Sunday, June 12, 2005

Tokin' Resistance

The Supreme Court ruled against the use of medicinal marijuana this past week, overruling what several states had previously determined to be allowable.

Give me a break.

Let's clear one point up right away - this was not a blow against the stoners you knew in high school (and maybe still know today). This was directed at those people who are currently suffering pain on a daily basis. Cancer patients getting regular chemotherapy use marijuana to ease the nausea and discomfort associated with the treatments, while glaucoma sufferers notice an ease of their pain and tension when using the plant. Talk show host Montel Williams, who sufffers from Multiple Sclerosis, is perhaps the best known celebrity medicinal user. Woody Harrelson, as far as I know, suffers only from the occasional case of diahrreha mouth, which wouldn't fall beneath the medicial umbrella.

Now, my (self appointed) job is to point out the patent absurdity of the entire operation. Basically, it boils down to the court being worried that someone who is allowed to use this, even for the express purpose of easing their suffering, might sell it to someone else, which is a crime. Nobody ever seems to worry about this happening with the percocet or viagra presecriptions the big drug companies are making millions of dollars from though. That isn't what gets me, however. My big beef is with the hypocrisy of the rules pertaining to a substance that is, on the whole, less harmful that two wildly popular LEGAL substances, namely alcohol and tobacco. How can this be justified? Those two combined kill more people annually than anything else you can legally purchase, even guns!

I can hear you now: "Obviously, this writer is a full blown pothead, yapping about how it should be legal so he can sit back, get baked, and listed to Pink Floyd." Sorry, that just ain't the case here. I do not use it, neither recreationally nor medicinally. Have I tried it? Sure, many years ago, and I did inhale. I defy you to find anyone around the age of 30-40 who hasn't tried it at least once. But my particular poison of choice remains good ol' beer. Mmmm.....beer.

Let's break down the biggest arguments that anti-legalization forces use when justifying their point of view:

  • "It's a harmful substance!" - Yes. Yes it is. So are alcohol, tobacco, and eating an excessive number of Pop-Tarts (Mmmm...Pop-Tarts....). Wite-Out and Lysol, which have also been used by kids looking to get high are harmful as well, but I've yet to see a movement to ban them. And, on the harm index, pot falls well below these items when regarding long term damage.
  • "It's a GATEWAY DRUG"! - Really? I've never understood the school of thought which postulates that every high one achieves leads him or her to seek a newer, stronger high, and forces the user to use more powerful substances. If this were true, those of us who started with beer and wine would be full blown herion addicts by now, right? I still can't get past the beer, so I'm either really dumb, or not a very good substance user! The only "gateway" marijuana leads it's users to is the automatic sliding door at 7-11, in a quest for more Doritos.
  • "What about the children? How do we tell them it's okay to get stoned?" - Um....the same way we send ridiculously mixed messages regarding alcohol and tobacco. The DARE programs teach kids all accross the country about the dangers of drugs, and also alcohol and tobacco. I'm curious what they tell the perceptive child who raises his hand and wonders why only one of these deadly items (ironically, the least "deadly" item is the one you can't buy) is illegal. But then again, these kids are being medicated at such an alarming rate, maybe they're too mellow to ask.

Again, though, the main point here is for those individuals who are suffering. The fact that people who may not have much time left on this earth, and spend a good deal of that remaining time in pain, can't seek alternative treatment is absurd. You mean to tell me that the DEA agents in this country could conceivably smash down the doors of a bedridden cancer patient whose only pain-free moments occur after ingesting some of this "deadly" stuff? Yes! Don't you feel safer now?

I can go on for hours about the other reasons we should not be concerned with the use of this substance. I'll close with a few bullet points to buttress my argument for legalization:

  • Resources - We have enough real crime in this country to worry about without having field agents, intelligence resources, and the court system getting bogged down fighting a "problem" which barely exists. Wouldn't you feel better if cops and FBI were devoting more time finding the next terrorist cell as opposed to a cancer patient puffing away?
  • The plant itself - Hemp is one of the cheapest, most versatile crops this country has ever produced. Textiles and paper are just two things which would not only be made more cheaply using hemp, but would also be of better quality. Several of our founding fathers grew hemp on their farms, and for a brief time American farmers who didn't grow it faced penalties from the government.
  • The Criminal Element - When something in demand is illegal, only bad people profit. The lessons learned from Prohibition, which, it could be argued, was the principal reason organized crime was created, have apparently been lost. Making it legal, therefore taxable, would be a boon to society. Think of all the funds that would flow to the government, and away from criminals. Insert your own squandered tax dollars joke here.

For some great info on the topic, I recommend the following:

Peter McWilliams book Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in our Free Country, is a brilliant work which touches on many subjects, with a chapter devoted to hemp.

Jello Biafra's "Grow More Pot" (link is to Amazon, which has a sample available) riff is an eloquent plea which describes some of the background facts as to why it became illegal in the first place.

I love to debate this topic, so let me know your thoughts.

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