Rick Steves, the travel guru who was a key supporter of Washington’s recreational marijuana law in 2012, arrived in Oregon Tuesday to kick off a 9-stop tour promoting the campaign to legalize pot.
Steves, 59, of Edmonds, Wash., argued that marijuana legalization is a civil liberties issue that other countries have successfully grappled with. He pointed to the Netherlands’ experience with pot as a prime example, saying that country’s relatively liberal marijuana laws have not resulted in increased consumption.
He took time before his first appearance in Portland to talk with The Oregonian about his views and his work. (This Q&A has been edited for length.)
What is your message for Oregonians?
Steves: For 15 years I have been involved and outspoken in the importance of drug policy reform, specifically taking the crime out of the marijuana equation. I really want to stress that I am not pro marijuana. I am anti-prohibition when the prohibition is causing more problems than the drug it is supposed to deal with. It’s what our society learned after a very painful episode with alcohol in the 30s and we are learning about that now. It takes courage for states to go against the federal insistence on keeping a drug illegal.
I just feel very strongly that the laws that are on the books right now are counter productive. They are expensive. They are racist. They are based on fear and misinformation. This is not just my hunch. A lot of it might be counterintuitive but my experience is based on talking to people who have been dealing with the same challenges in other countries for the last two decades.
In Europe my friends tell me a society as has to make a choice: tolerate alternative lifestyles or build more prisons. And they always follow up that with this …read more