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An Open Letter to Hillary Clinton


Dear Hillary,

Oh, come on. You named your daughter Chelsea after Joni Mitchell’s song “Chelsea Morning,” about a day spent in New York’s bohemia. You wore big, round eyeglasses and dressed like a hippie when you attended Wellesley in the 1960s. You edited a radical law journal at Yale that advocated for the migration of like-minded leftists to the 50 states for “the purpose of gaining political control.” But you never smoked pot?

That’s what you told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in 2014 when she finally asked the question. “I didn’t do it when I was young. I’m not going to start now,” you laughed.

Yet, four of your biographers say you enjoyed marijuana during your college years. A former boyfriend of yours, David Rupert, informed author Gail Sheehy in Hillary’s Choice (1999) that you joined a protest march on Washington, D.C. where “some of us were inhaling.” In The Truth About Hillary: What She Knew, When She Knew It and How Far She’ll Go to Become President (2005), Edward Klein wrote that you met your future husband Bill at Cozy Beach, a Connecticut commune run by Jeff Rogers and Kris Olsen, where Ken Kesey’s magic bus Further and its tripped-out inhabitants were regular visitors.

“During their remaining time at Yale, Bill and Hillary often grooved the night away at Cozy Beach, spinning the latest Jefferson Airplane platters and eating hashish brownies,” Klein contended. Miriam Horn verified this story in Rebels in White Gloves: Coming of Age with Hillary’s Class—Wellesley ’69 (1999), adding that the new couple “spent a lot of time together, hanging out at home listening to Janis Joplin, the Jefferson Airplane and the Rolling Stones.”

Daniel Halper’s Clinton, Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine (2014) went further, quoting an unnamed friend and law school classmate of the former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State: “If she hasn’t acknowledged it, everybody else will tell you: She was an enthusiastic pot user… certainly more than Bill.”

These days, you try to come off as cool, joking at a Colorado coffeehouse that the design in your latte resembles a marijuana leaf or attributing a coughing fit to a lack of “medicinal [marijuana]” during a radio interview. But for someone who’s thought of as a brilliant political mind, your position on the drug war is surprisingly unimaginative and timid. You call for “more research” and more data about marijuana, ignoring the human suffering that will take place while you drag your feet.

Are you under the delusion that you’re somehow protecting children by not embracing legalization? In It Takes a Village (1996), you wrote, “Casual attitudes towards marijuana and minors’ access to cigarettes raise the likelihood that teenagers will make the sad progression to more serious drugs and earlier sexual activity.”

Really? Let’s look at the data you’ve been saying you want to see. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently reported that—as states are moving to legalize marijuana—the percentage of high-school students who use cannabis fell from 43% in 1995 to 39% in 2015. Last year, investigators at Columbia University and the University of Michigan concluded that no increase in teens’ overall use of marijuana was seen or attributable to changes in law, and acknowledged a “robust” decrease in use among eighth-graders. These studies are consistent with others published in the Journal of Adolescent Health and elsewhere, studies from government agencies like NIDA and Healthy Kids Colorado and Washington State’s Healthy Youth survey.

Or let’s look at the case of Teresa McGovern, the daughter of former Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern, for whom both you and I campaigned in 1972. Teresa was so ashamed of being caught with pot during her father’s run that she dropped out of college and instead majored in partying. She became an alcoholic and subsequently froze to death in a snow bank at the age of 45 in 1994. Did the laws against marijuana protect her?

Today, the Obamas’ 18-year-old daughter Malia can take a toke at Lollapolooza and not be deemed immoral, or have her life ruined. That’s progress, but our leaders didn’t get us there: It’s due to the work of activists—and it’s long overdue for you to join our ranks.

Watching the Democratic convention, I was struck by your story of your mother’s struggles, and how you’ve dedicated your life to public service. As someone who has spent 25 years trying to correct the injustice of the anti-cannabis crusade, I can relate.

When will the world, and world leaders, see marijuana legalization as a social-justice issue? Even with legalization in a number of U.S. states, citizens can still lose their jobs, families and homes for enjoying a non-sanctioned natural inebriant in what we call the Land of the Free. Somewhere deep down, despite your ties to pharmaceutical donors and the compromises you’ve made, I hope there’s a righteous pot smoker lurking who wants to do the right thing for humankind.

On a 2011 Real Time with Bill Maher episode, Merle Haggard revealed that you came onto Willie Nelson’s tour bus, noting with a wink, “And I think she inhaled.” Oh, how I wish.

                                                                                                                                                                                      — Ellen Komp



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