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Wednesday, May 16, 2001

the spin room

PRESS: It is pretty exciting. We always like to read a favorite e-mail right at this time. Unfortunately, tonight, I think that some of our viewers have started partying too early. This e-mail comes from John in Maryland who just says:

"Regarding your guest tonight, ummm...ummm...what was the question again?"

No, John, no, we are not encouraging this.

CARLSON: No, we are not.

PRESS: We are not.

CARLSON: And we will ask our guest if he's encouraging it. Our guest tonight is Nick Thimmesch, communications director of NORML, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.


CARLSON: And a long time Republican, you worked on Bush/Quayle and on Dole/Kemp and then, were communications director, press secretary for Steve Largent.

PRESS: And before that, for Bruce Hershenson (ph) in California, when I first met Nick.

CARLSON: Amazing. Not just Republicans, but conservative Republicans.

THIMMESCH: Pretty much, only conservative Republicans.

CARLSON: Well, it's especially nice to have you. Tell us, Nick, the Supreme Court decision yesterday. A bunch of pro-decriminalization groups for medical marijuana held press conferences in which they had people who smoke marijuana as medicine, get up and say, basically, this cured all my illness, they had people rising out of wheelchairs. It was almost like faith healing. Do you think that proponents are over-selling it as a medicine?

THIMMESCH: No. I think they need to make it clear to the American people that they need this medicine in their journey to heal themselves, and I think they're trying to send a message as well to Congress that they should adjust the laws, change the laws, and take it off the Schedule I rating that it's at now.

PRESS: I have to redo this e-mail from Patrick, who says:

"A pot-smoking Republican? I guess hell froze over."

But I do want to ask you; you worked in the White House. Can I ask you, did you ever smoke dope in the White House?

THIMMESCH: Not physically.


CARLSON: Wait. If we can just digress here, if you don't smoke physically, what other way -- I mean, if you can just give us some tips...

THIMMESCH: Well, it may have remained in my system when I was there, but I certainly never would have breached security there in doing that.

PRESS: OK, all right, I'm proud of you. I did ask that same question of Patty Davis once on radio in Los Angeles.

THIMMESCH: Her answer was?

PRESS: She did smoke pot when her father was in the White House. I just was wondering if you guys ever smoked it together.

We have never had as many e-mails on any topic as we've had on the Supreme Court decision yesterday. I want to ask you about a couple of them. Here's one from Andy, who just says:

"Our Supreme Court is very out of touch with the American people. I don't know if it's because they are so old, or just have a different state of mind."

Why did the Supreme Court go 8-0 against medical marijuana, do you think?

THIMMESCH: I think in a lot of ways that the way that the case was presented may have given them no alternative, but to do that, and that's understandable. But actually...

PRESS: You mean, because it was so narrow? THIMMESCH: Yes. But actually, it's up to Congress to change the law in the first place, and then the Supreme Court won't have to do rulings like this.

PRESS: Do you think there's any chance that this Congress would say, on this issue, of people who need it for their health and a doctor says they could, that they could get it from a clinic. Will Congress ever allow that?

THIMMESCH: You said something about hell freezing over, before. I think right now, that's the case. Barney Frank has introduced a marijuana bill, as he usually does. And there are other members who might consider that. Whether it would come before this Congress or not, I doubt it.

CARLSON: I'm just trying to understand the opposition to this. I mean, if there's no question that smoking pot is good for some illnesses, if it's an effective medicine, why are, if the science is sound, then why are people against it?

THIMMESCH: Well, it's probably from 20 years of "just say no," boogey man, anti-drug mantra that's been out there that does not want to recognize that there are beneficial factors to marijuana.

PRESS: Here's another e-mail from a registered nurse who says she's convinced that the reason that nobody, that the drive toward medical marijuana has stalled is because the major pharmaceutical companies are lobbying against it. They don't want it to be legalized for obvious reasons. Is that a factor in this?

THIMMESCH: I don't see any conspiracy there.

PRESS: No conspiracy.

CARLSON: That's the spirit, Nick Thimmesch, batting down the conspiracy. Well, tell us this, when you saw yesterday that both the president and the vice president took drug tests in the White House, you know, one was reminded of the '80s when everybody seemed to be getting drug tests. How prevalent is this now? I mean how many private sector employees, what percentage have to take drug tests?

THIMMESCH: Well, I don't know the exact percentage, but I can tell you that drug testing has had a huge impact in the employment market. Many people have to go for drug tests for the most nominal of jobs. I think it's absurd. I can understand drug testing perhaps for jobs where people's lives are at stake, but if you're selling stocks for AT&T I don't see any reason why you should have to take a drug test.

CARLSON: And how would you beat it? How would you beat a drug test?

THIMMESCH: There's lots of ways.

CARLSON: Like what? THIMMESCH: Well, there're masking agents that you can injest. There's everything from false urine, I mean, now even your own urine. People sell their own urine to disguise drug tests. I'm not in favor of that.

PRESS: You mean I could, I'm sorry, I could buy somebody else's urine and use it?



THIMMESCH: And hope they don't come back and tell you you're pregnant, too.

PRESS: That's why you've got to be careful who's urine you buy. You work for the NORML foundation. You gave us this little card, which is a card where people, if they are arrested, this tells them what to do?


PRESS: What is the goal in terms of what should be the sane policy about marijuana in this country according to the NORML foundation?

THIMMESCH: Well, I would say responsible adults can responsibly use marijuana, and that includes not, you know, not exposing children to it, not doing it while you're driving, not doing it out in the public all the time. It's the same to me as consumption of alcohol. It can be done responsibly or it could be done irresponsibly.

PRESS: Now, how successful are you at converting Republicans to your point of view?

THIMMESCH: I'm still trying, Bill.

PRESS: You feel like a voice in the wilderness?

THIMMESCH: So far, but we are working on it.

CARLSON: Well, just in the few seconds we have left, give us the names of 3 Republicans you think are pretty close to coming out to being pro-dope.

THIMMESCH: Well, I don't want to use the word "pro-dope" but at least compassionate conservatives, there's Ron Paul of Texas, you know, actually a Libertarian, and there may be a couple other lingering Republicans who are willing to look at this issue, which is all we are asking.

PRESS: I'll tell you, when you're ready to "out" them, we want you back on THE SPIN ROOM, because we're going to make this a crusade. At least I will, I will, to convert all these Republicans, our private crusade. Nick Thimmesch, thank you for coming in.

THIMMESCH: You bet. Thank you.

CARLSON: And when we come back, we will explore other facets of crime and intoxication in our amazing, appalling, shocking "Tail Spin" tonight.

PRESS: Plus we've got an exciting couple of "Spins of the Day," and yes, the crusade begins right here on THE SPIN ROOM.