Newt: For Pot Before He Was Against It (beware of fake quote)

Newt: For Pot Before He Was Against It (beware of fake quote) February 2, 2012

Newt Gingrich is among the most zealous of the drug warriors, once submitting a bill that would have included the death penalty for those who import marijuana to the United States. But he was a pot smoker himself and once wrote a letter to the AMA advocating for marijuana legalization.

The American Medical Association’s Council on Scientific Affairs should be commended for its report, “Marijuana: Its Health Hazards and Therapeutic Potential” (1981;246:1823). Not only does the report outline evidence of marijuana’s potential harms, but it distinguishes this concern from the legitimate issue of marijuana’s important medical benefits. All too often the hysteria that attends public debate over marijuana’s social abuse compromises a clear appreciation for this critical distinction.

Since 1978, 32 states have abandoned the federal prohibition to recognize legislatively marijuana’s important medical properties. Federal law, however, continues to define marijuana as a drug “with no accepted medical use,” and federal agencies continue to prohibit physician-patient access to marijuana. This outdated federal prohibition is corrupting the intent of the state laws and depriving thousands of glaucoma and cancer patients of the medical care promised them by their state legislatures.

On Sept 16, 1981, Representative Stewart McKinney and I introduced legislation designed to end bureaucratic interference in the use of marijuana as a medicant. We believe licensed physicians are competent to employ marijuana, and patients have a right to obtain marijuana legally, under medical supervision, from a regulated source. The medical prohibition does not prevent seriously ill patients from employing marijuana; it simply deprives them of medical supervision and access to a regulated medical substance. Physicians are often forced to choose between their ethical responsibilities to the patient and their legal liabilities to federal bureaucrats.

But here’s the best part. After admitting that he had smoked pot in college, he explained to the Wall Street Journal why it was okay for him to smoke it then, but people should be put in prison for it now or put to death for selling it to them:

“That was a sign we were alive and in graduate school in that era. See, when I smoked pot it was illegal, but not immoral. Now, it is illegal AND immoral. The law didn’t change, only the morality… That’s why you get to go to jail and I don’t.”

Well that explains it.

Update: Unfortunately, it turns out that the last quote from Gingrich was fictional. Steven Taylor tracked down the original citation for it and it was not in the article. I have a policy that I do not remove posts in which I make a mistake, but I do edit and correct the mistake and make clear that I made it (I’ve seen others that disappear posts to make their mistake disappear and I won’t do that). It’s as wrong to use a fake quote from Newt Gingrich as it is to use one from George Washington (hello, David Barton) or from Barack Obama (hi Ellis Washington). Mea culpa.

""Just like only a ninja can sneak up on another ninja!" Tim Minchin"

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  • bhrobin
  • Doug Little

    See, when I smoked pot it was illegal, but not immoral. Now, it is illegal AND immoral. The law didn’t change, only the morality… That’s why you get to go to jail and I don’t.”

    I wounder if he uses the same justification for his adultery? actually you could use this as a justification for just about anything.

    I thought that morality was absolute to these fuckwits, I don’t think Newt’s going to be popular with the bible thumpers.

  • dingojack

    Endorsed by a guy called ‘Dutch Sheets’, need anyone say any more?

    🙂 Dingo

  • dingojack

    bhrobin – But that’s what I imagine he would have said – and that’s exactly like a direct quote. Or least it is in the world of right-wing ‘journalists’ and ‘historians’.

    Sauce for the gander anyone?

    🙂 Dingo

  • jamessweet

    Without that final juicy quote (which bhrobin calls into question), this is pretty ho-hum. I did plenty of stuff in my 20s that I now think is wrong, and have reversed my position on many, many policy issues. The only difference is that I don’t typically think the wrong things I did in my youth ought to be jailable offenses, but a complete lack of perspective on crime and punishment is par for the course when it comes to conservatives.

    That wonderfully delicious (but probably apocryphal) quote really goes above and beyond, but without that, the title and entire content of this post might as well just be “Newt: Conservative.”

  • He did say something similar about adultery, didn’t he? Darn, I can’t find the quote, but wasn’t it something about how only he has a message that everyone needs to hear, so it doesn’t matter what he actually does?

  • “See, when I smoked pot it was illegal, but not immoral. Now, it is illegal AND immoral. The law didn’t change, only the morality… That’s why you get to go to jail and I don’t.”

    Is that a real quote or something from the Onion?

  • Well he did meet a younger sexier drug.

  • bhrobin-

    Thank you for pointing that out. I was unaware of it. And as a staunch advocate of accurately quoting people and someone who has criticized David Barton, Ellis Washington and many others for using fake quotes and defending their use, I have to be consistent. I make it a policy never to pull down a post even if there’s a mistake in it, but I’m definitely going to correct it and make note of that.

  • jamessweet

    I once pulled a post because it was a rant about a Poe website. I did immediately have a follow-up post where I admitted being duped, feeling silly, and pulling the post, though.

  • Phillip IV

    Yeah, that quote had to be a fake. I mean, seriously – Gingrich doing something that he doesn’t consider immoral? It would got against the whole fibrous fabric of his character, nobody would believe him.

    No, Gingrich’s real statement about something like that in his past would only be a counterattack against the “liberal media” for even daring to bring it up, followed by an attack on Obama on a completely unrelated issue. And the word ‘grassroots’ over and over.

  • That was a sign we were alive and in graduate school in that era.

    That part actually is a quote from Newt in the WSJ article; it’s the rest that has no provenance.

  • Doug Little

    And the word ‘grassroots’ over and over.

    Given the context, that made me giggle like a little school girl.

  • bhrobin

    De nada, sir. As several commentators pointed out, it certainly sounds like something he would have said, with the bleary self-righteousness he’s known for. Props for the correction and the honesty in keeping it up with the correction.

  • lofgren

    Part of the quote is real. He actually did say:

    That was a sign we were alive and in graduate school in that era.

  • Mr. Brayton,

    For clarification, the first, non-struck-through part of the post WAS written by Gingrich?

    Thanks