide, but I am not so sure about that. Scott Simon’s complete interview with Stevens will be center stage on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.

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