Larry Flynt Talks Legalization
By Dean Christopher
We recently caught up with Larry Flynt, groundbreaking publisher of HUSTLER, and a longtime, outspoken defender of free speech and other progressive social issues. Even before the current Proposition 19 fight, he went on record as being in favor of legalizing marijuana. We at The 420 Times obviously already knew our own stance on the subject, but wondered what Larry based his pro-pot position on.
Does he consider it a basic human right? A natural God-given substance, therefore immune from human legislative meddling? Was he just being Larry Flynt, taking impish pleasure in tweaking the nose of the Establishment?
His views strike us as extremely rational and thoughtful. Far from ranting provocatively, as one might expect from such a legendary crusader and gadfly, Larry states calmly, dispassionately, “Look. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to realize that cannabis is less harmful than alcohol – if indeed it’s even harmful at all.” He notes that marijuana produces none of the darker side effects of alcohol – a drug that is legal.
He also reminds us that before 1938, cannabis use was not illegal in the U.S. Only with the post-Prohibition rise of the big alcohol companies, and consequently the big alcohol lobby, was marijuana maligned; lied about; turned into a pariah – and declared illegal.
Obviously Big Booze saw – and still sees – marijuana as “the competition,” a threat to be quashed at all costs.
Referring to today’s Cannabis Prohibition, Flynt points out that, without a flourishing legal, regulated cannabis industry “… there are billions of dollars lost every year in cash revenue. And this ‘war on drugs’ has not worked – I don’t think it ever will. It’s just like Prohibition in the 20s didn’t work. I don’t think private control of drugs is going to work today.”
His view is that alcohol is acceptable to so many people today “because it’s a big industry,” with establishment backing, including government. The booze business provides lot of tax dollars, and lots of campaign dollars for public officials.
Why wouldn’t the same tax revenue stream apply equally to a legal cannabis business? Larry says it’s largely because “People hate the horrifying thought of marijuana being legalized, because it’s going to turn all the kids into druggies. That just goes to show you how ignorant people are!”
What about parallels between sex – an important part of the Hustler empire – and weed? We point out that attitudes about sex have changed over the years, just like attitudes about marijuana. Does Larry Flynt think California is ready for “marijuana lib,” or does he think somehow the campaign for legalization went off the rails?
“California’s always been out far ahead on social issues,” he begins, then adds, “But you’ve got a certain brand of conservative in the country that wants to maintain [a right wing status quo]. Whereas California’s always rebelled against that.”
Flynt came of age during the 60s, the era of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Flynt the adult is not smoking much these days, but has no objection to others using marijuana. But when he did smoke a lot, did he use pot for aphrodisiac purposes? His answer surprises us.
“Well, it never worked for me [for sexual stimulation]. I see marijuana as a way to kick back and relax. For different people, alcohol has different effects on sex – and marijuana has basically the same effect, you know. It affects everyone depending on their body chemistry.”
How does it affect him when he does use it? We get a sense of the man behind the social crusader. He sounds like he’s grinning as he says, “Well, it makes me a little more relaxed. And everybody likes to be relaxed!”
While on the topic of weed and sex, we mention our interview with adult film star Tera Patrick. She feels that marijuana lets us explore more of our sexuality, helping introverted people become much more sexually liberated. How does this tally with Flynt’s image of cannabis as something that helps us feel calm, cool and collected, instead of liberated?
“I think the liberation comes from the passion and pleasure that you achieve from sex. But regardless of what people tell you, marijuana and alcohol affect people differently depending on body chemistry.”
What does the pro-marijuana campaign have to do in order to succeed? Flynt seems to agree that dissemination of the real facts about cannabis is an essential part of the struggle.
“I think more and more politicians every day are beginning to realize that this war on drugs is not working. [Cannabis distribution] is an industry that supports a lot of people, and it will continue to expand. But I would hope in coming decades that we can start looking at this drug war in a totally different light.”
Larry Flynt strongly denies that marijuana is a “gateway drug,” any more than sexual relations are necessarily a “gateway” to sadistic perversions or sexual addiction. He insists that most people can enjoy adult movies, and most people can also enjoy marijuana … and still be productive, happy, healthy people.