This 45-Year-Old Magazine Cover Shows We're Still Asking the Same Questions About Pot

Take a look at this.


No, that's not a news story from this week. It's a LIFE magazine cover from 1969, almost 45 years ago. But it poses the exact same questions we are asking ourselves today about marijuana: Are the penalties too severe? Should it be legalized?

The same story 45 years later? The author of the 1969 cover story, former FDA director Dr. James L. Goddard, refutes many of the concerns that marijuana prohibitionists still harp on. Goddard states that weed is less addictive than the narcotics it's classified with, that it's not a gateway drug and that "Our laws governing marijuana are a mixture of bad science and poor understanding of the role of law as a deterrent force" — in short, that the War on Drugs is a failure.

The naysayers, alive and well. Time has proven Goddard's points to be true and yet we still hear the same, tired arguments for continuing prohibition as we have for decades. While Goddard knew it in 1969, finally the country now agrees that our laws have been wrong on weed, likely spurring rapid progress toward amending them.

Surprisingly, Goddard's prescription is actually that we keep weed illegal, but also prohibit tobacco and alcohol, arguing that each substance is similarly dangerous to the public. We've clearly taken a different route. With legalization keeping arrests down and tax revenues up, Goddard's wisdom about marijuana's level of danger and the federal government's drug classifications still ring true.

Take this neat explanation from the LIFE article:

"Man has used marijuana both socially and medicinally for thousands of years and yet today there is little scientific knowledge of its dangers or merits. In spite of our lack of knowledge, an estimated 12 million Americans have used the drug in recent years. Now we are in a near crisis caused by the ignorance and the blanket of misinformation which governmental agencies have used to cover their ineptitudes."

The debate might feel the same, but at least we're finally undoing the misinformation and injustice of marijuana prohibition. 

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Abdullah Saeed

Abdullah Saeed covers drug policy, focusing on newly forming cannabis legislation in the US. He is the author of VICE's "Weediquette" column as T. Kid. His work has appeared in High Times, Huffington Post, Paper, and Village Voice, among others.

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