All Potted Up-Left Side
It’s High Time To Legalize Marijuana Across The Nation, For Recreational As Well As Medical Use
When I was in my last year of elementary school, my science teacher stopped his lesson one day to warn me and my classmates about the dangers we’d face in middle school—“pot pushers” chief among them.
“What these older boys and girls will try to do,” he told us, “is gang up on you in the restrooms and force you to smoke some marijuana so you’ll become addicted and will have to buy it from them.”
Shockingly, that never happened! Indeed, when I hit my mid-teens and started smoking pot myself, I found that people rarely gave me pot for free, unless I happened to be at a Grateful Dead concert, where joints were passed from stranger to stranger.
But to this day, I’m convinced that my science teacher actually believed what he was telling us. There is, after all, a whole lot of ignorance about weed in this country. Always has been. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course. But the depth of ignorance remains to this day. Last fall, for example, after the good people of Colorado and Washington voted to legalize marijuana, Fox News anchor Steve Doocy worried that legalization would lead to a rash of people getting “all potted up” and then getting behind the wheel.
At that point it was clear that Doocy himself had never been “all potted up,” as he so quaintly put it. If he had, he would realize that a rash of stoned motorists would likely lead to little more than an outbreak of really slow driving. Driving while drunk, needless to say, is a far greater problem. But we’ve had laws dealing with that ever since our nation’s lawmakers had the good sense to repeal Prohibition.
And it is from that experience that we should draw our first lesson. Prohibition, people came to realize, didn’t stop drinking; it just created a new profit stream for organized crime. Afterwards, it created new revenue streams for government.
Right there, in other words, we’re looking at the first two benefits that would come from nationwide legalization: virtual elimination of a criminal enterprise, and a surge in sorely needed tax revenues. It would also create a new legal industry, which would mean new jobs.
But there would be many other benefits to legalization. The medical benefits, for example, are abundant. Indeed, the stigmatizing of marijuana in a nation that is addicted to drugs for everything from hyper activity to erectile dysfunction strikes me as the very epitome of hypocrisy. If we’re not going to cut down on consumption of Cymbalta and Cialis, let’s at least add some ChemDawg to the mix.
Therein lies part of the resistance, of course. If marijuana were available over the counter for both recreational and medical use, like cigarettes, pharmaceutical companies—which, as all those television commercials demonstrate, are nothing more than legal and highly skilled drug pushers—would see a drop in profits.
It’s hard to know why there’s still so much resistance beyond that. I suspect it has something to do with pot’s lingering association with the 1960s counterculture, which old-timers still see as anti-American.
But it’s high time (pun intended, I suppose) that we jettison those antiquated ideas. For the sake of simple justice, if nothing else, marijuana should at least be decriminalized across the country. It is outrageous that in our own state, possession of less than a half ounce carries penalties of up to a year in prison and a $2,500 fine. Far worse, the buddy who sold you the bag you needed to get through the holidays with your dysfunctional family could conceivably go to jail for up to 10 years!
It’s only a matter of time, of course, before all of this falls by the wayside. Several recent surveys show that as many as 85 percent of Americans favor legalization for medical use, and a clear majority (52 percent, according to the Pew Research Center) support legalization, pure and simple.
A lot of this has to do with a changing of the generational guard. Just as most young Americans support gay marriage, today’s 20-somethings overwhelmingly support pot legalization (65 percent, according to the Pew poll).
Alas, we’re still stuck with the Steve Doocys of the world—and his kindred spirits in Congress and state legislatures. Sure, they provide comic relief—all the more so, I’m sure, if you watch the YouTube video while stoned.
But it would be a crime to kick back, light up the bong and wait till these people die off. The push for legalization is building momentum, and now is the time to seize that opportunity—for the sake of revenue-starved states; for the sake of people who could benefit from it medically; for the sake of people who’ve been fined and incarcerated for simple possession and sales; for the sake of people who just want to catch a buzz and hear that old Pink Floyd album as they’ve never heard it before; and maybe most of all, for the sake of people like Steve Doocy, who clearly just need to chill.
Tom Robotham is an award-winning writer and an adjunct professor of American studies at Old Dominion University. He was born and raised in New York City but has lived in Norfolk for the past 20 years. He can be reached at email@example.com or at the Taphouse Grill in Ghent.