With a disarming smile and a lilting baritone made for public radio, Rick Steves has been making traveling the world less frightening for the past 30 years. Through his European travel guidebooks and public radio and television programs, he has introduced Americans to a kinder, more accessible world outside of our own.
This October, Steves is taking a different kind of trip — a six-day tour around Oregon to calm our nerves in regards to November’s Measure 91, which would legalize, tax and regulate recreational marijuana.
Steves tells EW that he’s spent a third of his life in countries where the United States’ policy of locking up drug offenders is foreign. “In Europe, they’ve taken the crime out of the equation, and they treat drug abuse as a health and an education challenge,” Steves says. “In many countries in Europe, the word for ‘addicted’ is the same as ‘enslaved.’ People are enslaved to drugs, and they’re sick people — they’re not criminals and they need to be helped.”
Steves says he is extremely proud that his home state of Washington was one of the first to legalize marijuana, though the law is not a perfect one, and he is excited at the prospect of Oregon following suit. “What I wanted to do in Washington state was just get it so we stop arresting pot smokers. Others will learn from us and make smarter laws. And that’s just the natural process.”
As other states begin to slowly perfect marijuana legalization laws, Steves says he sees it as his civic duty as a “church-going, tax-paying, hard-working” citizen to tell stories about societies that are at peace with their marijuana-using population. “The typical Dutch person has never even smelled marijuana,” Steves says. “It’s just musicians and bohemians; when they want to get high they smoke down at the coffee shop. But it’s not really an issue. It’s not scary.”
Steves will speak on “Travel as a Political Act — Ending marijuana prohibition in Oregon” at the McDonald Theatre 7 pm Thursday, Oct. 9. He will present a pro-legalization argument through the paradigm of European countries he’s traveled in and then field questions from the audience. Free, but registration required at aclu-or.org/ricksteves. He will also speak at noon Oct. 9 in Corvallis at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Corvallis, 2945 N.W. Circle Blvd.