Rick Steves and Marijuana: Public TV Star Tireless Advocate For Legalization
Rick Steves recently did an interview in New Jersey ahead of the vote on a referendum that will make recreational marijuana legal in the Garden State if approved by voters. It’s no surprise. Rick Steves and marijuana legalization just seem to go together, these days.
Of course, that’s still a bit of surprise to many people. Before you open another browser window and Google “Rick Steves and marijuana,” rest assured that yes, we are referring to that Rick Steves. The host of “Rick Steves’ Europe” on PBS and noted travel guide author.
Although he’s more “Viking cruise” than “Cheech and Chong,” the 65-year-old is a tireless advocate for marijuana legalization. He’s even a board member of NORML.
On his website, Steves writes about the need for a “new approach” to how the nation regulates marijuana use. He also wrote about the “ah ha” moment he had when he realized why he supported legalization.
“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.” he wrote. “Some have dubbed the war on drugs “the New Jim Crow.”
Steves Is Talking Legalization in New Jersey
Steves recently spoke with NJ.com about cannabis legalization ahead of the November election. Voters in New Jersey will decide whether to make cannabis legal for recreational use. It’s already legal in the state for medical use.
Asked about his continued interest in recreational marijuana, Steves made it clear that he continues to approach the issue from a human rights standpoint. “I’ve jumped at every opportunity I can to make a difference in the fight to legalize and tax marijuana for recreational use,” he said. “I don’t get into medicinal use, that’s important and I agree with it, but my thing is civil liberties, and fighting racism, and just a pragmatic harm reduction approach to soft drugs.”
Given his profession, which involves spending at least 100 days a year in Europe, Steves said he can’t help but compare how the approach to drug laws in Europe is different than in the United States.
In particular, Steves said the United States can learn from Europe “the folly of legislating morality.” He pointed out that the U.S. imprisons then times the number of people than in Europe.
“My European friends always tell me that society has to make a choice to tolerate alternative lifestyles or to build more prisons,” Steves said.
Steves Sees A Change Happening in the U.S.
Steves said that the legalization of marijuana in states across the country shows that the nation is changing its opinion on marijuana. His view also is supported by surveys showing that Americans are backing marijuana legalization in growing numbers, regardless of politics or age.
That mainstreaming also is reflected in the fact that even Martha Stewart has become an advocate, especially for CBD products.
Steve said in Europe, where a “joint is about as exciting as a can of beer,” they find it hard to believe that the U.S. arrests, charges and imprisons thousands of people every year. Steves added, “It just seems ridiculous in Europe and it seems ridiculous in the 11 states where we’ve legalized.”