Andrew Sullivan is a bestselling author and one of the top political and cultural pundits of our time. His independent blog, The Dish, is one of the top blogs in the world. The blog existed on several different media outlets, including Time Magazine, The Atlantic and The Daily Beast. In 2013, Sullivan shook up the media and the blogosphere world when he announced that he was taking his blog independent, separating himself from any corporate overlord and was going to sink or swim based upon subscriptions paid by his readers.
An English conservative and practicing Catholic, Sullivan is hard to put into any political box in the usual United States blue vs. red paradigm. His brand of conservatism has led him to believe in personal liberty and responsibility, with a hefty dose of compassion. He has become more and more outspoken about his support for cannabis law reform, adding a section to his blog that included testimonials from his readers about their use of cannabis. Those testimonials were eventually published in a book called The Cannabis Closet: First Hand Accounts of the Marijuana Mainstream.
Sullivan is the keynote speaker at the first International Cannabis Business Conference held in Portland, Oregon. His unique political philosophy and business experience make him a great outside-the-box presenter for cannabis industry participants (or really anyone for that matter) and the conference is lucky to have him. I was lucky enough to have a few minutes of his time in advance of the conference, especially since he was still recovering from his first Burning Man experience and acclimating himself back into the real world.
On his political "evolution" in regards to cannabis legalization:
No evolution. I've always been in favor of legalization of marijuana as an adult. The evidence was overwhelming. Now, that that feeling was passive until the AIDS epidemic. I saw friends of mine survive because of medical marijuana. I know people that are alive because of marijuana. The AIDS epidemic turned me from passive to active and the blog took it up more and more. The reader response, because so many of my readers wrote in about being middle class, with children, not a giggling stoner, not that I'm against giggling stoner, some of my best friends are giggling stoners. The testimonials from my readers were in contrast to the media portrayals. This spawned the e-book, The Cannabis Closet.
On the claim by prohibitionists, including Project SAM, led by David Frum, Kevin Sabet and Patrick Kennedy, that cannabis can't be a medicine, only cannabis-based medicines are appropriate:
I saw my friends literally grappling with their potential deaths. Allowing the sick to treat themselves is pretty non-negotiable. I saw personally during the AIDS epidemic, that Marinol did not do what inhaling marijuana did. It wasn't as effective as a therapy and patients should be able to pick the most effective therapy, not the most accepted therapy. It turned out the traditional form of smoking worked much better for many people than pills. Marinol made people loopy and they couldn't control the dose.
So much of the opposition is based upon misunderstanding and untrue things. It is staggering that these untruths survive. They are saying things that are untrue and battling things that are untrue is one of the reasons I became a writer.
On the liberal and conservative arguments for ending cannabis prohibition:
For me, the question is one of personal liberty and whether you have a right to do what you want with your body. It's a very libertarian impulse and it's no accident that The National Review endorsed legalization 40 years before The New York Times. As a big believer in discourse, I think that everyone should be welcomed.
Part of the history of the cannabis reform movement is similar to marriage equality. It has been crucial for marriage equality to have conservative support and that support is just as important for marijuana legalization. I certainly see many similarities between the fights for marriage equality and for legalization. Limited government and personal liberty are at the core of both arguments.
Conservatism doesn't mean Republican. Today's Republican Party has earned the reputation of being intolerant on a host of issues. There are certainly liberal reasons for legalization as well, I just make and support the conservative ones. Finding a consensus is important to political success. Bill Maher and I may disagree on many things, but we agree on personal liberty and freedom.
On the political future of cannabis legalization and marriage equality:
Learned never to make those kinds of predictions. I've been totally blindsided by how quickly marriage equality has succeeded. I am cautiously optimistic by a federal resolution at the Supreme Court, but not as optimistic as many.
Federalism is key. If we see it work in a few states, then other states will follow, just as people saw that marriage equality was a success in Massachusetts.
I do think that the way we live now, this digital career and digital life, has made cannabis more appealing and is helping increase support for legalization. Cannabis is one way that people find relief from too much stress and too much information. It works better, and is safer, than alcohol and other drugs.
On taking the leap to go independent:
The reason I did it was freedom. Being able to assure people that I believe what I write and that I'm not acquiescing to any employer or advertiser is very important to me. We are surviving, but it can be nerve-racking and it's tough. But I have no regrets.
I must confess that I am a huge fan of Andrew Sullivan. His willingness to debate the political and cultural issues of the day, and to even admit that he was wrong on certain issues, is refreshing. His faith in himself and the quality of his work to go independent is inspiring. I sincerely believe that the cannabis law reform community and cannabis industry should embrace supporters across the political spectrum and we have a lot to gain and learn from Andrew Sullivan.
You can see Andrew Sullivan provide the keynote address at the International Cannabis Business Conference as tickets are still available. You can also have an exclusive lunch with him as well. To demonstrate the liberal and conservative collaboration for cannabis law reform, Andrew if followed by Portland-area Congressman Earl Blumenauer. The conference is filled with policy and industry experts and is not to be missed. The conference is being held at the Oregon Convention Center in beautiful Portland, Oregon, on September 13th & 14th.
Blog post originally posted on the International Cannabis Business Conference website. Reposted with special permission.