Saturday morning on MSNBC's "Melissa Harris-Perry," host Melissa Harris Perry and a panel made up of Doug Fine, the author of "Too High to Fail," filmmaker Eugene Jarecki, Reason magazine editor Matt Welch and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) discussed whether or not stereotypical notions of "stoners" -- i.e., marijuana users -- are accurate, and the dangers of pot versus those of drinking alcohol.
Harris-Perry began the segment by showing a clip from the 2007 film "Super High Me," in which comedian Doug Benson went off marijuana for a month, then spent 30 days smoking pot all day, every day. The host said that to her mind, "Super High Me" is a cautionary tale, in that Benson doesn't seem like "the most motivated guy in the world."
She declared herself a "nerd" on the topic, however, not being a past or present marijuana user.
Sanchez said that as someone who doesn't drink or use drugs that she is something of a nerd as well. She believes that marijuana has serious risks.
"I saw this in one of my best friends," she said. "The more they smoked, the less motivated they were. A person who had everything going for them, in the long run, just ended up hanging out at home and smoking pot, smoking pot, smoking pot all day long, all the time, couldn't get enough of it. They went on and on for years. They are now dead."
Sanchez said that she thinks marijuana is an addiction and that it can perhaps "lead to harder things."
Harris-Perry agreed that this is the "moral panic" that leads some people to refuse to consider legalization or decriminalization or hear out the possible economic benefits.
Fine said that "anything can be abused," and that the U.S. government should devote the money it does to the drug war to "true education and treatment-based models" instead. The real drug problem in the U.S. is prescription pill abuse, he said, and the real war in this country should be on the criminal violence associated with drug cartels and the black market in prohibited substances.
Welch mentioned a study in Portugal that showed that when marijuana and heroin were de-criminalized, use of both drugs actually went down. He questioned whether laws function at all as a deterrent to behavior, then mentioned that as dangerous drugs go, marijuana is far less risky than alcohol.
Jarecki agreed, "Alcohol is, by every standard, far more destructive to personal health, public health and public safety than any of the drugs" that are currently available on the street. Alcohol, he said, "has a track record that dwarfs the track record of heroin, dwarfs the track record of cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, et cetera."
He continued that given the "incredible horror of alcohol," the fact that society treats marijuana use and users "more severely" is "astonishing to me."
Watch the video, embedded via MSNBC, below: