Pot Shot

A Little Weed Now And Then Is Just What The Doctor Ordered.
By Jeff Smith

LIKE MOST OF you folks, I enjoy smoking a little weed now and again.

Smith And like most of you, for as long as I've been indulging in the odd joint, I've been keeping dark about it, casually, perhaps amateurishly, exercising my Fifth Amendment rights, officially owning up to maybe a little experimentation with the hemp while sojourning in Mexico...anywhere beyond the reach or concern of the domestic constabulary. I guess I'm not as brave and honest as I like to think I am.

I'm a hypocrite like Bill Clinton and most of my friends in high and low places. I've written columns criticizing the Marijuana laws, the so-called War on Drugs, the cottage industry created by government and law enforcement to keep their own power bases, political fiefdoms, budgets and--not coincidentally--the global drug business humming. Over the years, as the social and political climate have changed, I've ridden, though not led, the wave, suggesting decriminalization, even outright legalization of Marijuana and other drugs. But I've stopped short of making any grand damn gesture of protest, because I have figured--right or wrong I cannot say--that other of my less popular public positions might incline persons in power to nose around amongst my personal, private habits and put me in the slam for some of them.

Been there; done that.

When I was a kid I was guest of the city for a night on a drunk-driving charge. I'm still not having fun yet on that one.

But enough's enough. The people of Arizona have passed Prop 200, materially rewriting the state statutes on marijuana. First and second offenses involving possession of marijuana for personal use will be handled with probation or medical/ psychological treatment. And seriously or terminally ill people will be able to use Marijuana for pain and other symptoms, under doctors' prescription. These liberalizing measures were balanced in Prop 200 by a provision mandating that persons convicted of violent crimes under the influence of weed and other controlled substances must serve their entire sentences. No parole or early release. They put that in there to get guys like Dennis DeConcini to endorse the proposition.

Yes, Dennis "Mr. War-on-Drugs" DeCon. Mr. Pima County Attorney. Mr. Senator Aerostat Blimp. Until his retirement from active political life, our boy Dennis was a positive wolverine on the subject of narcotics. Of course he was: Drugs were his power base, his area of expertise, his cash cow. Now that Dennis doesn't have to reapply every year for umpty billions in budgets, he can afford to be logical, reasonable and honest.

He can cover his ass and his personal and political history with the proviso that violently criminal potheads will serve their time till the last day, but what he--and the majority of Arizona voters--actually is saying is that marijuana really is no big deal, and in fact is good for you in certain circumstances.

Oh, really?

Then what do we say to the hundreds of thousands of American men and women, boys and girls, whose lives have been ruined, not by marijuana itself, but by our marijuana laws? What of those who have spent years of their lives in prison getting beaten and raped for doing nothing more than you and I and Bill Clinton--and I'm not accusing, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if Dennis DeConcini as well--have done?

It's enough to make you weep, thinking of the lives wasted, the wonderful potential lost, because the old farts who ran our society in the '60s insisted on demonizing drugs that are demonstrably a lot less damaging and dangerous than alcohol and tobacco. Which our government subsidizes.

I'm not saying that we ought to encourage everybody to smoke marijuana, any more than we encourage getting drunk and sucking up a pack of Camels. As a parent and a more or less responsible big kid, my official position is that you should not operate any more machinery than is absolutely necessary while under the influence of torque-applying refreshments. But I am a realist as well. Every animal on the planet, given his druthers and absent electric shock or the threat of imprisonment, will exercise his option to get a little sideways. Day in and day out, reality either gets too boring or not boring enough, for practically everybody. Bob Marley had his cannabis: Jesse Helms has his bourbon. The only difference is that Bob Marley died with a clean conscience, while Helms lives on despite a load of guilt that should have driven him underground decades ago.

It's long past the time when America should have dropped the hypocritical pose of Puritanism and admitted that this silly war on drugs is and always has been a fraud. We're not making a dent in the flood of drugs into our country; we're only keeping the drug culture in business. And when I say drug culture, I include all parts of the law-enforcement apparatus involved with drugs. They know that all they're accomplishing is keeping their bi-weekly paychecks from bouncing.

And we know, if we only will admit it, that a guy with a head full of pot smoke is no more dangerous to us than one with a belly full of booze...and no worse a threat to his own health than one with lungs full of tobacco smoke.

And we know we can treat problems of drug addiction more effectively with medical approaches when drug use is a health problem instead of a felony, instead of dealing with the burglaries, the armed robberies, the murders during drug deals and ripoffs that are the direct by-product of criminalizing chemicals like marijuana, while we subsidize those like tobacco.

We really haven't seen the savings we were led to expect when the wall came down and the Cold War ended. If we just dropped this phony war on drugs, we could bank the savings, eliminate the deficit, balance the budget and throw a party that could keep us all high for a week. TW

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