After recently admitting that he is re-examining his stance on marijuana legalization, Glenn Beck on Thursday brought in two experts — one in favor of legalization and one opposed — to discuss the issue. After a three-hour talk, Beck said the question of which drugs are legal should be left to each state. Beck also said he would be open to abolishing the Food and Drug Administration.
"I would open it up to all drugs [potentially being legalized]," Beck said. "Let the people decide. The closer to the people, the better. And you will be surprised at how responsible people are."
Beck and radio co-host Stu Burguiere agreed that most states would likely vote to keep drugs like heroin illegal, though if they want to legalize marijuana, they should be able to do so. Similarly, if a state like Utah wants nothing to do with any of the substances, they should be able to keep them illegal.
Beck made no secret of the fact that he is a recovering alcoholic and smoked marijuana almost "every day of [his] life" from the age of 15 to the age of 30, and he doesn't recommend anyone follow in his footsteps in that regard.
"I believe I would have been a better broadcaster today had I not done that," Beck said. "I'm not a fan of drugs. I don't do drugs. I don't recommend anyone does drugs. But I think we are going down this rabbit hole of a war on drugs that isn't working. It's empowering the cartels across the border, and it's causing a lot of problems here inside of our border, much like we had during the prohibition period of the progressive era."
The discussion tackled many topics, but one that Beck found the strongest was how recreational marijuana use could impact society as a whole. Though an individual may be willing to accept the physical consequences of drug use, in today's America everyone will have to help foot the bill.
"I would take the same position with respect to tobacco, which takes 500,000 lives a year and which causes ungodly costs on the health care system, principally Medicare and Medicaid, which we all pay," said Robert White, the author of "Going to Pot" and who opposes marijuana legalization. "And even the [privately insured], who are treated for the conditions related to their tobacco use, wind up raising the rates for everyone else. So one may decide to smoke and one may decide that you're ready to accept the consequences of what smoking will do to your health perhaps 30, 40 years down the road, but one has to also recognize that you the individual are not the only one impacted by that."
"I think this is the strongest argument [against legalization]," Beck remarked. "You have a right to do whatever you want. But as long as we're a society ... paying for everybody's health care, having to take care of everybody else, you don't have a right because you're screwing everybody else. You're enjoying yourself, but I have to pay for you for the rest of life. And that's not right, nor is it fair."
But Reason's Jacob Sullum argued that "having to pick up the tab for other people's medical care [is] really a problem with the program that forces you to do that," not with marijuana.
"Ultimately with that argument, you end up with a sort of totalitarian rationale for interfering in everybody's personal life because now it's my business. Right?" he said. "I might have to pick up the tab for what you consider to be your own personal choice."
Sullum said that same argument would also enable the government to force you to exercise, eat a balanced diet and sleep enough each night.
And Beck added that by the same logic, you cannot be morally consistent without also advocating that the government limit alcohol consumption.
"There's something to be said for legal consistency and moral consistency," Sullum agreed. "How is it fair to treat somebody who sells liquor as a legitimate businessman, and to treat somebody who sells marijuana -- which by several important measures is substantially less dangerous -- like a criminal? Harass them and put them in prison?"
Sullum also discussed the history of how marijuana came to be illegal, and said the House majority leader at the time seemingly "had no idea" what marijuana even was. It was associated with Mexicans and some claimed it turned you into a "homicidal maniac," so they approved the legislation without extensive debate.
"It was only because they were completely unfamiliar with it," Sullum said. "They were acting out of prejudice and emotion. This is what we've had ever since then. It's survived by virtue of inertia and the fact that it became associated with various hated symbols."
Sullum said marijuana initially was associated with minorities, and then it came to be associated with hippies.
"There are lots of conservatives who just get nauseated by the very image of a marijuana leaf because it carries for them political and cultural baggage, which really makes no rational sense whatsoever," he remarked. "It's not like you smoke pot and you suddenly become a Democrat. There's no ideology inherent in the plant. Yet it has acquired so much symbolism over the years that many people are still resistant to legalizing because it has all these negative connotations."
At one point, White asked Sullum if there is anything that could convince him to reconsider his support for marijuana legalization.
"If everybody is stoned all the time, getting into traffic accidents left and right and they're stoned and drunk at the same time, nobody is going to work and nothing is getting done, obviously that would be a total disaster," Sullum said. "[But then] I would have to consider my whole view of human nature and what people are capable of and whether they can be trusted to manage their own affairs."
"I would have to reconsider more than just marijuana legalization, but my whole political philosophy, which supports limited government and says that people have a very wide range of autonomy within which they can make their own decisions affecting their own lives," Sullum continued. "If it turns out that people just can't handle marijuana, it seems highly improbable, based on all the information we have. But if that turned out to be the case, I would have to question all those beliefs about what people could be trusted to do vis a vis their own lives."
The full episode of The Glenn Beck Program, along with many other live-streaming shows and thousands of hours of on-demand content, is available on just about any digital device. Click here to watch every Glenn Beck episode from the past 30 days for just $1!