The release of previously unpublished correspondence reveals that, in 1990, Carl Sagan sent a letter to the president of the Drug Policy Foundation with an idea for what, even today, sounds like an amazing television program about drug issues in America.
It is now widely recognized that Sagan, while he was alive, not only smoked marijuana, but supported its legalization and use. The former he did with some regularity (Sagan's widow, Ann Druyan, specifies that the two of them "smoked the way other American families would have wine with dinner"); the latter, however, he did far less often – and when he did, he did so quietly. According to Druyan, Sagan's public marijuana advocacy was severely limited by his prominent role at NASA. Some of Sagan's most cogent thoughts on drug policy were therefore made public only under the protection of pseudonymity, most famously in a 1969 essay, written under the assumed name of "Mr. X," in which Sagan presents his personal experiences with cannabis and the virtues of its use. Only after Sagan's death did Lester Grinspoon, professor emeritus of psychiatry at Harvard University and editor of the book in which the essay appeared, reveal the true identity of Mr. X.
All this is to say that Sagan clearly devoted a great deal of thought to drug policy, even if he did not always make his musings public. Now, many of Sagan's private thoughts on marijuana and America's drug war have been brought to light.
This summer, Marijuana Majority founder Tom Angell spent several days poring over some 600,000 of Sagan's personal papers, recently acquired by the Library of Congress, to discover some of the iconic cosmologist's previously unpublished thoughts on marijuana and America's War on Drugs. In a fascinating piece published this morning at Marijuana.com, Angell reports that Sagan's personal papers on drug policy, alone, were numerous enough to fill four boxes in the LoC's recent acquisition. The documents, Angell notes, include "a plethora of previously unpublished and unknown Saganisms," including the following letter to Arnold S. Trebach, then-president of Drug Policy Foundation (now Drug Policy Alliance), in which Sagan envisions an American television program that would provide "a balanced look at a broad array of drug issues," including:
These are all good questions, and many of them seem especially relevant today. Researchers and organizations the world over are calling for an end to the Drug War's ban on psychoactive drug research. The top 10% of America's drinkers account for more than 50% of the country's alcohol sales (suggesting the alcohol industry is maintained in large part by its customers drinking dangerous quantities of booze). Meanwhile, the last twenty years have seen prescription pharmaceuticals become the deadliest drugs in the United States.
What we wouldn't give to have had such a TV series, with Sagan as host. What we wouldn't give to see these questions addressed on television today.
See more at Angell's writeup, "Carl Sagan's Long Lost Deep Thoughts On The War On Drugs," which is definitely worth reading in its entirety.