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Maddening USA marijuana laws examined by John Oliver on Last Week Tonight

John Oliver took on America’s byzantine marijuana laws last night

On Last Week Tonight, using his humor combined with real history lessons, host John Oliver drove home how America has a split personality and huge problem with the patchwork quilt of laws for marijuana.

Some states have made it legal, some states only allow for medical usage and some states will lock you away for the smallest amount for years.

The maddening thing? It is still a federal crime to have any marijuana, despite what individual states have voted on and allowed.

Confused? So is John Oliver, who interspersed his main argument of the night with random pictures of “Greg” smoking a bong in an attempt to freak out any stoned watchers perhaps named Greg.

But the funniest zinger was saved for the beleaguered Billy Bush, the disgraced entertainment reporter who had the infamous p**** grabbing conversation with Donald Trump before he was elected president of the United States.

Billy Bush reduced to a sight gag here, as Nixon’s abysmal stance on drugs started a mess

According to governing.com, twenty-six states and the District of Columbia currently have laws broadly legalizing marijuana in some form. Three other states will soon join them after recently passing measures permitting the use of medical marijuana.

Seven states and the District of Columbia [Washington] are where the party is at, legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada were the most recent to pass measures legalizing it recreationally.

Oliver discussed the states currently letting people use pot for medical or recreational purposes, but then demonstrated how you can still get in trouble with the US federal government.

Why? Thanks to president Richard M. Nixon, pot is still classified as a schedule 1 drug — a controlled substance on the same plane as heroin.

Using his wit and, of course, a cute image, Oliver said: “Marijuana is not a schedule 1 any more than a hedgehog is an apex predator.”

Oliver delved into American history and the racial discrimination associated with pot, as African Americans are four times more likely to be arrested for pot while the actual “War on Drugs” that Nixon crafted too is rooted in antisemitism and racism.

Nixon’s antisemitic recordings were played illustrating the cloudy origins of the ‘war on drugs’

Nixon was recorded and part of the transcript was: “You know, it’s a funny thing. Every one of those bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish. What the Christ is the matter with the Jews, Bob? What is the matter with them?”

The Catch-22 of having a marijuana dispensary too was examined.

Oliver noted that these businesses are cash only, needing 24-hour security guards, and losing any opportunity to file deductions as any business would to offset income. These shops cannot have bank accounts and the taxes are paid in cash which is a huge inconvenience and dangerous.

Not only is the business model upside-down, but those who are in states where it is legal and allowed can lose their jobs.

Using some footage of new Trump appointee, attorney general Jeff Sessions, Oliver poked fun at the politician who cited Lady Gaga in his anti-pot arguments. Sessions argued that “good people don’t smoke marijuana”.

Will this legal quagmire be solved soon? Oliver appeared to be semi-optimistic.

He said: “We should also go back and expunge records of people convicted of low-level marijuana offenses in the past.

“All of this I know is a lot of work, which is why we should really start right now because I would argue that it is absolutely worth it.”

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver airs Sunday at 11:00p.m., ET/PT on HBO.

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April is an accredited entertainment writer, interviewer and television critic. She is a current member of the Television Critics Association (TCA), Gay and Lesbian Entertainment... read more
April Neale
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