At the non-partisan political panel marathon Politicon this weekend, columnist Ann Coulter made some remarkable claims about marijuana during a debate with Ana Kasparian.
The topic turned to criminal justice and marijuana toward the end of a discussion featuring Coulter and Kasparian of The Young Turks, a progressive new-media news outlet, and moderated by journalist Touré.
“I love marijuana,” Kasparian said before making the point that that despite similar usage rates, African Americans are arrested and prosecuted for weed at much higher rates than their white counterparts.
“I don’t care if you’re black, white, Asian, Latino, doesn’t matter, you shouldn’t be prosecuted for marijuana possession. That’s a gigantic waste of our resources,” she added.
Coulter rebutted both parts of Kasparian’s argument with a set of inflammatory statements.
“There have been further studies where they actually drug test the person after asking ‘Do you smoke pot, or have you smoked pot in the last week?’ and it turns out there’s a racial difference in telling the truth on ‘did you smoke pot’? Blacks were about ten times more likely to lie and say they hadn’t smoked pot,” she claimed.
It is unclear what study Coulter is referring to — the conservative commentator said she would email the study to moderator Touré. (The Cannabist will link to the study if it surfaces.)
An NIH study from 2008 showed more people self-reported marijuana use (15.4%) than tested positive in a hair test (14.3%). In terms of racial disparity on self-reporting, the study shows the opposite of what Coulter was claiming: “Apparent overestimate of marijuana by self-report (i.e., self-report was positive and hair test was negative) was associated with being African American.”
Coulter added to her claims with, “Nobody goes to prison for possession.”
When the crowd booed this statement, she responded: “No, I know you’re all potheads, and you’re gonna have trouble following what I’m about to say, but almost 90 percent of people in prison are in prison as a result of a plea bargain. No one gets arrested and tried for possession of marijuana … but if they happen to have marijuana on them that’s what they plea it down … But you’re not going to prison for that, you’re going to prison because you held up a liquor store with a sawed-off shotgun, and they found pot on you.”
(This Louisiana man, for one, might disagree with her, after being sentenced for 18 years for possession of 18 grams of weed.)
Kasparian jumped in, citing her own TEDx talk on the subject, “How To Fix America’s Broken Justice System.”
She summarized the portion of her talk on the privatization of prisons:
In the 1980s, because of Republican leadership, we passed a bunch of draconian laws specifically in regard to marijuana. And so our prison systems all of a sudden were just filled with people who got caught with possession of pot … Entrepreneurs see that there’s some — you know — there’s an entrepreneurial opportunity here, and so you have the emergence of Corrections Corporation of America and Geo Group. Guess what they did? They’re like, ‘give us your nonviolent drug offenders and make us rich so your tax dollars aren’t really going to welfare recipients … They’re going to private industries like private prisons who have a vested interest to criminalize nonviolent individuals, particularly those who get caught with drugs.
Touré then asked Coulter if marijuana should be legal.
“No. You can legalize all the drugs you want once there isn’t a welfare state, but no,” she said. “Marijuana makes people retarded, especially when they’re young. We’ve got enough bus boys. We’re bringing in bus boys by the million through our immigration policy. We do not need a country of bus boys. We’re destroying the country.”
Kasparian responded to the same question, “Absolutely. In fact, I wish you (Coulter) would smoke a joint.”
Cannabis has been a punching bag for conservative firebrand Coulter for several years.
During an October 2015 Democratic presidential debate, Sen. Bernie Sanders lamented that CEOs on Wall Street “walk away” from financial crimes while “we are imprisoning or giving jail sentences to young people who are smoking marijuana.”
Coulter live tweeted:
Sanders is a liar. There is not one person in prison simply for “smoking marijuana.”
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) October 14, 2015
Marijuana came up in a January 2014 interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan during which Coulter detailed her personal woes with a pool cleaner she claimed was a marijuana user:
“You can’t get anything done with a pothead,” she said. “… They can’t perform any useful jobs.”
In November 2009, she debated two of weed’s most famous advocates, Richard “Cheech” Marin and Tommy Chong, on Fox News. Responding to their plea to treat marijuana like alcohol she said, “There are a lot of problems with alcohol, so we don’t want two of them.”
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