Bill Maher says Americas drug policy is "a glaring hypocrisy"

In a 2009 episode of his HBO show, “Real Time,” Bill Maher and his panel of guests — Mos Def, Salman Rushdie and Christopher Hitchens (Scotch in hand) — pilloried President Obama for his dismissive answer to an “online town hall” question about whether it would make economic sense for America to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana. “I don’t know what this says about the online audience,” Obama said. “But the answer is no, I don’t think that is a good strategy.”

Yet Maher writes in his review of Doug Fine’s new book, “Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution,” that there are fiscal and moral arguments to be made over how the United States polices pot. In a recent e-mail, he said of Obama: “If I could tell him just one thing, it would be to remind him that each of the last three presidents could have gone to jail in their youth for doing drugs that other Americans are still being punished for. Just getting caught smoking pot once can follow you around for the rest of your life, blocking career and even housing opportunities. Three presidents in a row now have acknowledged partying in their youth. Our drug policy is a glaring hypocrisy.”

What are the chances federal policy on cannabis will change in our lifetimes? “Depends on how old you are,” Maher said. “If you’re 2 years old, maybe. What worries me is that in America, we can almost never kill off anything bad once it starts. Whether it’s mohair subsidies or the 50,000 troops still in Germany, once something has a constituency, it finds a way to live on. The drug war, just like the war on terror, created jobs and budgets, and the beneficiaries don’t want to give them up, even though they know they’re fighting an immoral and unwinnable war.”