Pot, Porn, and Strawberries

Talking to Reefer Madness Author Eric Schlosser About the Nation’s Shadow Economies

Yet the government’s wars on pot and porn have always been waged on the resolution that morality trumps the god of the free market. Capitalism is divine writ—unless the chance exists that youngsters could be corrupted by demon weeds or, not too long ago, naked women. Morality does not enter the picture if strawberry growers in California want to pay illegal immigrants slave wages for backbreaking work and leave them to sleep outdoors, as Reefer Madness details, or if sick people end up behind bars for using marijuana as medicine. The tenets that drove Ray Kroc’s stunning ascent—conformity, centralized power, and efficiency at all costs—are also the cardinal virtues of the Bush II era. According to the current administration, Schlosser says, “States have rights if we agree with what they want to do, but states don’t have rights if they don’t want to count the ballots the way we want them counted, or if they want to let cancer and AIDS patients smoke pot. The enforcement of the marijuana laws is such a contradiction of not only the free-market ideology but also their small-c conservative, states’-rights legal philosophy, which is about local control and suspicion of centralized power. They use the rhetoric of that suspicion to stave off business regulations and taxes, but they don’t mind a police state.

“The discrepancy between the American policy on marijuana and the rest of the world is going to become untenable,” Schlosser continues. “What are they going to do about the science? Canada is providing marijuana under their national health plan now; in the Netherlands you can obtain pharmaceutical-grade cannabis at drugstores. How can you then say that this drug is so dangerous? It’s crazy. But that’s where the title comes from—there’s an element of deep unreason running through our culture.”

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