Last week, Utah Governor Gary Herbert was asked about his thoughts on medical marijuana.
His response: “I think the discussion is now at hand, the time is nigh, to see if we can find a pathway forward on this.”
“But I’m not interested in having Dr. Feelgood out there say, ‘Yeah, yeah. Qúe pasa? You know, here’s your doobie for the day and you’ll feel better.’ That’s probably not where I want to go.”
Setting aside Herbert‘s strangely biblical language, the anti-pot governor immediately received criticism for his comments, which many perceived as both racist and attempting to make light of the seriousness of medicinal cannabis.
While many have tried to defend the governor’s remarks, it’s helpful to contextualize what he said in the larger history of anti-pot rhetoric in the United States.
His mocking mimicry of a Mexican person as the embodiment of “wrong,” “unhealthy,” or “criminal” uses of marijuana draws on a long-standing tradition in the U.S. that attempts to link marijuana’s supposed dangers to people of color.
This tradition uses racist stereotypes to create an atmosphere of fear around particular drugs, while also using drug-related concerns to reaffirm racist stereotypes.
On top of Herbert’s reliance on this country’s history of racist anti-pot rhetoric, his comments also make light of what an increasingly large number of Utahans see as a hugely important issue.
Far from being a cheap excuse to get “daily doobies” from “Dr. Feelgood,” as Herbert seems to think it is, marijuana is moving into the mainstream as an all-natural, highly effective alternative to dangerously addictive pharmaceuticals.
And even in his own state, people are speaking out in favor of legalization.
And as further evidence of just how serious people in Utah are taking medicinal cannabis, a Utah mother made national headlines last month when she was charged with child endangerment for using cannabis to treat a rare genetic disorder.
The family has since moved to Colorado, where she can receive treatment without fear of being harassed by law enforcement.
Looks like Herbert needs to educate himself a little bit before commenting on marijuana—maybe he should start by listening to his own constituents.