If you’ve ever traveled to Europe, you know all about Rick Steves. The aw-shucks PBS travel guide has been making the Continent approachable to the masses for more than 40 years, building an empire of guides and tours. But he’s also an outspoken advocate for the legalization of marijuana, a board member of NORML and unapologetic ganja user.
With his short-sleeve button downs and Supercuts hairdo, this all-American guy is the stoner you can bring home to mom. After all, she probably has all of his books.
He’s also something of a patron saint of pot legalization, speaking out in state after state as initiatives came onto the ballot, and one of the driving forces behind Washington state’s 2012 marijuana initiative.
“Because of my travels, I find myself one of the most high-profile people in the country advocating the reform of our nation’s marijuana laws,” said Steves on his very thorough, very fascinating tome on Europe versus U.S. marijuana policy.
Pro-pot? Yes. Pro-drugs? No. “I am certainly not “pro-drugs.” I simply appreciate how much of Europe treats its drug problems in a pragmatic way, with success measured by harm reduction rather than incarceration. While in the US 80,000 people are in jail for marijuana charges, in parts of Europe discreetly smoking a joint is just another form of relaxation,” he said.
With an ability to discuss highly-controversial pot legislation in measured tones, wearing khakis and sensible shoes, he’s the everyman marijuana spokesperson who gently shames us for not being more open, creative and accepting of each other and the kind herb.
“Like my European friends, I believe we can adopt a pragmatic policy toward both marijuana and hard drugs, with a focus on harm reduction and public health, rather than tough-talking but counterproductive criminalization. The time has come to have an honest discussion about our drug laws and their effectiveness. When it comes to drug policy, you can be soft, hard…or smart.“ he said.
Here are 10 of our favorite Rick Steves quotes about marijuana legalization, civil liberties, and a worldly-view on the subject of pot.
- “I’m a hardworking, tax-paying, kid-raising, church-going citizen of the United States. And if I work hard all day long and want to go home, smoke a joint, and just stare at the fireplace for three hours — that is my civil liberty.”
- On race issues around marijuana laws: “Well-off white guys in the suburbs can smoke pot. But the majority of the 800,000 people arrested in the USA on marijuana charges this year (and the 9,000 people arrested in Washington State) were poor and/or people of color. Some have dubbed the war on drugs “the New Jim Crow.”
- “There’s a lot of money to be made by keeping marijuana illegal”: Steves on what he calls the “pot prohibition profiteers”.
- “I’ve spent a third of my adult life hanging out in Europe where a joint is about as exciting as a can of beer. And Europeans have realized there’s no correlation between how strict the laws are and how much a society consumes. None at all.”
- On the Feds: “The federal government, by law, has to be against marijuana. That’s its legal responsibility. They’ve got a law on the books that criminalizes marijuana, just like there was a law on the books two generations ago that criminalized alcohol. States were breaking it one at a time… and eventually, the federal government could see the writing on the walls and dropped the prohibition of alcohol.“
- On Washington state (his home state) legalizing marijuana and potential letting in corporations control marijuana grows. “Big Marijuana is here. It’s called a black market. We’ve taken that black market and legalized it.”
- On marijuana being a “gateway” drug: “Europeans know that the only thing gateway thing about marijuana is that it’s illegal. Because when it’s illegal you gotta buy it from a criminal on the street that has a vested interest in selling you something more addictive and more profitable. The gateway argument just doesn’t hold up.
- On fans against his stance on marijuana: “I’m so passionate about this issue that I don’t look at my bottom line before I speak out against this (marijuana prohibition). I’m embarrassed that our country is maintaining this prohibition of our age, and ten years from now people will be thankful that we have taken this prohibition apart.”
- “Tolerate alternative lifestyles or build more prisons.”
- On people that vow to boycott his travel guides and tours because of his marijuana stance: “I think to myself, Europe will be a lot more fun without you.”